All the time spent at home over the last few months means how we live and how our homes function have come in for a far greater level of scrutiny.
As the nights draw in, thoughts turn to remedying draughts and damp spots that we now have to live with during the day too, as many of us continue to work from home.
The Government’s National Retrofitting Plan has outlined an ambitious target of retrofitting over 500,000 homes to an efficient building energy rating (BER) of B2 by 2030 but getting information on those remedial works can feel like a real chore. Specialist providers often speak in jargon that needs translation to better understand what the offer is and whether it really is value for money.
But help may be at hand with a new initiative from An Post. It's launching its Green Hub on Monday next, designed as a one-stop site for people looking to improve their homes' energy efficiency, and if they need funding, it's offering green loans of between €10,000 and €75,000 at rates starting at 4.9 per cent APR.
The one-stop approach means those borrowing from An Post will have the retro-fitting work carried out for them, project management looked after and the grant-application process handled. Users can link up with approved assessors to arrange an appointment for a home visit and assessment. This information is also available directly through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
To spearhead the campaign, An Post has engaged the services of everybody's favourite quantity surveyor, Patricia Power, as its brand ambassador. Power gained celebrity as architect Dermot Bannon's no-nonsense right-hand woman on the hit RTÉ show Room to Improve, where she routinely cut through the blue-sky thinking to bring everyone back on budget.
“These loans are not aimed at people moving or adding on an extension,” she says, “But rather to encourage people to improve what you have from a thermal point of view.”
The loans will go towards home upgrades including replacing windows, installing heat pumps or solar panels or investing in insulation, an element of a retro-fit that Power says you should never skimp on.
An additional 400mm of insulation in the attic is the most-affordable upgrade there is she reckons. It can be done in a day, won’t damage any of your interior finishes and will improve heat retention in the home overnight. The job will cost from about €5,000.
Upgrading windows is another key way to stop heat escaping from the house. Hardwood windows are a bit like gutters, Power says, in that they need maintenance; aluclad windows will need regular cleaning, and she advises aluminium frames as one of the best of the choices but also one of the most expensive. Windows can cost between €15,000 and €30,000 on a typical property, can take two to three days to fit and expect to wait between seven and eight weeks between measuring and delivery.
While running the numbers on your home’s thermal needs, Power says you can do your home an immediate favour by booking a boiler service. “It cleans the filter and will have things running more efficiently in no time.” This costs from about €100 but could be the best money you spend this season.
An Post’s Green Hub launches next Monday, September 14th, but customers can also access the services through the post office network.