Every day in our homes we consume energy and natural resources while emitting waste and CO2 emissions. In 2017, electricity was responsible for 19.3% of greenhouse gases in Ireland while our built environment provided another 12.7%. Our homes are dependent on high carbon fuels like coal and peat, and the demand on our energy supply is going to increase significantly over the coming years. It is vital that we move towards decarbonisation in our homes and built environment, while protecting low income households. The Climate Action Plan sets out a range of policy measures; there are also a number of things that householders can do to support these actions.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY AT HOME
The energy we consume in our homes comes from a variety of sources but our dependence on fossil fuels contributes considerably to our CO2 emissions.
As the Government develops further supports for cleaner renewable technologies, we can all play our part in reducing our energy use while saving on household costs and contributing to a low carbon transition.
Heating your home
You can make the most of your heating and keep your home comfortable by using the systems and controls effectively to minimise waste and maximise comfort for you and your family.
- Changing the temperature in your rooms slightly can have a really big impact on your energy use. You can use temperature cards to find the right balance.
- Regular checks can prevent leaks and wastage while reducing fuel consumption so have your heating systems serviced regularly.
- Upgrading your old heating system can save you money and significantly reduce the amount of energy your home uses. Home Energy Grants are available if you qualify for schemes under the SEAI.
- When a room is not being used, make sure the radiators are turned down or off and the doors are kept closed; find draughts and plug the gaps.
- Good insulation in your attic alone can save you up to 20% on your home heating. Wall insulation can also be increased in a number of ways to improve heat retention.
- Choose high performance double or triple glazed units when replacing windows. Significant energy savings can also be achieved if the replacement windows have Argon fill and low-emissivity glass.
Heating water unnecessarily is a common way households lose energy. Use your system wisely by thinking about when the hot water is used most frequently and only heating the amount that is needed by adjusting the timer settings.
- If your water is heated by the central-heating boiler and the hot water cylinder has a thermostat, you should set it to 65°.
- Make sure that the hot water cylinder has a good lagging jacket and insulate hot water pipes with foam tubing. Factory applied insulation is most effective at retaining heat as it is hard wearing and cannot be pulled out of place
Our homes are full of modern technology and useful machines that all consume energy. There are lots of ways we can use them cleverly and efficiently to make sure we aren't wasting any energy.
- If your washing machine has an economy or a reduced time setting you should use that wherever possible.
- Lower temperature cycles, and full loads rather than half loads are more energy efficient
- Use the dryer only when necessary; make use of a clothes horse or clothes line.
- Make sure your fridge and freezer are set to the most efficient temperatures as per the user manual for your own machine.
- Don't leave fridge-freezer doors open for too long; a fridge takes 45 minutes to regain its ideal temperature after being open for just 20 seconds.
- Don't put warm or hot food into the fridge or freezer as the machine has to use unnecessary energy to get it to cool down.
- Defrost your machine every 6 months.
- Select energy saving mode for your appliances and switch off all unnecessary electrical equipment and appliances at night.
- Connect your computer equipment to one power strip so everything can easily be turned on and off at the same time.
- Unplug chargers and surge protectors when not in use. Do not leave items plugged after they are fully charged.
A large portion of energy consumption in Ireland goes on lighting so we can reduce that by making the most of natural light and being smarter with our artificial lights.
- Make the most of natural daylight and wait until necessary to turn on lights.
- Don't block or obstruct windows and sky lights with furniture or blinds.
- Make space for activities that require light, like reading, near windows.
- Dirty windows will allow less light into your rooms, creating a need for artificial lighting.
- Painting your walls with light colours can reflect up to 80% of natural light while dark colours will absorb all the daylight.
- Switch off lights at night and when rooms are not in use.
- Install timers or sensors to ensure lights are only being used when necessary.
- Dimmer switches and lamps are useful when you only need a small amount of light.
- Keep light fittings, reflectors and lampshades clean and free from dust and dirt.
- Replace old bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) or Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
Ovens, hobs and microwaves are a big factor in our domestic energy consumption. We can make a big impact and reduce our energy usage by being mindful of how we go about cooking.
- Ovens are expensive to run. Do so efficiently by cooking multiple items at the same time and utilising the different cooking temperatures at the top and bottom of the oven.
- Try not to open the oven door too often, 20% of the accumulated heat escapes every time.
- Think about cooking for more than one meal at a time, then storing and reheating dishes.
- Use lids for pots and pans to keep in the heat and reduce condensation in the kitchen.
- Turn cooker rings and hobs down or off to save energy and allow the residual heat to finish cooking.
- Use pots and pans that cover the entirety of the ring so no heat is wasted.
Building Energy Rating
A Building Energy Rating Certificate (BER) indicates your building's energy performance. The BER is calculated using the energy required to heat your home and water and takes into consideration the ventilation and lighting.
The BER certificate also contains an advisory report which identifies potential energy performance improvements that could lead to better comfort levels, reduced energy use and cost.
