Insulating your home

The energy for life.

Energy is essential to our daily lives. It heats our homes, fuels our transport and supplies our electricity. At the moment, most of the energy we use comes from fossil fuels such as oil,gas,coal and peat. Unfortunately there is a limited supply of fossil fuels in the world and we are using them up at a very fast rate. The other downside to fossil fuels is that burning them for energy also produces CO2,a greenhouse gas, which causes climate change. That’s where sustainable energy comes in.

So what is sustainable energy?

Sustainable energy refers to a way we can use and generate energy that is more efficient and less harmful to the environment. Another way of explaining sustainable energy is that it will allow us to meet our present energy needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We can do this by being more efficient in how we use energy in our daily lives and also by increasing the amount of energy that comes from renewable sources such as the wind, the sun, rivers and oceans.

What are the benefits of sustainable energy?

The good news is that being sustainable in how you use energy has immediate benefits:

  • It will save you money on your electricity and heating bills
  • Your home will be more comfortable and convenient
  • And you will also be making a vital contribution to reducing climate change

Believe it or not, the small actions you take to be more energy efficient in your home can have a very significant impact on improving the environment. The collective efforts of individuals can often be the most powerful of all.

SEAI activities

Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEAI) was set up by the government in 2002 as Ireland’s national energy agency with a mission to promote and assist the development of sustainable energy. SEAI’s activities can be divided into two main areas:

  • Energy Use - Energy is vital to how we live our daily lives but most of us don’t use energy as efficiently as we could. By assisting those who use energy (mainly industry, businesses and householders),to be more energy efficient,SEI can help to reduce the amount of energy we use overall.
  • Renewable Energy - Energy that is generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar power is clean and doesn’t produce harmful greenhouse gases. By promoting the development and wider use of renewable energy in Ireland SEI can help to further benefit the environment, in particular reducing the threat of climate change.

SEAI is also involved in other activities such as stimulating research and development, advising on energy policy and producing energy statistics.

Sustainable Energy Ireland is funded by the National Development Plan 2000-2006 with programmes part financed by the European Union.

Many Irish houses, particularly those built before 1980, are very wasteful of energy. Various cost-effective energy saving opportunities exist which, through reducing fuel and electricity bills,can pay for themselves in a relatively short time. The implementation of energy conservation measures can also make the house warmer, more comfortable, and eliminate cold draughts and condensation.

By conserving energy in our homes, we can • save money • help to conserve fuel resources • promote a cleaner environment.

On a wider scale, conservation can reduce polluting emissions, provide employment, and reduce Ireland’s fuel imports bill. Most of our energy currently comes from oil, coal, natural gas and peat. These resources are finite, and if we continue to use them at current rates, they will run out within a small number of generations. In the meantime, the burning of these fuels releases pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to smog, acid rain and, in the longer term, climate change.

Energy Conservation measures in the home include: • design and shape of the building • insulation of the building fabric • energy-efficient heating and lighting systems, and controls • energy-efficient appliances

Heat loss through the fabric of the building can be substantial, and in this booklet we are going to look at methods of insulating the building fabric of your home to reduce this loss.

Insulation of the Building Fabric

Insulation evenly distributed over all your home generally produces better results than additional insulation applied to only one or two areas. It is better to have a good overall level of insulation than, for example, a highly insulated roof with no wall insulation.

Since increasing insulation thickness does not produce a pro- rata reduction in U-value, there comes a point where the economic return on additional insulation for any one element will be virtually nil.

When selecting insulating materials, choose those that have an Irish or British Agrément Board Certificate. This Certificate will give you information on the Technical Specification, Design Data and Installation recommendations for the material. For the purpose of U-value calculations, it will give you the thermal conductivity of the thickness  of the material.

Good workmanship and attention to detail are most important when insulating your home, to avoid thermal bridging and other related problems, and could have greater impact on overall heat loss than simply increasing the thickness of insulation. Use only approved installers.

Some measures are more cost-effective than others and you will recover the cost in reduced energy bills more quickly than others. These could be undertaken first and are outlined throughout this guide.

What is Thermal Bridging?

Thermal bridging occurs in small areas where the insulation level is reduced significantly compared with the remainder of the element

What is a U-value?

To put it simply, it is the measure of the rate at which heat is lost through a wall, for instance. As it is a measure of heat loss then the lower the U-value the better it is for your home comfort.

Hot Water Cylinder

One of the quickest and simplest ways to save energy in your home is to insulate your hot water cylinder and pipes. Hot water will stay hot longer and you will save money on heating it by fitting a lagging jacket. An 80mm jacket can cut heat loss by 75% and could pay for itself in just a few months. Even if your cylinder is already insulated, if the jacket is less than 75mm thick, it is worth getting a new one. Care should be taken not to cover the cap of the electric immersion heater with the lagging jacket.

If you need to replace your cylinder, choose one with a pre- formed foam insulation jacket. This is more efficient and less bulky than a cylinder with a separate jacket.

Conservation of Energy and the Building Regulations 2002

The Building Regulations 2002,Part L Conservation of Fuel and Energy, require that all new buildings achieve minimum standards of energy efficiency. Existing houses should be refurbished to achieve these standards also. Levels of insulation higher than those required in the Building Regulations are in many cases worthwhile, since a house being built or refurbished today can be expected to be occupied for 60 years or more, and an energy-efficient design can yield considerable savings over its lifetime.

Once you have decided to adopt energy-saving measures in your home and start investigating issues more deeply you may find yourself coming across unfamiliar measures and concepts. One of those is the thermal transmittance, or  U- value, of a construction

Part L gives maximum values which should be met to comply with the Building Regulations Standards of energy conservation.