How can I find out how energy efficient my home is?

Property Clinic: What is involved in getting a Ber certificate and how much does it cost?

It’s worth noting your oil-fired boiler will reduce your Ber due to its environmental penalty. Photograph: iStock

I would appreciate your advice on how to find out how energy efficient my house is.

It’s a two-bed end-of-terrace and through the years I have done a few upgrades including adding wall insulation, a new roof, extra insulation in the attic and a new boiler (oil central heating), and I recently upgraded the glass in the windows and doors.

Is there a way to find out how energy efficient by home is now? Should I get a Ber (building energy rating) assessment done? If so, what is involved in getting a Ber certificate and how much does it cost?

This is a timely question given the volatility of the energy market and worries about keeping warm or paying higher bills in winter.


The requirement for a Ber stems from the welcome introduction of European legislation called the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) in 2002, and it has had several updates since to improve how it is implemented in each member state.

The Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) was charged with enacting the legislation here. They commissioned a domestic energy assessment procedure (DEAP) to calculate how homes are performing. This resulted in the Ber – from A, the most energy efficient, to G, the least – which is based on “kilowatt hours per square metre” of heated area per year. A kilowatt hour is usually called a “unit of electricity” by suppliers.

An A-rated 100sq m home might use just 25kW per hour per square metre per year, equating to 2,500 units of electricity, which, at an average of 35 cent per unit, would cost about €850 a year. Whereas houses with lower energy ratings will be a multiple of that figure.

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Each Ber is issued with a report suggesting how improvements might be carried out, and these will range from the simple to complex or costly. Any resulting improvements or combination of improvements will require a recalculation to work out a new Ber.

The requirement to carry out a Ber assessment on an older home generally stems from a triggering event, such as a sale or a material change to the property. It is then valid for 10 years or a lesser period if the property undergoes energy improvements such as the addition of solar panels, new windows or a change of fuel type. For you, it’s worth noting your oil-fired boiler will reduce your Ber due to its environmental penalty.

If you don’t comply with the EPBD legislation by having a Ber assessment and need one due to changes you have already undertaken, you might be faced with enforcement by your local authority.

The SEAI maintains a register of approved Ber assessors; search this list on its website to find an assessor in your area.

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The cost for a Ber will depend on the house and the assessor, so you should get a few quotations. I don’t have a full description of your home, but based on the description you provide I would estimate that you might expect a fee of €300-€500. Make sure to get your quote in writing.

The Ber will tell you how efficient your house is when heated and occupied to a norm generated by the DEAP software based on the characteristics of your house. The report attached to the Ber will be key to how you proceed with improvements and the effect that each might have on your energy bills.

As well as creating a sustainable home, you should also consider how the way you use your home affects your health. For example, maintaining ventilation is an important aspect of a healthy home but in winter time this can contribute to the perception that cold incoming air is leading to higher energy bills. Accordingly, I would suggest a wider analysis of home improvements might be made by your local chartered building surveyor who may have alternative suggestions such as exhaust air-heat pumps that can dramatically reduce energy bills while maintaining healthy air quality.

Fergus Merriman is a Chartered Building Surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

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