According to a recent article by John Cradden on Independent.ie, ‘The Tricky Economics of Greening your Home‘, it is essential to prioritise insulation and ventilation as opposed to more ‘trendy’ technologies when carrying out energy-saving improvements on your home….
This view is also shared by RENOVA, home-energy experts, who always place importance upon the fundamentals of insulation and ventilation when carrying out a Deep Retrofit. It is very important to re-iterate this to home owners. Basically speaking, if a home is not well insulated and well-ventilated first, then installing modern technologies such as heat pumps and solar panels will make very little difference to your energy bills. So if you want to retrofit and improve your home’s overall energy-efficiency and BER, focus on upgrading the basic structure of the building first. Don’t be swayed by so-called ‘eco-bling’ and trendy new technologies.
According to architectural technologist and energy consultant Archie O’Donnell “Over the years, there have been a lot of low-energy new builds and retrofits, but we generally find that when consumers go to home-improvement shows, when they read the glossy magazines and start to research the whole area of low-energy, they are immediately drawn to the technology. You have to think of retrofit like a stool with three legs – we’re very good in this country at addressing one leg, which is reducing energy in new builds and in a retrofit. What we’re quite bad at is the other two legs, which are moisture and ventilation.”
At RENOVA we agree with O’Donnell’s views on retrofit and appreciate the importance of ‘building tight and ventilating right’. We highly recommend the inclusion of these fundamentals before contemplating the installation of renewable technologies such as solar thermal panels for water heating, biomass boilers, heat pumps etc. These are also beneficial, but should not be considered before other retrofit measures – namely, insulation and ventilation.
Interestingly, a theme of enquiry from home owners has been recurring at RENOVA over recent years. The common problem is ‘condensation’ and in many cases black mould growth on walls and ceilings. This is caused by high levels of humidity which need two ingredients to thrive: high temperatures and a supply of water vapour. As a general rule of thumb, humidity levels will double with every 10 degree increase in temperature. In other words, the warmer your house is, the more water vapour the air will hold. As your house becomes more air-tight and warmer, stale humid air can become trapped inside. Think of all that moisture from showers, baths, kettles, bubbling pots and pans, steamers, tumble driers and even our own breath! Fitting new windows and having a more air-tight, well-insulated home, without proper ventilation therefore, has become the main cause of poor air quality and ‘sick building syndrome’.
A RENOVA retrofit will not only be air-tight and well-sealed; most importantly, it will be well-ventilated. ‘Air-tightness’ and ‘ventilation’ must go hand-in-hand to prevent an unhealthy living environment. Good ventilation requires maintaining a constant flow of air within a house – fresh air in and stale air out. Good ventilation will remove the humid air before it has a chance to condense on relatively cold surfaces. If left untreated, damp can lead to a host of problems such as the corrosion of internal finishes and even health problems, especially in vulnerable young children, elderly people and individuals with respiratory problems such as asthma.
Whilst passive/natural ventilation (holes in the external walls) may meet building regulations, we recommend that controlled/mechanical ventilation is used to maintain a consistent flow of fresh air within the home. There are many sophisticated systems available such as ‘Heat Recovery Ventilation’. However, this can be expensive and difficult to install, especially in a retrofit situation. A cost-effective and practical alternative is an ‘Aereco Demand Controlled Ventilation’ system. Click here to see an Aereco video.
DCV or ‘Demand Controlled Ventilation’ is based on the simple principle of having the optimum amount of fresh air in a home on a fully automated basis. It offers the ideal solution concerning both heating consumption and the indoor air quality. When the need for ventilation is low, which is usually more than half of the time, savings can be made. More ventilation will be needed during times such as showering and cooking, for instance, when more moisture and humidity is created. Scientific studies have illustrated that DCV can result in 30% reduction in ventilation losses compared to natural ventilation.
Reducing energy use and costs and lowering greenhouse gases has become increasingly topical over the past few years. Because of this, since March of this year, the value of grants available to homeowners from the SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) has increased by between 25 and 50%. This means that you can claim back €300 for insulating your attic, €700 for a new oil/gas boiler with new heating controls, up to €2,400 for internal wall insulation and up to €4,500 for external wall insulation. Also, a bonus payment has been introduced which means that homeowners will receive additional payments if they undertake three or more energy-efficient retrofit improvements. You can also save up to €4,050 in tax or 13.5% of the cost of your project (up to a limit of €30,000) on a wide range of home improvements and renovations under the new Home Renovation Incentive Scheme which was introduced in recent years, but is due to expire on 31st December 2015.
A point made by architect Bill Scott of Scott and MacNeil Architects, is that undertaking a number of different retrofit measures does not result in a ‘multiplier effect’. Tom Halpin, SEAI’s head of information says that installing three typical energy-saving measures in your home that each results in a 20-25% in cost savings individually, should still result in reducing the average heating bill by about half.
So, if you are considering a retrofit of your home, remember to make insulation and ventilation a priority. And if you are renovating your home, please remember to retrofit it too – because any renovation without a retrofit is a lost opportunity to create a warm, comfortable, energy-efficient and healthy home.
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Tel: 01 2021122