Susan Andrews of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland's (SEAI) marketing team, sees her job in developing awareness and educational campaigns to make homeowners realise what the benefits of home energy upgrades are, how to go about planning these and what the routes for getting one with SEAI are. She filled us in on all the terminology.

Three steps of the home energy update

The home energy update has three steps: assess, insulate and add renewables.

Step 1: assess

“If you don't know where to start, get a building energy rating (BER) assessment. An assessor will come out and will [make] a very non-intrusive assessment of your home,” says Susan.

This assessment will provide you with an overview of how energy efficient your house is in terms of lighting, insulation, heating system, door and window performance, etc.

The assessor will then “give you a personalised roadmap which is called an advisory report. It'll tell you what the energy upgrades are that are suitable to your home and give you an idea of what grants are available to support you on that journey.”

Step 2: insulate

Once you decide on getting started on the upgrade, SEAI advises to insulate your home as the first upgrade.

Susan considers the attic to be the most important part of your home to insulate.

“I would always say it's the first place to go. It's really easy to install, it's relatively cost effective and it’s not too expensive. You're going to see an impact straight away.

“Then look at your walls, your doors, your windows, uneven flooring. If you've suspended wooden floors, get that insulated as well. All that's going to keep that heat in your house.”

Step 3: add renewables

The next step in the process is moving away from burning fossil fuels in your home.

Susan says it is all about making the move towards cleaner energy. Examples of this is are upgrading your heating system and installing a heat pump.

“The heat pump will maintain a constant temperature in the house, so you don't have the spikes that you would have when you're running your standard boiler,” explains Susan.

“Then if you want to go a step further, you can add your solar photovoltaics (PV) for generating electricity. Solar thermal is designed to meet about 50% to 60% of your hot water requirements.

"Even if you stop at insulation and don't go down the renewable technology route, insulation is really going to help and it's going to bring up your BER rating. Any kind of home improvement like that adds value to your home.”

What grants are available?

There are three different home energy upgrade grants you can avail of, designed to suit different requirements.

The rree energy upgrade

Susan explains: “That's where SEAI fully funds the energy upgrades and we manage the entire process. That's for qualifying homeowners that are in receipt of certain welfare payments.”

These welfare payments include homeowners in receipt of the fuel allowance, carer’s allowance, job seekers allowance and more.

“Once [the homeowners] provide their eligibility requirements to SEAI, we assign an assessor to go out to their home, who does a home survey and they determine what energy upgrades are needed in the house.

“It's very much a case by case what we decide goes into the house, because every house is different. We manage the entire process, we assign a contractor to do the works and we then carry out a post-works BER and that's to make sure that the work has had a positive impact on the BER.”

The one-stop-shop service

“That is for homeowners or landlords that are actually looking to do multiple energy upgrades in one go and that can be quite daunting,” says Susan.

The one stop shop is made up of a list of private registered operators.

“So they will manage the entire project from start to finish, including the grant application. They do what we call a pre-BER, so they do an initial BER of the home and review the energy upgrades with the homeowner. Once they agree works, they assign contractors to do the work.”

With this grant scheme, homeowners only deal with the one-stop-shop service and not with SEAI.

The homeowner pays for the works minus the grant to the one stop shop and then once the works are completed, the one stop shop claims the grant back from SEAI.

The individual energy upgrade grant

This grant is suitable for people with a lower budget or who only want to do one or two upgrades.

“In that case, the homeowner or the landlord manages the project themselves," Susan says. "They select from our list of registered contractors and the homeowner decides what upgrade they want to do and applies for the grant.”

The application process is done online. "Once they get approval they’re permitted to go ahead with the works. They have to have grant approval in place before they start their works.

“[The homeowner] has eight months to do all the works, complete the paperwork, return it to SEAI and then we review the paperwork. Once everything is in order, then the grant is paid to the homeowner.”

Homeowners have to pay the contractors first and can only claim the grant once the works are finished.

SEAI is trying to break down the process of upgrading your home and assist you along the way.

“We know that we're all in different situations. We've all got different budgets. So it's just to make it a little bit easier and work with homeowners to get them through it.”

Read more

Seven energy-saving tips that will save you money on your household bill

Laurence Shalloo talks about his career from low points to high honours