The comfort of our homes has become much more of a priority over the last 12 months. And for many of us, that means making sure our homes are warm and our fuel bills are low. To get some advice I chatted with Energy Efficiency expert, Tomas O’Leary, of MosArt about ways to make your home more energy efficient, save on your fuel bills and reduce your carbon footprint at home.
‘Don’t cut corners on energy efficiency,’ says O’Leary. ‘When you’ve got one opportunity to do it right, you should push it to the max and you will reap the benefits in terms of energy savings, comfort and wellbeing,’ he says.
‘Before you do any kind of major work to your house, you should get a BER (Building Energy Rating) done,’ recommends O’Leary. Doing this will give you a benchmark of the condition of your home and guidance on how to make your home more energy efficient.
The SEAI website has a list of recommended BER assessors throughout Ireland. O’Leary warns against choosing someone based on price. ‘There is a lot of work involved in getting a good assessment done. The cheapest won’t necessarily be the best.’ O’Leary suggests speaking to a number of different people and choosing someone who you feel is the most experienced.
Energy efficient heating
When it comes to heating systems there are a number of options to choose from and O’Leary recommends upgrading to ‘a heating system that is based on electricity you generate yourself’.
He recommends we move away from using oil and gas heating systems. ‘These kinds of heating systems are 95% efficient,’ he explains ‘whereas a heat pump for example is 100% efficient.’ For every 1 unit of electricity you put into your heat pump you get about 3 or 4 units of heat out, he explains.
However, bear in mind a heat pump will only work if your home is really energy efficient. So it’s something you would install as part of a larger renovation project.
‘Our electricity grid is getting cleaner and cleaner with more and more wind energy supplying electricity,’ says O’Leary. So using electricity to power our heating makes good financial sense for us and is by far the most environmentally friendly choice too.
Making sure your home is well insulated is critical to ensuring your home is comfortable, your fuel bills are low and your carbon footprint reduced. ‘From an energy efficiency point of view it’s always better to put the insulation on the outside rather than the inside of the house,’ says O’Leary. He likens it to putting a tea cosy on the house. ‘It’s always better to put a tea cosy on the outside rather than on the inside!’
With external insulation you won’t have the disruption of works in your home and you won’t lose any internal floor area. This is a more costly alternative to internal insulation and rates vary across the country. You should expect to spend between €100 – €140 per square metre.
The cost will also depend on the thickness of the insulation you select. ‘Don’t skimp on the thickness of the insulation,’ warns O’Leary. Always go for the maximum thickness you can afford.’ He recommends 150mm but explains that depends on the product you use. There are stiff insulation boards and fiber-based insulation boards. Some thinner boards will provide the same amount of insulation as thicker products depending on the specification,’ he explains.
There are cases where internal insulation makes sense. If you are planning major internal renovations or if you live in a protected structure where you can’t make changes to the facade, for example.
The thickness of the internal insulation you choose is really important. Unlike external insulation, thicker is not better. Too much insulation can actually cause issues with mould.
‘Most of the major insulation suppliers will do a condensation risk analysis for you,’ says O’Leary. He advises contacting them with information about the build of the walls you intend to insulate. They will then be able to calculate the optimum thickness for your home.
Energy efficient windows
Upgrading your windows to either double or triple glazing is a really worthwhile investment. Not only will replacing your old windows with more energy efficient glazing make a significant improvement to the comfort of your home but also to contribute to reducing your heating bills.
‘If I was doing a major renovation on my house I would definitely go with triple glazing,’ says O’Leary. Triple glazing is a more expensive option to double glazing but the benefits are worth the additional cost. ‘You are only saving short-term by choosing double glazing,’ says O’Leary.
Triple glazing is now not that much more expensive than high performance double glazing. O’Leary recommends taking your time when choosing windows. ‘Do your research and buy the very best product you can afford,’ he adds.
O’Leary also recommends installing triple glazing on all faces of the house, even southerly facades. Often people favor just double glazing over triple on southerly aspects because of the extra sunlight. But O’Leary suggests when choosing your windows, always think about the energy performance at night time too. ‘At night when it’s 0 degrees outside, there is no solar gain, so it makes no sense to have only double glazing in any part of your house.’
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