After spending €10k to improve my energy rating it has not been upgraded. Why?

Property Clinic: Your questions answered

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

I am hoping you can share your thoughts on my recent experience of upgrading the insulation and heating in my apartment? My apartment was assessed and awarded a BER D2 in 2013. Since then I have upgraded the radiators, changed the flooring and in the past few months had 92mm warm board installed to the external walls in the apartment.

After spending about €10,000, the 2020 assessor has awarded a BER of D2 again.

I am disappointed to say the least after the expense and upheaval of the dry lining work in particular, in an effort to improve my energy rating, reduce heating bills and make a small difference to the environment. When hiring the insulation company, at no point was I informed that there was a possibility of the BER not increasing. Is this usual? I would appreciate your thoughts.

Building Energy Rating or BER was brought into law in Ireland following the EU’s 2002 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. The system was updated in 2010, primarily with the aim of reducing the effects that buildings create on our external environment by heating and cooling which amount to about 35 per cent of the human impacts on climate change.

Of course, the other aim was to encourage individuals like you and me to increase our energy efficiency and reduce our environmental footprint while also providing us with a benchmark for improvement.

To assess any BER involves using Ireland’s specific methodology called Domestic Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP). This is a complicated programme that can only be undertaken by a trained assessor on the SEAI’s (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) list.

Updates to DEAP have also been required – we are now on version 4.2 – to adjust and correct several historical anomalies. This is because the methods to assess a building’s carbon footprint have matured while our understanding of a building’s performance characteristics have improved too.

Your plan to improve your energy efficiency is not just good for the environment, it’s also good for your comfort and your pocket too. However, it’s probable that your early BER was assessed on the older version of DEAP while the later energy rating is based on the current model. It’s likely the newer assessment has corrected some old anomalies and hence the lack of improvement on your rating despite your best efforts.

Contractors installing fabric upgrades are best sourced from the SEAI’s list of approved suppliers. They will usually inform you of the investment options for your home and the effects on your energy rating based on your existing BER report. This will guide them towards the most effective manner to approach proposed improvements. However, they are usually not able to make value decisions without having a current or “target” evaluation carried out by an approved assessor using the up-to-date method.

Apartments such as yours will usually have a relatively good “fabric” rating because a relatively high percentage of external elements such as walls, floors and ceilings are often shared with other units, and as a result each unit will have a limited proportion of surfaces in direct contact with the outside environment.

So improvements to the relatively small areas concerned – no matter how good – might not result in a substantive change for the better. However, the penalty of direct electrical heating and the inability to provide any form of renewable energy will drag the rating down even if radiators or heating methods are also upgraded.

Usually the biggest BER penalty in apartments is by loss of energy through a “leaky” fabric because air tightness has not been addressed at the time of construction, mostly through poor fitting, low-quality windows and doors, or gaps left into attic spaces or ducts. Sealing these up will help, but the challenge is then ensuring that air quality is maintained by adequate controlled ventilation, which is critical to good health.

Installing exhaust air heat pump ventilation heating systems, which further reduce energy losses while maintaining good air quality, is a valid investment that will certainly improve your energy rating. It will also lead to a significant improvement in disposable income, comfort and health, so is well worth considering if the layout of your apartment permits.

Your latest BER report should list the measures that the assessor considers are relevant in order of impact, which can improve your energy rating above your new D2 assessment.

Fergus Merriman is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

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