What is a green home?
A green home is a home that is designed to be environmentally friendly. It is built or modified so it will use less energy, water and natural resources.
Green homes are made from materials that don’t harm the environment when they are produced, used or disposed of. This includes recycled or pre-used materials. Green homes often use renewable energy sources such as solar power and have lots of insulation. They may also have thermostats and timers to regulate temperatures, heat pump systems to heat the house and water, and energy-efficient lighting and appliances.
Greener homes are part of Ireland’s plan to tackle climate change and meet our international and EU commitments to reduce air pollution. The Climate Action Plan 2021 sets out how Ireland will do this. It includes targets about making our homes more environmentally friendly, such as improving the Building Energy Rating (BER) of 500,000 existing homes so they have a B2 rating by 2030. There is also a target to install 600,000 heat pumps in new and existing residential buldings the same time.
In Housing for All, the Government’s housing plan to 2030, there is a commitment to upgrade over 36,000 local authority homes to a B2 BER or equivalent by 2030. It also sets out a plan to develop a minimum BER standard for the private rental sector.
What are the benefits of having a green home?
There are many reasons to make your home greener. Greener homes are cheaper to run, more comfortable to live in and more environmentally friendly. In general, they also have a better BER.
Saves you money
As green homes use less energy and electricity, utility bills are cheaper. The Sustainable Energy Association of Ireland (SEAI) estimates that you could save approximately €1,200 a year on heating bills if you upgraded a 3 bed semi-detached home from a D2 to an B2 rating (pdf).
The construction costs of building a green home may also be cheaper as they use recycled or renewable building materials.
In Ireland, many mortgage lenders now offer a lower interest rate to people who are buying or building a more energy efficient home. This is known as a ‘green mortgage’. To qualify for one, some lenders may insist that you buy a home with a minimum BER, such as B3 or higher.
Makes your home more comfortable
In general, greener homes have features that make them more comfortable to live in. For example, temperatures are regulated so they aren’t too warm in the summer or too cold in the winter. In green homes, windows and doors are designed to allow for natural ventilation that moves fresh air into and through the home. They also often have bigger windows that maximise sunlight and brighten up living areas.
Improves your homes Building Energy Rating (BER)
A BER certificate rates your home’s energy performance on a scale from A to G. Homes with an A rating are the most energy efficient. All homes available for rent or sale, must have a BER certificate. You can check if your home already has a BER on the National BER Register. If it doesn’t, you should use a BER assessor from the National Register of BER Assessors.
Greener homes usually have a better BER rating. This makes them more comfortable, cheaper to run and easier to rent or sell.
Helps you protect the environment
By living in a green home, you are reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the environment. A green home limits your use of non-renewable energy, reduces air and water pollution, reduces the use of limited natural resources and generates less waste.
Find out more about reducing waste and how it can protect the environment.
How can I make my home greener?
There are many ways to make your home greener and more energy efficient. These include everything from insulating your home to adding renewable energy systems, such as solar to provide heat, hot water or electricity.
Insulating your home, is one of the most effective ways to make it more energy efficient. You can insulate your home by adding insulating materials to your attic and walls to stop heat escaping. You can insulate the walls on the inside or the outside of your house. Or alternatively you can have insulation inserted into your cavity walls. By insulating your home’s external walls, you could reduce heat loss by 20 – 30%. Read the SEAI’s Homeowner’s Guide to Wall Insulation (pdf).
Replacing an old boiler is another way to make your home greener. Boilers that are more than 15 years old are generally less energy efficient than new ones, and can cost up to 25% more to run. You could look at replacing your boiler with a renewable alternative, such as a heat pump. Heat pumps capture heat from the air or ground outside and use it to warm up your home.
You might also consider adding solar panels to your home to generate electricity in a sustainable way. Solar panels, which are often part of a solar photovoltaics or ‘PV’ system, create electricity when they are exposed to light and are usually mounted on the roof of a home. A solar PV system consists of solar panels, an inverter to convert the current generated and on larger systems, a battery to save energy for later use. A solar PV system, on average, can save you between €200 and €300 per year on your domestic electric bill.
The SEAI have grants for attic insulation, heat pumps and solar PV systems.
Here are more basic tips on how to make your home greener:
Temperature - If you have a thermostat, turn the temperature down to 20° in your living areas. In bedrooms and hallways, the ideal temperature is 15° to 18°. Turn off radiators in rooms that you don’t use. Reducing the temperature in your home by just 1°, could save you up to 10% in heating bills.
Keep your fridge's temperature between 2–3° to keep food safe and avoid freezing (and ruining) your fruit and veg. Your freezer should be set to -15° and defrosted every 6 months.
Timers and controls - Use timers and controls to turn the heating on when you need it. Turn on your heating 30 minutes before you need it and turn it off 30 minutes before you don’t need it anymore. If you don’t have heating timers to control when your heat comes on or want to get upgraded controls you may be able to get a grant of €700 for this.
