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Ten steps to help your household combat climate change

It’s often little things that make the big differences, says SEAI

Sustainable shopping: Help by only buying what you are going to eat. The average household  wastes €800 a year on food going into the bin.

Sustainable shopping: Help by only buying what you are going to eat. The average household wastes €800 a year on food going into the bin.

 

As individuals, it’s easy to feel helpless in the face of climate change but we’re not. Every step we take can make a difference.

1. Once lockdown restrictions are lifted, think about how you’ll transport yourself. Transport is the single largest energy user in Ireland, at 40 per cent with private cars accounting for one-fifth of all our energy usage. Walk, cycle, or use public transport where possible.

2. About 25 per cent of the energy used in Ireland is used in homes – that’s more than in industry. The Government aims to retrofit over 500,000 homes by 2030. The average cost to homeowners is an estimated €50,000 but there are SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland) grants available to help, worth up to 35 per cent.

3. “For people not quite ready for the costs involved in retrofitting, by far the simplest and cheapest way to get the biggest bang for your buck will be by draft-proofing your home,” says Cormac Mannion, head of energy services at Energia.

Look at where the gaps are and put in draft excluders. “Ireland is an incredibly windy place, it’s why we can build so many turbines, but the wind really cools your house down. If you don’t use the fire, block the chimney say and seal around windows. Plug the gap between the front door and floor.”

4. Insulate the attic. You could be losing 25 per cent of your home’s heat through your roof. “You can see clearly on frosty or snowy days which houses maintain their frosty roofs because they are well-insulated. Insulation should be 300ml deep, or about one foot, and fit snugly between the rafters,” says Mannion.

5. Adapt your heating system into zones, with separate controls for different areas. A smart thermostat, such as Netatmo, will take external weather conditions into account, and learn household behaviours and occupancy patterns.

6. If you’ve a regular central heating boiler, turn the thermostat down a few degrees and set it to turn off 30 minutes early. Small tweaks add up over time and you won’t feel the difference. Getting your boiler serviced every year will keep it running optimally too, reducing its fuel consumption by 10 per cent, according to the SEAI.

7. Set your water heating to 65 degrees on your immersion heating, install a timer and keep the water warm with insulation. If you’re still looking at a copper tank, an 80mm lagging jacket will save up to 30 per cent of your water heating costs and pay for itself in two to three months.

8. Switch to air-sourced heat pumps, which operate like a fridge in reverse. The Government’s Climate Action Plan aims to see 600,000 installed by 2030, of which two-thirds will be retrofits. Currently there are grants available, of €3,500 to help (the pumps cost about €1,000 for a three-bedroom home).

7. Solar panels on your roof could meet about 60 per cent of your hot water requirement each year. Prices have fallen significantly in recent years and 1sq m of solar panel receives the equivalent of more than 100l of oil in free solar energy per year. Again, SEAI has a grant available.

8. Embrace the circular economy by reducing, reusing and recycling more. Buy less but better quality, and local as much as possible. Avoid plastic packaging. The EU’s new labelling system makes it easier to identify energy-saving electrical goods. Just don’t leave them on standby, it can mean they are using 20 per cent of the energy they would if on.

9. Food systems account for almost one third of the EU’s carbon emissions. You can help by only buying what you are going to eat. Doing so will save the average household € 800 a year, money currently going into the bin.

10. Change your mindset. “It really is individual actions that will make the change,” says Stephen Prendiville, EY Ireland’s head of sustainability. “When you think about it, the three big issues for climate change are transport, housing and agriculture. Agriculture is largely down to government policy but transport and housing is down to individuals.”

Community action and better environmentalism

Hundreds of communities across Ireland have come together to drive sustainable energy initiatives in their area, working with SEAI, the Sustainable Energy Authority.

Becoming more energy-efficient is enabling them to make a positive impact on the environment, have warmer homes and community buildings, and is saving money which they can put to use elsewhere in the community.

Members of the Sustainable Energy Community network have undertaken a range of projects covering homes, transport, businesses, schools, community centres and sports facilities.

Joining the network gives them access to mentors, workshops and networking opportunities with other communities to help them. SEAI provides grants to help too.

When the Fair Play Café, a community hub in Dublin’s Ringsend, wanted to reduce its carbon emissions, it received 50 per cent grant funding from the SEAI to implement a plan that included solar panels and new LED lighting, cutting electricity consumption by 21 per cent and energy bill savings of €1,300 a year.

Sustainable Clonakilty upgraded a variety of public and private buildings to make them more energy-efficient, saving thousands of euro, and introduced Ireland’s first rural community bike scheme to cut down on cars.

Seai.ie