Sort it: Improve your home’s energy rating without breaking the bank

A range of grants are available for retrofitting your home. Here’s how to apply for them

The Better Energy homes grants are single grants for carrying out individual retrofitting works such as attic or cavity wall insulation, replacing your heating controls or retrofitting an attic. Photograph: iStock

The Better Energy homes grants are single grants for carrying out individual retrofitting works such as attic or cavity wall insulation, replacing your heating controls or retrofitting an attic. Photograph: iStock

 

If you are considering doing any retrofitting upgrades to your home, there are many supports available. But many homeowners are not availing of them. “When it comes to retrofitting homes, there are three types of homeowner. Those who are availing of the grants. Those who are unaware of the grants and those who are aware of the grants but think it is too much hassle to apply or that applying will add cost to the work,” says retrofitting expert, Fergal Cantwell of Envirobead. I chatted with Cantwell to find out about the different grants available, where to get the correct information and how to apply.

So what grants are available?

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is the regulator for energy grants. You will find information about the available grants and how to apply on its website.

There are several different schemes currently running with SEAI. The Warmer Home scheme is a free upgrade for anyone in receipt of certain social welfare payments. 

The Better Energy homes grants are single grants for carrying out individual retrofitting works such as attic or cavity wall insulation, replacing your heating controls or retrofitting an attic. 

Finally, there is the National Home Retrofit scheme. This is a grant for a complete retrofit of your home. SEAI will cover the cost of up to 35 per cent of the retrofitting work to bring your home up to a B2 BER rating. 

Replacement of windows and doors are included in this scheme; and provides for the cost of supply and fitting. Windows and doors are not covered under the Better Energy homes grants. In other words, there is no grant for windows and doors as a single measure.

“This is often the tipping point for people who are considering whether to go all in or do a series of single measures,” says Cantwell. “The idea behind this scheme is to encourage people to carry out a full retrofit and have a B2 BER-rated home rather than doing smaller jobs over several years,” he explains.

If your home is rated D1 or above, you should be looking at the single measure Better Energy homes grants. This is because SEAI believes just one measure will be sufficient to bring you to a B2 rating. The National Home Retrofit scheme is aimed at homes rated at D2 and below as there is more work involved to bring these homes up to a B2 rating.

So who is eligible?

Grants are based on the age of the property. Grants for insulation and heating controls are available to all owners of homes built and occupied before 2006. This is defined by the date your electricity meter was installed and switched on. 

Homes built from 2006 onwards should have been constructed to the 2003 building regulations and should not need significant insulation upgrades. Grants for heat pump systems and solar water heating are available to all owners of homes built and occupied before 2011.

“The thinking is if the 2003 building regulations were followed, the house should have a good energy rating. Unfortunately, not all houses were built to a high standard, so some newer homes need work to improve their energy rating. They do have the option of photovoltaic (PV) panels and heat pumps,” explains Cantwell.

So where do you start?

Your starting point should be to get a BER (Building Energy Rating) assessment done. This will give you a benchmark of the condition of your home and guidance on how to improve your home’s energy efficiency. 

The SEAI website has a list of recommended BER assessors throughout Ireland. Speak to several different people and choose someone who you feel is the most experienced. 

The BER assessor will provide an upgrade report or technical assessment of your home. The report will give you recommendations for what you need to do to bring your home up to a B2 level. This will be your road map for how to achieve a successful outcome and sufficient to allow a contractor to price.

So how do you apply for the grants?

“The better home energy grants are straightforward to apply for. You can often get a decision within 24 hours,” says Cantwell. Once you have approval, you have 10 months to use that grant. The timeframe usually is eight months but has been extended on account of the pandemic.

For the National Home Retrofit scheme, “you need to apply through a service provider. You cannot apply as an individual,” explains Cantwell. First, you will need to get a quote from a registered contractor for the proposed works. If you are happy with the quote, the contractor makes the application for the grant. Following the submission, the application will be evaluated by the SEAI. This process takes from four to six weeks, after which time you will be notified of the decision.

With both schemes, you must have approval from SEAI before purchasing any materials or starting the works.

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