Deep retrofitting: ‘The quality of life in the house certainly improved’

Pauline Conway spent €80,000 making her Dublin home as comfortable as possible

For Pauline Conway, witnessing the impact of climate change in southern and eastern Africa was why she decided to retrofit her Dublin home almost 10 years ago.

The former Irish diplomat, who spent 13 years in Africa, bought her 1960s semi-detached home in Blackrock, Co Dublin, in 1978.

When she returned to live in Ireland permanently in the early 2000s, she decided she wanted to make it as efficient as possible.

“I wanted to try and cut down on my use of energy to save money and to make the house as comfortable as possible for the long term,” she says.


In 2011 and 2012 she undertook a deep retrofit and an extension, which came to a total of €240,000. The retrofit, she estimates, was about a third of that cost.

She paid for it with the “significant” savings she had accumulated, a small mortgage and about €7,000 in grants from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

She also had to move out of her home for 13 months while the work was undertaken.

Despite the high cost and interruption to her life, Conway is glad she had the work done.

“The quality of life in the house certainly improved,” she says. “For example, prior to the retrofit I had a very old oil boiler. Now, most of the heating comes from a mechanical heat recovery ventilation, which operates through ducts in the ceilings. I have that backed up by a small gas boiler to heat radiators.

“I might need to use the gas boiler for about a half an hour or an hour in the morning at the most, rather than having to run a central heating system on a constant basis.”

Conway intends to replace her back-up gas boiler with a heat pump and hopes to install a microgeneration solar panel.

‘I’ll be dead’

On Wednesday, the Government announced that retrofitting homes would play a key role in reducing carbon emissions .

Under the Climate Action Plan, some 400,000 heat pumps are to be fitted to existing housing by 2030, while 500,000 homes will be retrofitted B2 building energy rating (BER).

However, Patrick O'Sullivan, from Limerick, says cost is a very significant prohibitive factor for many .

His house was built in the 1970s and already required insulation of the attic and cavities, and the installation of double-glazed windows.

Now that he and his wife have both retired, they have looked at getting a retrofit to make the house easy and warm as they get older.

The couple was quoted €48,000-€65,000 for their home to be retrofitted. “The numbers are just ridiculous. The capital cost involved is just completely unaffordable,” he says.

“If I was to compare €50,000 to our light and heating costs, that €50,000 is approximately 25 years of light and heat. Why would I bother? I’ll be dead in 25 years.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times