Last week, the sun finally broke through the clouds. As I drove to Kilkenny for the Irish Farmers Journal Renewables Roadshow, I saw the fields come alive with farmers eager to get ahead on all the springtime work that has been put on pause in recent weeks.

‘This will impact numbers tonight,’ I thought to myself, but yet, over 450 people poured into the ballroom at the Newpark Hotel, eager to hear how their farm and home could benefit from renewable heat, solar panels and home retrofitting. It may have been later in the evening by the time the panel discussion came to the future possibilities around anaerobic digestion but the audience was engaged and full of questions.

For many Irish Country Living readers, Sarah McIntosh’s recent articles on the SEAI grants available for retrofitting homes came alive during the event. And the main message that Sarah wrote about has been echoed right throughout the roadshows.

Yes, there are grants available to help you invest in the most modern technology to heat your house, such as solar panels on your roof and air-to-water heat pumps.

However, to make your home cosier and more energy efficient, you have to start with the basics first; and good insulation is key. When it comes to heat loss within the home, 30% goes up through the roof, another 20% escapes through the floors while a further 30% goes through the walls.

So there is no point in investing in a fancy air-to-water system if you’re losing all the heat through your foundations. Not only does it severely impact the efficiency of the system, you’ll end up spending a small fortune on electricity bills, thereby, impacting the return on your investment.

Upgrade the efficiency

There is a plethora of SEAI grants available to help consumers upgrade the efficiency of their home, as detailed in Irish Country Living in recent weeks. Some of the most significant amounts include up to €6,500 on heat pump systems; up to €6,000 on external wall insulation; and up to €2,100 on solar PV.

There is a grant of up to €4,000 for windows and a further €800 for doors but there is a catch. Consumers can only avail of them if going through the One-Stop Shop option

“But what about doors and windows?” one reader asked last week. Certainly, a valid question – if we’re focusing on getting the basics right and insulating the house sufficiently, doors and windows play an integral part in keeping the home airtight.

There is a grant of up to €4,000 for windows and a further €800 for doors but there is a catch. Consumers can only avail of them if going through the One-Stop Shop option. This is a deep retrofit in which you must bring your house up to a BER rating of B2 or above, and you have to do the entire project through a contractor.

For some homeowners undertaking a big job, this is the solution they need – someone to take over with their expertise, bring up the BER rating and do all the nitty-gritty work on your behalf in terms of applying for every grant applicable to you.

For many others though, this option is just not within their budget. Many households are doing their upgrades incrementally. One year for example, they might get the attic insulated; start their saving again and a few years later get the walls pumped; after another bit of saving, they might upgrade their heating system before installing solar panels. However, for those taking this approach, there is zero available to assist in upgrading windows and doors, which for many is one of the biggest investments.

Chatting to a few people in the industry, it seems like if such a measure was introduced for doors and windows, the uptake would be so significant, the grant would no longer be cost effective.

However, there is an argument that this is short-sighted. Like most things in life, you got to get the basics right first and the rest will follow.

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