Energy retrofitting grand if you can afford it



Look before you leap should be the watchword before getting caught up in the toils of carbon reduction on the home front. With our homes accounting for a quarter of carbon emissions from energy consumption and continuing to rise, we all want to do what we can to help reach the target of zero emissions by 2050.

But the options open to householders are very costly, complicated and take a long time before the financial cost can be justified in terms of savings.

Take solar panels: great for people working nightshift, they use the sun’s energy to replace expensive electricity, utilising daylight (not sunshine) and provide most energy at the time when you need it least, during daylight hours and in the summer time, rather than in the evenings and in winter. The cost of is relatively modest compared to other ways of reducing emissions, starting from €6,000 but that isn’t the end of it.

If you want to want to save any extra energy generated — say you are using the panels to heat your water and don’t use up all the power — you will have to install a battery to store it and if you want the electricity to go to the national grid you won’t be paid for this yet; you will be supplying it with no recompense for your investment.

Also, it will take years before the savings you make on electricity actually pay for the cost of installation, not such a viable option for older people, albeit carbon reduction is an investment for future generations.

Then you may have to apply for planning permission for the panels, have your energy usage surveyed and appliances running off the panels will need special plugs. If you want to use the power for a home charger for your electric car, that costs over a grand and before you know it you will have spent a five-figure sum.

Heat pumps sounded appealing when I first heard about them, anything to avoid the soaring cost of electricity bills. But the pumps, using air, water or ground-based heat exchange run on electricity don’t they? And 40& of our electricity sis generated still with gas and oil where prices are rising thanks to the actions of Putin.

Before you even consider a installing a pump you have to efficient insulation which doesn’t come cheap and you may need to have your home surveyed for heat loss using an infrared system. You can’t necessarily use a heat pump ( the most efficient of the three types is of course the most expensive) to run your existing radiators because underfloor heating is being mooted.

The temperature from a heat pump will be lower than traditional heating systems and needs to be operated in sealed spaces. How healthy is that I wonder? Before you know it the cost of retro fitting ( sounds like a nostalgic fashion fad doesn’t it ?) could be heading for six figures.

There will be Government grants (covering between a quarter and half of the spend) and there will be a system of registered installers for solar panels and retrofitting. That is supposing there are enough operatives available to do the work, a bit unlikely given there is already a shortage of builders dealing with the housing crisis.

All of which may be grand if you can afford it and most of us can’t at least certainly not the retrofit. It’s depressing feeling under pressure to do something you can’t manage especially given the latest dire warnings about climate crisis? There seems to be remarkably little debate about alternatives and less costly ways of reducing emissions.

We need to start asking those questions.

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