Energy efficiency might not be the top of your priorities when choosing a home, but it should be: While you might think that the price difference is not significant, it adds up month after month and even year after year.
Beyond bills, there’s also the immediate effect of living in an energy-inefficient home: They take longer to heat up and – in some cases – cold air creeps in via the poorly ventilated areas.
Here’s how to choose an energy-efficient home, whether it’s to buy or rent…
BUILDING ENERGY RATING (BER)
Every building available for rent or buy should have its BER included in the advertising. If it’s not readily available, it should be the first thing you ask for.
This rating is on a scale of A to G, with A1 being the highest rating. Fuel bills on a G-rated dwelling can cost literally ten times as much as one with an A rating!
The BER certificate will also include such vital information as the building’s age, how long this certificate will last for, and even information on the assessor (each one has a number).
BER ratings were introduced in 2009, but any building being rented or sold must have a BER certificate – regardless of the building’s age.
The certificate is valid for 10 years, as long as changes that would negatively affect the building’s rating have not been implemented. The rating gives information on building fabric, space heating, water heating, ventilation and lighting.
Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has a range of information on BER, including details on how it’s calculated, the national register and more.
A solid energy rating isn’t the only thing to look out for: Houses and apartments with good insulation and building materials might still be using financially inefficient fuel sources.
Solar panels can cut energy bills: By some estimates, it can be by about 75% a year.
Heat Pumps are also a welcome sight for any home. Relatively new here, the technology has been used in Scandinavia since the 1970s: These machines use a little bit of a home’s existing energy, but repays it up to three or four-fold. They work by drawing heat from the air, ground (geothermal) or water and redistributing it into the house. A good heat pump can cut bills by hundreds of euros per year.
Homes run 100% on fossil fuels are unfortunately common in Ireland, but at least they are functional.
Conversely, appealingly traditional heat sources like fireplaces and stoves are both cost-ineffective and terrible for the environment.
A relatively easy way to ensure a home is energy efficient is insulation. If you’re a buyer, have the walls, attic and floors looked at. Invest in double glazing and especially in easy solutions like coverings for pipes and boilers.
Draft proofing is arguably the simplest form of insulation, so it’s a handy feature to implement or request before moving in.
If you are renting, it’s worthwhile asking how each of these issues are addressed.
On a mild day or a rushed visit, insulation can be overlooked – but when cold nights close in, you’ll be glad you looked into it.
Major appliances such as fridges and freezers should have energy efficiency ratings (just like a home does). If you’re buying any new appliances before moving into your new home, check the rating on these big-ticket items before purchase.
Ideally, a home should have LED lighting. For a start, they last far longer than traditional bulbs (no more standing on chairs to change them in the pitch black!). And they can cut your lighting bills by up to 80% (which translates to about 18% of your overall energy bill).
COMFORT, COSINESS AND A CLEAR CONSCIOUS
An energy-efficient home is cost-effective, good for the environment and much more comfortable to live in. Taking the time to investigate the efficiency of your home will be a comfort when the wind is whistling outside; and when you get your utility bills.
You can keep track of your energy use easily with Pinergy’s in-home monitor and smartphone app.