We’re delighted to be able to share the recording of our Ask The Experts: Live Q&A which took place during Dublin’s first Climate Action Week 2021.
We recruited a panel of experts to share their advice and answer your questions relating to home energy upgrades. Joining us on the panel was; Ruth Buggie from SEAI, Noel Rowland from Churchfield Services and Eric Dennis from KSN Energy. The session was extremely informative and judging by the messages we received from attendees, you thought so too! Due to the volume of questions, we didn’t get to answer everything. However, our panellists have since provided answers, which you will find below.
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You will find the recording of the webinar here.
- Question: Is there a grant for replacing windows, and how much will this cost?
Answer from Ruth Buggie: We have a range of grants that suit most homes. Please have a look at our website HERE for information about the best grant for you. To answer your specific question there is no grant available to just upgrade your windows, but a window upgrade would be part of a package of solutions eligible for grant support if you are bringing your home up to a building energy rating score of a B2. More information on this is available at the link above under the One Stop Shop service.
- Question: Are there any grants for upgrading windows on Victorian houses? And is double-glazing approved for sash windows on protected structures?
Answer from Ruth Buggie: We have a range of grants that suit most homes. Please have a look at our website HERE for information about the best grant for you. To answer your specific question there is no grant available to just upgrade your windows, but a window upgrade would be part of a package of solutions eligible for grant support if you are bringing your home up to a building energy rating score of a B2. More information on this is available at the link above under the One Stop Shop service. However changes to protected structures should only be done in line with the planning rules for protected structures in your area and it is recommended that you contact your local Conservation Officer for more information.
- Question: Is a mix and match of the various insulations types practical where one single option is not possible?
Answer from Noel Rowland: All houses are different and unique in their own ways and therefore it is very common to use a mix-and-match of different insulations on one home, the key is to ensure no matter what combination of insulations you are using that you take a “whole house approach”; which ensures all of the walls in your house are insulated and not just some. In cases where homes are partially insulated (cold areas of the house), it often occurs that these become the warm areas and what was once the warm areas now become cold areas, as the hot air will always move from hot areas to cold areas and can lead to drafts within the home.
Considerations when choosing the right type of insulations include:
- Wall type, cavity wall insulation can be only used where you have a cavity wall in place.
- Internal insulation is only suitable where you have enough space and access to fit it (normally 85mm thick) and may require removing build-in furniture such as fitted wardrobes or kitchen units, bathroom fittings and fixtures.
- External insulation can only be installed where you have sufficient room to do so and your home doesn’t sit right up against a public footpath of space, otherwise permission will be required.
A common mix-and-match approach could see a home where the lower layer is a brick cavity wall to be pumped using cavity wall insulation with the first floor section of this wall being internally insulated where no cavity existed and the remainder of the side and rear walls might then be externally insulated. In this case, a whole house approach is achieved while also minimising costs and change of appearance for the front of the house.
With regard to grant eligibility, you will only be entitled to one single wall insulation grant, no matter how many different types of insulation are used and the wall insulation with the largest area will determine the type of grant that is.
- Question: Regarding external insulation, despite being detached, our north facing wall is our neighbour’s boundary wall so wrapping the entire house is not an option. We’ve been advised to do three external and one internal, but we’re concerned about mould on that north facing wall - is it likely to be a problem?
Answer from Noel Rowland: The advice provided seems to be logical as without consent of your neighbour, external insulation will not be possible on this wall. Your concern regarding mould generally comes from situations where warm moist air makes it through the internal insulation and condenses on the cold inner face of the external wall which creates the damp. Dark conditions that can lead to mould, the key here is to ensure the internal drylining is installed correctly as once this is done; the vapour control layer will prevent this issue from occurring. The best place to confirm the correct installation details for the drylining is to confirm the manufacturer of the drylining and download the installation details from their website or contact their technical department to advise accordingly and share this information with your contractor to ensure he is clear of your concerns upfront so that no detail is overlooked during the installation process.
