Top 10 tips for retrofitting your home

Conducting an energy upgrade and retrofit project to your home can be daunting if you are not sure what you should be including as part of the upgrade works. To help ensure that you do not make any financial mistakes and to guarantee project success, I have compiled my top ten tips for retrofitting projects.


First things first, establish what the Building Energy Rating (BER) for your home is and access your property’s advisory report, if there is one already carried out. You can check if a BER certificate has ever been published for your property on the SEAI’s website using your electricity’s MPRN as a search reference.

A BER certificate helps you to understand how energy efficient your home is. It is a good indicator of how much you will spend and the amount of carbon you will produce to heat the home to a comfortable level.

A BER certificate will rate your home between an A to a G-rating. A-rated homes are the most energy efficient as opposed to G-rated which are the least. A-rated homes have the lowest energy bills while G-rated homes require a lot of energy to heat and have the highest energy bills.

If you have an advisory report, you already have a personalise roadmap on how to upgrade your home to a target of a B2 energy rating, or better. This is in line with the national targets within the Climate Action Plan. Your advisory report includes colour coded performance indicators for your home’s current status and its potential if you were to install the report’s recommended upgrades. The report also lists out a package of recommended upgrade works to improve your home to a B2 or better. It will provide a “fabric first” approach to achieve an improved BER and show approximate cost indicators and information on whether grant funding is available for each measure. The advisory report is essentially an energy improvement plan tailored to your home. This plan can then be used as a guide for current upgrade works and for future works to your home if your budget does not allow for all works to be carried out right now.

If you do not have a BER certificate for your home, hire a BER Assessor to carry one out before committing to any work. The SEAI’s website also contains a national register of BER Assessors. Find one locally and hire them to carry out an assessment on your home. When the assessment is completed, you will receive a BER certificate and an advisory report specific to your home as described above. Talk to your BER assessor and ensure that you fully understand all the information provided to you.


Now that you have your BER Certificate and advisory report as a roadmap, it is really important that you consult with a professional before proceeding with any work done. Talk to the BER Assessor first but then perhaps consult with an architect or a quantity surveyor to help steer you in the right direction and give you an indication on the cost of the works. Compile a shopping list and agree on a plan of the upgrade measures that you will include.


Based on your budget and your financial position there are then three grant funding routes available to you to help fund the cost of the upgrade works from the SEAI. Decide on your grant funding route and apply for the funding ahead of commencing any works.

Funding Options:

  1. Completely free energy upgrade works are available to those in receipt of certain welfare benefits. In this instance the SEAI will carry out all works free of charge.

  2. Individual energy upgrade grants of up to 80% funding can be offered for small to medium scale works. This option is really good for homeowners where the budget does not allow for all energy upgrade works to be carried out right now. Under this set of grants, you can claim funding for the works you choose to do now and then later if you have a budget to do further works you can then access grant funding for those works then. An example would be if you were to decide to insulate your attic now, you could claim €1,500 for these works. Next year if you want to change your gas burner to an air-to-water heat pump you could then claim the €6,500 grant for that. You can add to your upgrade works as and when you can afford to carry the works out.

  3. The third option is to receive grant funding from a One-Stop-Shop. In this instance the homeowner’s budget is higher and multiple energy upgrades will be carried out. An example of this type of an upgrade would be to insulate your floor slab, install a new air-to-water heating system, insulate your walls, attic and install new external windows and doors. 45-50% grant funding is available in this instance. The One-Stop-Shop will completely manage the upgrade works for you and will apply for the grant funding for you also. You will only pay for the works net of the eligible grant which means you will never have to cashflow the grant funded proportion of the works.


Reduce your energy use within your home. Replace all your lightbulbs with low energy LED bulbs. Replace old electrical appliances with new efficient versions. Insulate your hot water tank and heating pipes to reduce heat loss and invest in smart controls for your heating system to match the way you use your home.


Upgrading your existing building fabric. Insulation will reduce heat loss and the cost of your energy bills. Insulate your attic and external walls with cavity wall insulation, internal wall insulation (dry lining) or with external wall insulation. If you are digging up your floors, now is the time to insulate them. Upgrade single glazed windows which lose a huge amount of heat with new efficient double or triple glazed windows. This will save your energy. Seal up those gaps and drafts from existing windows and dramatically reduce air leakage and heat loss in the home.


If you have insulated the fabric of your building the next thing to consider is an upgrade to your heating system. Renewable heating systems offer lower energy costs and reduce carbon emissions. Upgrading to an air-to-water or a ground sourced heat pump system for example, will reduce your running costs and carbon emissions. Grant funding up to €6,500 is available under this measure.


If you have insulated your fabric and upgraded your heating system to a renewable source, I would then advise consideration to solar water heating and solar PV panels. A solar thermal system will transform energy from the sun into hot water for your home. Solar PV panels will generate renewable electricity for your home. If it is a case that you cannot afford to do these works right now, future proof the home by installing the electrical provisions now during your retrofitting works so that the disruption is minimal if you decide to install solar or PV panels later.


Ventilate correctly, make sure air vents are free of debris to avoid unintended consequences such as poor air quality, condensation, damp and mould. Mechanical ventilation systems can improve the ventilation in your home with added benefits of reducing heat loss.


Good workmanship is key to any upgrade works. Ensure that you employ reputable and approved contractors to carry out your upgrade works. Gaps around insulation create a route for heat to escape. Poorly installed heat pumps are costly to run. Make sure you use experienced tradespeople. Ask for references and check them out before contracting any works out.


Finally, my last tip would be to assess what your current running cost are to heat your home, provide hot water and electricity within the existing building fabric. Then calculate what the expected running costs will be following your upgrade works. A quantity survey or your contractor can help you with this calculation. It is valuable to review the whole life cycle cost of a building. You may be surprised by the financial savings that you will reap because of your upgrade works. I’ve had Clients whose energy bills have been cut by up to 70% subsequent to a retrofit!

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