Switch things off - Switch off the heating, appliances and devices when you do not need them or when you are leaving the house. Using a plug board may make it easier to unplug multiple items at night.
Lights - When you leave a room, turn off the light. Replace light bulbs with energy efficient options. Select the lowest wattage bulb needed by considering the size of the space and how much natural light the space gets.
Use sensors and timers on outdoor lights to reduce operating times.
Appliances - Use appliances as efficiently as possible. For example, run your dishwasher and washing machine at a lower water temperature to save on energy costs. On dry and warm days, dry your clothes on a washing line or clothes horse rather than in the tumble dryer.
Don’t leave the fridge open for too long. For every 15-20 seconds it is left open, it takes 45 minutes for it to cool back down to its original temperature.
Draughts - Look for draughts of cold air in windows, keyholes and doors, and fill the gap. If you have an unused fireplace, use a chimney balloon to keep the air out. Close doors to keep the heat in and the cold out.
Hot water - Use an immersion timer to only heat water when you need it. Set your hot water thermostat to between 60-65°C, to ensure that you do not overheat your water. Keep the hot water warm with insulation or a lagging jacket on the immersion.
Never leave a hot tap running and remember that showers only use 20% as much energy as baths.
Cooking - To avoid losing heat, match your pot or pan to the size of the hob and cover them with a lid. Don't boil a full kettle for one cup of tea. When possible, use microwaves and toasters rather than cookers and grills. Cooking in batches, will save you time and energy.
Energy monitors - These devices will tell you much energy you are using and where. You can then use the information to make energy savings.
Smart homes – You can make your home greener by making it a smart home. In a smart home, you can controlthe applicances in your home, even when you’re not there. You can use an app on your phone to control the temperature, to turn lights on or off, or to heat water when you need it. With a smart home you will make your home more energy efficient and pay less on utility bills.
You can get more energy saving tips on the SEAI’s website.
What home energy grants or upgrades can I get?
The SEAI have different grants available to help with the cost of making your home greener. Before you apply for a grant, you should consider these 3 steps:
You should assess your home to find out what upgrades it needs. The best way to do this is to get a Building Energy Rating (BER). The BER tells you how energy-efficient your home is and comes with a report detailing what work could be done to improve this. You can find a BER assessor on the SEAI’s National Register of BER Assessors.
Your home loses 20%–30% of its heat through the walls. By adding insulation to your walls, attic or floors, you will make your home more comfortable and reduce your heating bills.
You can add a renewable energy system to your home to provide heat, hot water or electricity. Examples of popular renewable systems are, heat pumps, solar water heating panels and solar photovoltaic panels. Adding renewable energy to your home will reduce your energy bills and improve your BER rating.
You can get grants from the SEAI for a BER assessment, insulation and renewables. The grant that you apply for, depends on your financial situation and the type of work you need done. Below find details of the 2 main grant schemes:
Better Energy Homes scheme
Under the Better Energy Homes scheme you can apply for grants to improve energy efficiency in your home. The grants are for:
- Attic insulation
- Wall insulation - including cavity wall, internal dry lining and external insulation
- Heating controls upgrade
- Solar thermal solutions
- Solar PV panels and battery systems
- Heat pump systems
- A Building Energy Rating (BER) after the energy-saving work is carried out
If you want to bring your home up to a BER rating of B2 or above you may also be able to get additional grants.
To qualify for the insulation and heating control systems grants, you must be the owner of a home built before 2006. To qualify for heat pump, solar thermal and solar PV grants, you must be the owner of a home built before 2011. Find out how much you can get for each grant.
You can apply for the grants and manage the work yourself, or you can get a SEAI registered company to manage the whole project for you.
The SEAI have detailed information on this scheme.
Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme
If you are getting certain types of social welfare payments, you may qualify for the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme. The qualifying payments for this scheme are:
- Fuel Allowance as part of the National Fuel Scheme
- Working Family Payment
- Jobseeker’s Allowance for over 6 months and have a child aged under 7 years
- Domiciliary Care Allowance
- One Parent Family Payment
- Carer's Allowance and you must live with the person you care for
The scheme provides funding for upgrades that will make your home warmer and more energy efficient, such as:
- Attic insulation
- Wall insulation - including cavity wall, internal wall and external wall insulation
- Lagging jackets
- Energy efficient lighting
- New central heating systems
- Replacement windows
- Energy advice
To apply, you must fill out an application form (pdf). If you qualify for the scheme a surveyor acting for the SEAI will check that your home is suitable and assess the work that needs to be done. The SEAI will then appoint a contractor to carry out the work. A BER is carried out when the work is done to assess the homes energy performance. There is no charge to the homeowner for any work completed under this scheme.
For more information on making your home more environmentally friendly, see the SEAI’s website.