It’s that time of year again, dark and cold days are on the way. This means more time spent indoors keeping warm. Heating and electricity bills go up. Here at JEArchitecture we can help with ways to make your home more energy-efficient and reduce your carbon footprint and bills at home. JEArchitecture is Dublin based Architects practice who can offer you a range of Architectural services to help you with your home renovation or extension. We will work closely with you to understand your individual problems and help find solutions to them, using our experience, training and creativity. Here are a number of ways to help improve your energy rating of your home.
Change your light bulbs
Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs throughout your house is a straightforward and low-cost measure which will make a big difference to the amount of energy you’re using and to your electricity bills. LED bulbs use up to 85 per cent less energy, last up to 25 times longer, and are cheaper to run than incandescent lights.
Invest in a smart thermostat
A smart thermostat will learn the temperatures you like when you’re at home and then program itself accordingly. Most smart thermostats will also automatically turn down the heating when you’re away to help save energy.
There are lots of brands available, one of the leading being Nest. A Nest thermostat is easy to use. You don’t need to program it, you simply change the temperature whenever you like during the first few days after it’s been installed. It will get to know the temperatures you like and when you want them. Then it programs itself and creates a weekly temperature schedule.
Make sure your boiler is running efficiently
You should get your boiler serviced and checked on a regular basis by a Registered Gas Installer. Not only will this ensure your boiler is running safely, the service will also help to make sure your existing boiler is running efficiently. Prices range from €85 up to €99 for a boiler service. However, it’s possible that phoning local Registered Gas Installers (RGIs) in your area could get you a cheaper deal – you can search for a list of RGIs in your area on www.rgii.ie.
It’s possible that when the RGI services your boiler, they may need to recommend repairs or replacement parts. If your boiler is over 10 years old, it may also be time to think about upgrading it to a more energy-efficient model. This could cost somewhere around €1,000, but may make a big difference in helping you to heat your home and water efficiently.
Upgrade your insulation
According to the SEAI, on average, a home loses 20 to 30% of its heat through its walls – which rises even further if they are not insulated – and up to 30% can be lost through a poorly insulated attic. Making sure your home is well insulated is a guaranteed way to save energy and money. But before you embark on any kind of external or internal insulation it is very important to know how your house has been built and what level of insulation already exists so you can plan the best solution for the future.
A good idea is to have a building energy rating (BER) assessment done to examine the energy performance of the house, accompanied by an advisory report identifying what can be done to improve performance. BER assessments should be carried out by BER assessors who have registered with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
There are a few different types of insulation available, as follows:
Attic insulation, which is where the roof of your house is insulated at a ceiling level. This is quite a cost-effective way to insulate and should cause minimal disruption. Attic spaces should be insulated to a thickness of at least 270mm. Important things to remember when insulating your attic are to make sure you insulate the pipework as well and ventilate the attic space. This is typically done by fitting vents in the soffits (the exposed under surface of an exterior overhanging section of a roof eave). By doing this you will avoid condensation build up in your attic space.
Cavity wall insulation. This is suitable where your home’s walls consist of two rows of brick or concrete block with a cavity or space between them. The insulation is injected into the wall from the outside. Again, this is cost-effective, but you’ll need to have specific types of walls in order to avail of it.
Internal wall insulation, which is also known as dry lining, is suitable if you have solid walls or other walls that aren’t suitable for cavity insulation. With this type of insulation, insulation boards will be applied to the inside of any external walls.
External wall insulation, which is where insulation is attached to the outer surface of the walls of the house, wrapping the house entirely.
Insulation can be expensive, but you can receive grants from €300 up to €6,000, depending on the type of insulation and what size home you live in.
Watch your energy consumption
Unplug electronics when you’re not using them. Turn off lights in rooms that are not being used. If you are keen to keep track of your energy consumption you might like to consider investing in an electricity monitor. This is a small device that will tell you how much energy you are using – you can buy one for about €65. The monitor will let you input the price of your electricity to find out exactly how much it costs you to carry out simple everyday tasks such as boiling a kettle.
If nothing else it will make you aware of how and where you are using energy and this in itself can effect change.
Upgrade your windows
Windows have a big impact on the amount of heat needed to keep a house warm, which is why fitting energy-efficient glazing can make a significant difference. On south-facing windows, you only need to upgrade to double-glazed windows but triple glazing is preferable on all other faces of the house, especially north and east facades.
If replacing your windows is not on this year’s budget, do at least try to seal up any gaps where you might be losing heat. If done correctly this small measure will make a difference to the comfort of your home, energy usage and fuel bills. It’s actually fairly simple to see if your windows are inefficient – you can easily see if there’s damage to the sealant around the window by taking a look for cracks, and check for draughts by lighting a match and holding it close to the frame. On top of this, any moisture or mould between the window frame and the wall is a sign that there is heat escaping. If the issue is with sealant, draughts etc., it’s likely you can have this repaired relatively cheaply and will see an improvement in terms of efficiency.
However, if you have single-glazed windows – which is likely if your windows haven’t been replaced since the 80s or so – and you’ve got timber frames, it’s possible your whole windows will need to be replaced in order for you to see a big difference. This can be costly, so it’s worth contacting a number of suppliers to get quotes before going ahead with this work.
Change up your old appliances
Did you know that all appliances sold in the EU have any energy rating? The appliances are rated from A+++ to G on the label, with A+++ being the most energy efficient and G being the least efficient.
Appliances with a lower rating cost much more to run than those with a high rating, so if you have a lot of white goods – like your washing machine, fridge/freezer, dryer or oven – with a low rating, it might be worth your while replacing these to more efficient models in order to save money in the long run.
Install solar panels
Solar photovoltaic (PV) modules are solar panels that generate electricity when exposed to light. You can get these installed on the roof of your home and use the power generated to supply energy to your home.
According to Electric Ireland, installing PV panels can generate clean, green renewable energy from daylight, and any excess can be automatically used to heat your water. So not only will you save on your energy bills, you’ll also be doing your bit for the environment, too.
There are a number of Solar PV installers in Ireland, so it’s worth shopping around to make sure you get the best possible price.
Install a heat pump
Electrical heat pumps use a compressor to draw heat from external air or the ground to heat the home, and a heat pump typically will produce three to four units of heat for every unit of electricity consumed. Most heat pump systems have integrated heating controls, so you can match your heating and hot water schedules to the working and living patterns in your home. This means that when heat and hot water are required, they are available, and when they are not required, they are turned off. Using the heating controls in your heat pump system will typically reduce your energy usage by up to 20%.
Grants of up to €3,500 are available to anyone with a home built before 2011 who installs a heat pump. More information is available from the SEAI.
If you are looking for any advice and guidance on the above, JEArchitecture are an architectural practice in Dublin, working in the greater Dublin area and are always available for a consultation. We would be more than happy to help and advise you to help improve your home.