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10May

Meet the Expert: Reduce Home Energy Costs with MK-BER

Ireland’s energy prices were already among the most expensive in Europe, but since the start of the war in Ukraine and Russian sanctions, gas and electricity prices have soared.

Energy reduction measures and bringing forward plans to decarbonise our homes is now on the radar of many homeowners. From heat pumps to underfloor heating, demand for energy-efficient home improvements has risen by 31%.

But just being mindful of energy usage and applying energy reduction measures in our daily lives can also make a big difference to the energy crisis and our energy bills.

Onlinetradesmen member, Mark Kennedy from MK-BER offers practical tips on how to reduce energy use in the home. As Mark explains, a few behavioural changes can make a big difference in conserving energy and saving money.

For homeowners who want to make their homes more energy-efficient, Mark explains what a BER assessor does and why they are the first step to upgrading the energy efficiency of your home.

 

Save Electricity from Vampire Devices

Phantom energy is the energy wasted when the appliance is not in use. It is estimated that 10% of home electricity costs are devices plugged in, draining energy, even while not in use.

Mark recommends switching off various tech or kitchen appliance isolation switches to reduce energy consumption.

Individual isolation switches for all small home appliances (dishwashers, extractor fans, ovens, fridges etc.) are now required to disconnect the supply of electricity as part of the National Rules for Electrical Installation. New builds and older homes with electrical upgrades will now have isolation switches installed.

 

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“Many homeowners are leaving washing machines, dryers and extractor fans on standby, and not conscious of the electricity used,” Mark says. “People don’t realise how much energy switching off an isolation switch at the end of the day can save.”

Stereos and TVs left in standby mode are also big electricity consumption culprits. “Integrated wall-mounted TVs are often left in standby mode because people have hidden the switches and plugs to avoid cord mess,” says Mark.

Mark also recommends turning off the Wi-Fi router when not in use and disconnecting mobile phone chargers when fully charged. "The cumulative effect of these actions will make a difference in the amount of electricity used in the home."

Keeping appliances in the home on standby while still consuming electricity, can typically cost a homeowner €120 more per year in unnecessary charges.

 

Saving Energy in the Bathroom

Spending money on energy-efficient bathroom appliances can also lead to energy savings. Always check bathroom appliance energy ratings before purchasing.

Modern water-efficient showerheads with flow regulators use technology that can make a low flow rate feel far higher than it is. This is an easy way to save energy without impacting the bathing experience.

‘Electric showers are very popular in Ireland but are costly appliances to run. A 10-minute shower will roughly cost 50 cents at current rates adding up to €183 per person per year. When calculated by the number of household occupants using the shower daily, you can already see a huge proportion of where a household's electric bill is being spent,’ says Mark.

Along with saving energy, Mark also advises that we should all be more conscious of water usage in the home. ‘On average, a 10-minute power shower uses 250 litres of water. By reducing to a 4-minute shower, you will reduce your energy bill, and also save around 150 litres of water.'

Mark advises checking the energy efficiency of electric shower units before buying. There is a range of electric eco showers and mixer eco showers now available, designed to limit water consumption and energy, no matter what the household's water pressure.’

‘Heating water is also expensive, so make sure you have a lagging jacket on your tank and avoid leaving hot taps running!’

 

Smart Metering

Since 2021, ESB Networks (or a company working on behalf of ESB Networks) have been rolling out across Ireland, the next generation of electricity meters, referred to as ‘Smart Meters’.

‘As of beginning April 2022, about 750,000 homes have now been upgraded with a Smart Meter. Once a homeowner has a Smart Meter installed, they will be able to see which appliances use the most energy and find ways to reduce energy consumption overall,’ advises Mark.

 

Reduce Heating Costs

There are things you can do to reduce the amount of energy required to heat your home, improve the efficiency of your heating system, and save money on heat.

Mark recommends keeping the thermostat to 20 Degrees Celsius in living areas and even cooler for hallways and bedrooms.

‘As radiators continue to heat a home after switching off, turn on heating 30 minutes before you need it and turn it off 30 minutes before you don’t,’ advises Mark

‘If homeowners turned down their heating by 1degree, it would cut energy bills by 10% and reduce energy demand overall - which will not only save money but is good for the planet.’

‘Using heating controls, timers and fitting smart radiators homeowners can save up to 20% on heating bills,’ says Mark. ‘Set times which fit with daily routines and turn radiators off or down in rooms that you do not use very often.’

A once-a-year boiler service will not only make a boiler run more efficiently but can also reduce energy usage by 10%. 'Often the best time to get your boiler service is during the summer months when plumbers are most quiet. And do ask them to explain settings for energy savings.'

 

BER Assessment –The First Step to a Home Energy Upgrade

One step to reducing the cost of heating is reducing the amount of heat lost from your home. Reducing heat loss is part of the Irish Government's programme of support to make it affordable for homeowners to undertake home energy upgrades.

‘When planning a home energy upgrade, a homeowner will need to understand how well the home performs in terms of energy efficiency. This is when the services of a registered SEAI Building Energy Rating (BER) assessor will calculate how well the attic and walls are insulated, the performance of the heating system, how well doors and windows keep in the heat, use of energy-efficient lighting etc.’

‘Once the BER assessment is done, the homeowner will receive a BER certificate and an advisory report, says Mark. ‘The advisory report will give you details on areas for improvement to reach a minimum B2 rating.’

 

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A BER assessment is just the beginning of an energy-efficient home. Homeowners who start the process will have a roadmap on where to start to reduce energy costs.

“The first step for many homeowners is to invest in either attic or wall insulation. The next step then is adding renewables, such as replacing a gas boiler with a heat-pump,’ says Mark

To help you decide which upgrades you want to go ahead with short-term or long-term, your BER assessor will also be able to advise what supports are available to help fund the works.

With a degree in Construction Management and a member of the BER Assessor Association of Ireland, Mark Kennedy offers qualified, insured, and certified SEAI BER assessments in the Kildare region. If you are seeking a BER assessment from an SEAI registered professional, you can contact MK-BER direct or post a job with Onlinetradesmen.

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