How can I make my home more energy efficient?
Want to make some permanent improvements to your home to increase its energy efficiency? There are lots of different options available.
Aside from the regular energy-saving measures that you can take quickly and easily at home - like closing curtains at night to keep the heat in and changing to energy-efficient lightbulbs - there are some other bigger energy-efficiency projects that will make a more significant difference to your home’s energy efficiency and your energy bills.
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Ways to improve energy efficiency at home
Here are some of the main ways you can improve energy efficiency in your home. Bear in mind, some of these projects will be costly, but you should make back the money over the coming years in the form of savings on your energy bills. There are also grants available for some of these items - check out the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) website for more information on these, and information on how to apply.
1. Insulate your home
According to the SEAI, on average, a home loses 20 to 30% of its heat through its walls - which rises even further if they are not insulated - and up to 30% can be lost through a poorly insulated attic.
As such, insulation can help massively in reducing heat loss and helping you to save money on your bills. There are a few different types of insulation available, as follows:
- Attic insulation, which is where the roof of your house is insulated at a ceiling level. This is quite a cost-effective way to insulate and should cause minimal disruption.
- Cavity wall insulation. This is suitable where your home’s walls consist of two rows of brick or concrete block with a cavity or space between them. The insulation is injected into the wall from the outside. Again, this is cost-effective, but you’ll need to have specific types of walls in order to avail of it.
- Internal wall insulation, which is also known as dry lining, is suitable if you have solid walls or other walls that aren’t suitable for cavity insulation. With this type of insulation, insulation boards will be applied to the inside of any external walls.
- External wall insulation, which is where insulation is attached to the outer surface of the walls of the house, wrapping the house or apartment entirely.
Insulation can be expensive, but you can receive grants from €300 up to €6,000, depending on the type of insulation and what size home you live in.
2. Make sure your boiler is running efficiently
You should get your boiler serviced and checked on a regular basis by a Registered Gas Installer. Not only will this ensure your boiler is running safely, the service will also help to make sure your existing boiler is running efficiently.
All gas suppliers in Ireland offer some form of boiler service which you can normally sign up to through their websites. Many allow you to pay for the services through monthly instalments, but you will generally save by paying for it in one lump sum, if you can afford to do so.
Prices range from €85 up to €99 for a boiler service booked through one of the main energy suppliers, and some of these will cover the cost of a call-out in the event of a breakdown too. However, it’s possible that phoning local Registered Gas Installers (RGIs) in your area could get you a cheaper deal - you can search for a list of RGIs in your area on www.rgii.ie.
It’s possible that when the RGI services your boiler, they may need to recommend repairs or replacement parts. If your boiler is over 10 years old, it may also be time to think about upgrading it to a more energy-efficient model. This could cost somewhere around €1,000, but may make a big difference in helping you to heat your home and water efficiently.
3. Check your windows
Depending on the type of windows you have at home, you could be losing a lot of heat due to draughts or because they are inefficient.
It’s actually fairly simple to see if your windows are inefficient - you can easily see if there’s damage to the sealant around the window by taking a look for cracks, and check for draughts by lighting a match and holding it close to the frame. On top of this, any moisture or mould between the window frame and the wall is a sign that there is heat escaping.
If the issue is with sealant, draughts etc., it’s likely you can have this repaired relatively cheaply and will see an improvement in terms of efficiency.
However, if you have single-glazed windows - which is likely if your windows haven’t been replaced since the 80s or so - and you’ve got timber frames, it’s possible your whole windows will need to be replaced in order for you to see a big difference. This can be costly, so it’s worth contacting a number of suppliers to get quotes before going ahead with this work.
4. Change up your old appliances
Did you know that all appliances sold in the EU have any energy rating? The appliances are rated from A+++ to G on the label, with A+++ being the most energy efficient and G being the least efficient.
Appliances with a lower rating cost much more to run than those with a high rating, so if you have a lot of white goods - like your washing machine, fridge/freezer, dryer or oven - with a low rating, it might be worth your while replacing these to more efficient models in order to save.
5. Install solar panels
Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules are solar panels that generate electricity when exposed to light. You can get these installed on the roof of your home and use the power generated to supply energy to your home.
According to Electric Ireland, installing PV panels can generate clean, green renewable energy from daylight, and any excess can be automatically used to heat your water. So not only will you save on your energy bills, you’ll also be doing your bit for the environment, too.
There are a number of Solar PV installers in Ireland, so it’s worth shopping around to make sure you get the best possible price. If you’d like to spread the cost, Electric Ireland offers a 36-month payment option, which could work well for you.
6. Install a heat pump
Electrical heat pumps use a compressor to draw heat from external air or the ground to heat the home, and a heat pump typically will produce three to four units of heat for every unit of electricity consumed.
Most heat pump systems have integrated heating controls, so you can match your heating and hot water schedules to the working and living patterns in your home. This means that when heat and hot water are required, they are available, and when they are not required, they are turned off. Using the heating controls in your heat pump system will typically reduce your energy usage by up to 20%.
Grants of up to €3,500 are available to anyone with a home built before 2011 who installs a heat pump. More information is available from the SEAI.
How else can I conserve energy at home?
Aside from the measures outlined above, there are other easy ways to conserve energy at home - our energy-saving tips can help you get started.
If you haven’t yet opted for a smart thermostat, these can really help you to better manage your home heating and heat your home more efficiently. The SEAI also offers grants for updating your heating controls, which includes a 7-day timer and the ability to turn your heating on in zones, so this is also worth considering.
Why is it so important to be energy efficient?
Aside from the obvious benefit of saving you money on your energy bills, being more energy efficient is also a great way to do your bit for the environment!
Are there other ways to save on my energy bills?
The quickest and easiest way to save on your energy bills is to switch to a new energy supplier - it’s completely free, only takes a few minutes and could save you up to €475, so it’s well worth taking the time.
You could also see if you’re eligible for allowances like:
- The Fuel Allowance, which is a means-tested payment to help pensioners and other low-income households with the cost of heating their homes during the winter months. This is normally paid for 28 weeks of the year - over the coldest months - and the weekly payment is €24.50.
- The Household Benefits Package, which is a package of allowances that aims to help consumers with the costs of running their home. You qualify for this if you’re over 70 - but people under 70 also qualify in certain circumstances. If you’re eligible, you’ll get either an Electricity or a Gas Allowance of €35 per month, which in most cases will be paid to your bank or post office account. Once you qualify for the Household Benefits Package, you’ll also get your TV Licence for free.