Want to reduce your energy bills? A guide to retrofitting options from quantity surveyor Patricia Power
Half of us don’t know our home’s BER rating, but it’s the first step to improving your home’s insulation, and ultimately, how much your energy bills come to.
Rising energy costs and a desire for greater energy efficiency has meant that there is currently an interest in retrofitting our homes.
The Green Hub from An Post makes home energy upgrades easy as the only semi-state organisation offering free home energy assessments, in partnership with SSE Airtricity.
The assessments provide recommendations on retrofitting needs, investigating likely upgrade costs and potential energy savings, helping everyone quickly and easily find out how they can improve their home’s energy efficiency.
We asked quantity surveyor Patricia Power more about the process.
Why is it important to know your home’s energy rating, and is it difficult to find out?
Knowledge is key. It’s important to know, or at least to have a good idea of your home efficiency to understand how it affects your cost of living. The better the BER, the better your house performs, and the lower the living cost.
It’s like buying an A rated washing machine, you know it is a bit more expensive to buy, but it is going to cost you less to use it in the long-run.
When considering renting or purchasing a home, the BER should be identifiable and is typically calculated by a BER specialist. If you’re not sure what your BER rating is, the An Post Green Hub BERWOW Energy Upgrade calculator can help you get a better understanding of your home’s rating.
To get recommendations using your existing BER certificate, you will need to provide your MPRN (printed on your electricity bill), and a recent utility bill (within the last 3 months) with your address and MPRN on it. Otherwise, you can get recommendations based on BER information of homes similar to yours.
The An Post Green Hub also offer a free home energy assessment in partnership with SSE Airtricity. A specialist will visit and survey your home and advise on rating and options available to improve and enhance your home.
What are some of the most common methods recommended for people to improve their home’s energy rating?
There are 3 main areas of home retrofits that help improve the BER rating:
Wrap your house like a tea cosy and insulate your attic. Your attic should have a 400mm insulation depth, You should also consider insulating the external walls. Options available for external wall insulation include internal dry lining and cavity bead to an existing cavity, and insulating the floors
2) Upgrade your windows
Upgrade your windows to triple glazing, ensuring good installation. Air tightness foam or tape is used to ensure air tight install. This will help improve the cosiness of your home.
3) Heating your home:
Once you have created a warm envelope for your home, the heat will be retained. Now you need to look at how you heat your home. Consider renewable energy sources. An air to water heat pump will provide heating and hot water. Solar panels also provide hot water, and PV panels to generate electricity to run your heat pump.
Is retrofitting expensive?
The cost of your retrofit really depends on the work you decide to carry out and varies from home to home. The An Post Green Hub provides a free home survey, in partnership with SSE Airtricity, with no strings attached to determine your home’s retrofitting needs.
The free survey is a great service that will provide you with accurate information specific to your home to help you make decisions on what you can do to improve your home now and in the future.
This can be done in stages over time. Once you know the improvements you will need to make, you’ll have a better understanding of and appreciation for the options available to you, which will help you make informed decisions based on your needs and budget
Retrofitting is an investment in your home that will stand the test of time and you will reap the rewards in thermal value, comfort, and lower energy bills.
Is retrofitting disruptive?
Some elements of retrofitting which can be done very simply whilst living in the home, such as improving the attic insulation, adding external wall insulation, cavity beads, and replacing windows.
Other changes can be more disruptive, such as internally dry lining. Changing your heating source and add solar and PV panels can be done very easily whilst you remain in the house. Survey experts can advise on how disruptive changes might be when they visit your home.
Is it suitable for all homes?
Generally, homes built before 2009, are not well insulated and don’t exhibit airtightness. These homes also usually have more traditional heating methods, and are likely to require some level of thermal improvement, window upgrades and a renewable heating source and hot water source.
As well as reduced heating bills, are there any other benefits to retrofitting your home?
In addition to savings on your energy bills, retrofitting your home will increase its overall thermal comfort, and general comfort level of your home. The most common feedback from my clients is that they experience cold, damp and draughts within their homes, so upgrading and sealing the thermal envelope to omit drafts, damp and cold has untold benefit on health and well-being.
You also get the opportunity to restyle your home, by adding external wall insulation, adding new window colour and styles can change the overall façade and character of your home.