SuperHomes scheme offers home retrofit support

SuperHomes, a groundbreaking project designed to help homeowners to upgrade their homes to an A3 BER is open for applications. 

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The nationwide scheme, developed and administered by Tipperary Agency and funded by SEAI, was piloted on 10 homes in 2015, with feedback from participating homeowners influencing the 2016 scheme design.

The scheme offers grant funding to cover up to 35% of the cost of upgrading pre-2006 homes to an A3 BER, with the maximum eligible cost before discounts totalling €26,000 excluding VAT. Homeowners have the option of spreading the remaining cost over five years via a loan.

The project draws from Tipperary Energy Agency’s wealth of experience in retrofit, including monitoring and occupant feedback from the 2015 SuperHomes pilot projects and the agency’s EU-funded SERVE project, with several hundred homes and other buildings retrofitted using measures such as insulation and heating system upgrades including renewable energy systems.

Although an A3 BER is the upgrade target, SuperHomes also includes several mandatory measures that homeowners must complete to avail of financial support. The primary heating system must be renewable – and specifically an air source heat pump or pellet boiler. Advanced ventilation systems must be installed, such as demand controlled mechanical extract ventilation or heat recovery ventilation. Finally, the building’s airtightness must be improved. Other non-mandatory measures, such as insulation, window and door upgrades, biomass stoves and solar PV arrays may be incorporated.

Tipperary Energy Agency CEO Paul Kenny explains why specific measures were mandated: “Heat pumps are so much cheaper – cheaper to run and cheaper to install, if you put in a heat pump with radiators sized adequately for the heat pump to run efficiently. On average last year we were getting a COP of over 3 – taking into account heating and hot water. At an average cost of 12c per unit for electricity that works out at about 4c. A pellet boiler is costing about 7.5c per kWh. And the pellet boiler and store collectively are more expensive. Why would someone install that?” Kenny adds that for larger buildings the capital cost of a pellet boiler comes into its own.

According to Kenny, airtightness is key. “If you want to leave on the radiators over 24 hours and you have a leaky building, that heat is going to leak. Whereas with a reasonably insulated building and airtightness, you can use your radiators over 24 hours without significantly increasing the heating use.” Kenny explains that this recipe logically leads to ventilation as part of the solution. “If we improve the airtightness, we must improve the ventilation.”

Although heat recovery ventilation was eligible during the pilot phase in 2015, all ten participating houses installed demand controlled ventilation systems instead – which tends to be cheaper and easier to retrofit. “We got great feedback on indoor air quality,” Kenny said. “It’s a combination of always on heating, give or take, and air quality. So the house is at the same temperature.”

Kenny said the scheme, which launched for applications in June has been inundated so far, but urges anyone who wants to get involved to send in an application now. The scheme is expected to continue in 2017, and applicants who don’t make the cut this year will be notified about the possibility of participating in 2017.

In the meantime, Kenny urged applicants to make themselves comfortable with the technology and techniques, and to visit buildings participating in the NZEB Open Doors event from 11-13 November to experience low energy buildings first hand.

For more information about the SuperHomes scheme visit www.superhomes.ie

Last modified on Tuesday, 06 September 2016 10:48

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