Energy Grants and Schemes
Since 2011 Ireland achieved a reduction in emissions from our built environment of 10% but more can be still be done and the Government is committed to reaching a further reduction in emissions from buildings of 30-35% by 2030. In order to achieve this ambitious target, citizens will be supported to make changes through the expansion of grants, supports and other schemes.
The current Home Energy Grants available give fixed cash returns on insulation and heating system upgrades, helping to make your home more comfortable and cheaper to run. You could be entitled to one of the grants listed below to improve your home's energy efficiency and reduce its emissions.
- Deep Retrofit Grant
- Insulation Grant
- Heat Pump System Grant
- Heating Controls Grant
- Solar Water Heating Grant
- Solar Electricity Grant
If you receive any of the welfare payments listed below and your home qualifies for any of the grants listed above, you may be eligible for a free home energy upgrade.
- Fuel Allowance as part of the National Fuel Scheme
- Job Seekers Allowance for over six months and have a child under 7 years of age
- Working Family Payment
- One-Parent Family Payment
- Domiciliary Care Allowance
- Carers Allowance and live with the person you are caring for
Other home improvement schemes available include the Warmth & Wellbeing Scheme which provides free upgrades to those living with chronic respiratory conditions.
Water is one of Ireland's most valuable resources, essential for healthy living and sanitation. Across the world the risk to water supplies from climate change and global warming is increasing and Ireland is no exception.
Reports have projected that extreme weather events pose the greatest and most immediate risk to Ireland. Flooding, drought, storms and intense precipitation are increasing year on year and each of these can cause damage, pollution and intense strain on our national water supply.
We need to conserve and protect this resource to prepare for the impact future weather events are going to cause. While the Government invests in adaptation measures to help build resilience, we can make changes in our homes to help reduce the strain on the water supply.
1.6 billion litres of drinking water are produced every day in Ireland and almost half of it gets lost through leaks in the pipe network and in homes. Irish Water monitors the system but you can also take action in your home or business to reduce water wastage and improve water pressure.
- Check the toilet - is there a constant sound of water running in any of the cisterns? Can you see a stream of water running down inside the toilet?
- Check the water storage tank - can you see any water coming from the overflow pipes? Can you hear it refilling when water-consuming appliances are not in use?
- Check your household and external garden taps for drips.
- Check water-consuming appliances like the washing machine and dishwasher for plumbing issues such as dripping joints or leaky hoses.
If you are still concerned and you have an Irish Water meter installed, you can easily check the usage in your house. Turn off the water using the inside stop valve and check the meter reading. Leave the water off for one hour and then check the meter again. If there is a discrepancy in the figures then it is likely you have a leak. Irish Water's First Fix Free Scheme provides free leak investigation and repairs on customers' external supply pipes.
Extreme Weather Conditions
When temperatures drop below zero, dripping taps and unprotected pipes can freeze or crack, significantly risking the supply of water to your home. Prepare for extreme weather in advance.
- Insulate water tanks and pipes - ensure the water tank is wrapped in insulation or a lagging jacket and cover pipes with insulating material to protect them.
- Ensure the boiler is serviced by an accredited plumber - the boiler needs to run efficiently in order to heat your home and leaks or drips could result in costly repairs
- Fix external dripping taps
- Minimise draughts to prevent cold air affecting the pipes inside your home.
- Circulate warm air - open doors to unheated areas of your home occasionally to allow warm air to circulate. This can prevent pipes and tanks from freezing.
- Locate the stop tap - the internal stop tap that turns off the water supply is usually located on the ground floor, under a kitchen or bathroom sink. Make sure you can reach it and turn it off easily if there is a problem with your supply.
Tips for Conservation
A big part of water conservation is changing our attitude and our behaviours relating to water and its use in our homes. Water is not an infinite resource so we have to play our part around the home to make sure we aren't wasting it.
In the Kitchen
- Only fill your kettle with as much water as you actually need; only run full loads in your washing machine.
- Use a basin in the sink. It's useful for washing dishes and collecting the water you use to rinse off fruit and vegetables – this can then be used for watering plants.
- Keep a jug of water in the fridge for nice cold water instead of running the tap.
- Check for any leaks in your kitchen sink and appliances.
In the Bathroom
- Choose a shower rather than a bath, and never leave taps running.
- Flush the toilet only when necessary - depending on the age and size of your cistern one flush can use up to 9 litres of water.
- Consider adding a displacement device to your cistern to reduce the amount of water used.
- Do not flush any sanitary products, nappies or wipes down the toilet, even if they claim to be flushable
- Make sure you have a bin in the bathroom so nobody is tempted to flush litter
In the Garden
- Collect rainwater to use instead in a watering can instead of connecting a hose to the tap.
- Don't water your lawn – grass can survive long dry spells and recovers quickly with the next rainfall.
- Use a bucket and sponge to wash your car or windows instead of a hose.
- Regularly check your outdoor taps, pipes and plumbing fixtures for leaks.