Low-Hanging Fruit: The First Changes To Make If You Move Into A House With A Low BER Rating

Caeva O'Callaghan | December 27th, 2019

A BER (Buildings Energy Rating) measures how energy-efficient your house is.

According to SEAI, most houses built before 1990 in Ireland score a D rating or worse – which is bad news for the environment, as well as your pockets.

The good news is that a little bit of work goes a long way – particularly if you’re starting with a low rating – and you can vastly improve the efficiency of your home just by focusing your energy (no pun intended) on a few tweaks.

Replacing your boiler

The warm, beating heart of your home might need some serious surgery – or perhaps a transplant. Choosing the right boiler for your house is critical.

Conventional boilers are heat-only, which means you’ll normally find a cold water tank in the attic and a hot water tank in the airing cupboard. These tanks feed the boiler, which heats up the water before it reaches the tap – which isn’t a particularly efficient approach.

Combi boilers provide rapid hot water by firing up as soon as you turn the taps on, heating only what you need as it comes through the pipes, and using less fuel as a result.

These boilers are expensive upfront – usually starting at around the €1,750 mark – but a good one will save you money in the long run. They’re also often found in kitchens and can be disruptive to replace, so they’re worth looking at before you plan any other renovations.

Installing (or updating) your thermostat

Most houses have a little box with a dial on the wall that lets you decide how warm your home should be – but if not, and you’re just using your radiator TRV’s (valves) to control the heating, you could be losing money.

Thermostats let you regulate temperature, and automatically shut off radiators when your home is cosy enough. Most models also allow you to create heating schedules.

Better still, more modern ‘smart thermostats’ also come with an app that let you monitor your usage, switch off the heating if you’re away from the house unexpectedly, or stick on the heating while you’re on the way home from work.

Imagine: between your smart thermostat and your combi-boiler, you’ll forever be spared the fear of going out and leaving the immersion switched on. Isn’t the future great?

Adding attic insulation

As you’ll know if you paid attention during Junior Cert Science – or if you ever singed your eyebrows after opening an oven – heat rises.

For most houses, that means the heat from your rooms travels upwards into the attic or loft – and if this space isn’t treated, you could be pumping heat into the sky, wasting energy and money in the process.

According to SEAI, a non-optimised home loses an average 20-30% of its heat through its roof.

Attic or rafter insulation is generally one of the most cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades, and grants may be available to help you improve the insulation of your home. Typical insulation materials used are semi-rigid insulation boards as well as glass/mineral fibre; the material may depend on the depth of your joists or rafters, and it’s always best to get professional advice even if you install insulation yourself.

Of course, to hark back once more to science class, every action has an equal and opposite reaction – and while your house will get warmer, your attic will get colder.

So if you have a cold water tank, you’ll need to insulate it to prevent freezing in cold weather – another reason why it might be best to install a combi boiler and get rid of the tank altogether.

Resealing windows

Like the attic, a home can lose a lot of heat out of its windows, even with double glazing (particularly for older installations). And while a full replacement of all your windows might not be affordable, there are short-term fixes available.

If you notice condensation on an internal pane of glass, draughts from the window, or noticeable wear, tear or gaps around the seal, it’s time to freshen it up.

You might be able to feel where a draught is coming in if it’s bad enough. Plug up the gap for now, then call in the professionals, as resealing windows isn’t best attempted on your own.

Installing ‘smart’ bulbs

Lighting accounts for a good chunk of a typical household’s electricity bill, so swapping out your bulbs before you get settled is definitely a bright idea.

LEDs are the most efficient light bulb on the market. They are available with varying degrees of colour, brightness and temperature – from warm white to cool white – and are available in almost all fittings.

For the ultimate in energy-saving savvy, try smart bulbs. These are more expensive, so try and think what rooms would benefit most – you probably won’t need to remotely dim the light in the garage, for example, or change the colour in the front porch.

For the most part, though, smart lights will save money in the long run by being easier to switch on and off – and they’ll also provide home security while you’re out [link to security article].

These small changes might not be the cheapest in the short term, but they’re always best done just as you move in. By optimising your heating system, insulation and lighting, you’ll keep your home safe and comfy for years to come.

Potential Impact on Home Insurance

When you are undertaking any significant home renovations it’s important to talk with your home insurance provider or broker to discuss the impact that they may have on your home insurance. It also gives you peace of mind of knowing you are covered if something goes wrong. Feel free to call us on 0818 224433 or 042 9359051 and talk to one of our Home Insurance experts. They are on hand to answer all your questions. You can also get an instant home insurance quote online. We compare the market to get you the right cover for your specific requirements. We look forward to hearing from you.

All Information in this post is accurate as of the date of publishing.