- Question: Our house has been recently retrofitted with external insulation. On frosty mornings with a heavy dew all the fixing head positions are visible. It becomes a polka dot house. The fixings did not have an insulation plug inserted outside of the plastic head which has a steel nail inside. Is this thermal bridging?
Answer from Noel Rowland: This is a difficult problem to resolve, usually the dots are a result of either incorrect fixings being used which results in cold bridging or the correct fixings being used but incorrectly driven too far into the insulation and then then filled over with additional basecoat mortar which results in an inconsistent layer of basecoat on the wall which results in spotting occurring. All external insulation systems are required to be NSAI Agreement approved for use on the Irish market so I would suggest that:
- Raise your issue with the contactor who completed the work as your first step as the contractor is the principle person responsible to address the issue.
- Confirm what EWI system was used and review the installation details in line with those set out on the agreement certification.
- Report the issue to the system manufacturer/certificate holder (details will be found on the NSAI cert published on the NSAI website) and request that the carry out a site visit to investigate the matter as they should be the best people to investigate the root cause of the issue and set out a set of recommendations on how to rectify the issue.
- If neither the contractor or the manufacturer/system holder is not engaging with you, you should report the matter to the NSAI to investigate.
- Question: I would like to get cavity wall insulation on my 1970 council home, this house doesn’t have a vent in the sitting room and to avail of a grant, a vent needs to be put in !! Surely this will make my room colder?
Answer from Eric Dennis: Yes, ventilation can affect indoor air temperature; however, it is essential to have in a property as it provides a fresh air supply, reducing the concentration of harmful pollutants in your home. Although draughts coming into your home would be very low, draught-proof vents are available on the market to purchase. The type of ventilation required in your sitting room (and other rooms) will depend on if there is an open-flued appliance such as a stove, gas fire or open fire located in the room or not. SEAI have a helpful guide to ventilation you can access here. For a more in-depth guide to ventilation requirements, it is covered in section 10, Ventilation, of ‘Standard Recommendation S.R. 54:2014&A1:2019, Code of practice for the energy retrofit of Dwelling’, which can be downloaded for free at this link here.
- Question: Can you discuss ventilation requirements after upgrading windows and insulation and associated costs
Answer from Eric Dennis: When upgrading insulation and windows, it is recommended that ventilation is also upgraded. At a minimum, it is recommended that habitable rooms, kitchens and utility rooms have background vents installed and that utility rooms, bath/shower rooms, and WC’s have intermittent extract fans fitted. It is important to note that the type of ventilation required will depend on if there is an open-flued appliance such as a stove, gas fire or open fire located in the room or not.For a more in-depth guide to ventilation requirements, it is covered in section 10, Ventilation, of ‘Standard Recommendation S.R. 54:2014&A1:2019, Code of practice for the energy retrofit of Dwelling’, which can be downloaded for free at this link. Most of the information required is in tables 30, 31 and 32.
SEAI also have a helpful guide to ventilation you can access here. Costs of ventilation can vary quite a bit and depend on factors such as wall type (brick, stone, concrete), wall thickness, number of vents required and existing wiring, to name a few. As a guide price, €70-€150 each for permanent and background ventilation, and €150-€250 for mechanical extract vents (fans), would cover most situations.
- Question: Are Biosolar panels available in Ireland for flat roofs? I would like to add to the solar panels we have on a flat roof but also increase biodiversity in my area.
Answer from Eric Dennis: Boisolar aims to combine two specialist areas, Green Roofs and Solar PV, and there are not many contractors that do either in Ireland and to my knowledge, no contractors are supplying this as an off-the-shelf solution at the moment.Combining renewable energy and biodiversity, particularly in an urban setting, would be fantastic, but it is not without technical challenges, particularly as an upgrade to an existing building. The main considerations are; the structural loading of the existing roof, how the PV panels are mounted, and how to prevent shading of the panels from the vegetation on the roof.
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If you're interested in learning more about home energy upgrades, heat pumps and the key things to consider when switching energy supplier, make sure to check out our Ask The Expert YouTube Series.