Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme – Free Energy Efficiency Improvements For Your Home

In Budget 2012 the Winter Fuel allowance payment period was cut from 32 weeks to 26 weeks. This equates to a cut of €20 a week for 6 weeks – or €120. The fuel allowance is currently paid to people over 66 and on low incomes. With the decrease in fuel allowance and the increase in fuel prices more and more home owners are finding it difficult to afford to heat their homes.

Heat Loss in a typical home

The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme (BEWH), administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), funds energy efficiency improvements in the homes of the elderly and vulnerable, making the homes more comfortable, healthier and more cost effective to run.  The scheme is available to non-Local Authority owner occupied homes constructed before 2002. The owner of the property has also to be in receipt of one of the
following:

  • Fuel Allowance as part of the National Fuel Scheme
  • Job Seekers allowance for over six months and with children under 7 years of age
  • Family income support

Landlords can avail of grants from Better Energy Homes if they have tenants in, or at risk of, energy poverty.

Homes are surveyed to see what energy efficiency measures are needed and then the appropriate steps are taken to make the home more energy efficient. The service is provided at no cost to the household and the measures currently available under the scheme include attic insulation, cavity wall insulation, draught proofing of doors and windows, installation of lagging jackets and low energy light bulbs and also provides energy advice to the householders.

Warm project – Courtesy of Wexford Local Development

The services are provided by a panel of SEAI appointed non-profit community based Organisations, Local Development Companies and a panel of SEAI appointed private contractors. The Community Based Organisations or Contractor installers are assigned to a household depending on their geographic location. Energy efficient measures are delivered to the highest quality assurance standards. Inspections are carried out on a sample of homes completed to ensure the standards are maintained.

To apply contact the Better Energy Warmer Homes helpdesk on 1800 250 204 or email warmerhomes@seai.ie

Wexford Local Development

Alternatively if you live in Wexford you can contact Wexford Local Development as they operate this scheme under the banner of the Warm Project. Contact details and application form can be found here. Since the inception of this project they’ve made Winters warmer for well over 2,500 households. A study some years ago found many people, particularly elderly, suffered health problems due to  draughty and damp houses. The Warm Project addresses this issue. If you qualify for the fuel allowance, own your own home and it was built before 2002, you qualify for WLD’s retrofitting scheme.

With the weather turning colder we would urge everyone to keep an eye on their elderly or vulnerable neighbours and if you think they qualify for this scheme why not help them to take the steps necessary to have a warmer home this Winter.

Local school bottles it!

Over the past few months the children of Scoil Naomh Maodhóg in Ferns, Co. Wexford have been busy collecting two litre plastic bottles to construct their latest eco-friendly project. The bottles have now found a new lease of  life as the school’s eco-friendly greenhouse.

Plastic bottle greenhouse

Preparing greenhouse for vegetable planting

The lids and labels were removed and the bottoms were trimmed to allow them to slot into each other to create a long tube. The tubes were then stacked side by side and secured into the timber  frame with wires spaced at intervals up the frame and roof.  The wires hold the bottle in place and it is the cross tie wire that binds it into a solid wall, closing most of the gaps.

This is the perfect project for schools as it is a great re-use educational structure that really works.

The school has a ‘green’ ethos that is to be admired and is working towards becoming a more environmentally friendly and sustainable school.  School projects to date include the creating of  raised flower and vegetable beds, wildlife garden and pond, a  newly planted woodland area, the erection of bird boxes, butterfly boxes and an insect hotel that are all tended by the children. They make their own compost and water the plants with the rainwater they collect.

Cold frame protecting the young plant

Coldframe made from old windows

The children are introduced to growing their own vegetables. They plant the seeds and wait patiently for them to germinate.  They are then planted out when weather permits and  each class take turns to water and keep them weed free. There is great excitement when its time to harvest the produce as they get to divide it and bring it home.

Last year the potatoes were harvested and the children cut them into chips. They were then brought to the local diner to be cooked. A very tasty meal was had by all!

Planting potatoes in one of the many raised vegetable beds

Pond and wild flower garden

A  long side the pond the children have planted a variety of nectar producing plants and shrubs to encourage butterflies and other nectar loving insects into the garden. Rough grass margins have also been successfully established and this provides an excellent habitat for many insects and is ideal for the newly-emerged frogs that are a great attraction for the children every year.

Native tree nursery

Last year the school  began the task of extending the existing Woodland area. It was decided to plant only native species to the area  so the children brought in tree sapplings from their own gardens and created a nursery. When they were strong  enough they were planted out in the well prepared area. Their aim is to create natural habitats so as to introduce various insects, butterflies and birds into the school grounds. The children have great fun walking through the Woodland, turning up stones and wood to see what insects are lurking beneath.

Newly planted woodland area

 

Mature woodland area rich in biodiversity

 

Birdboxes are placed in safe areas to attract birds to the school grounds

 

Butterfly boxes

Last year a Tidy Towns Junior Committee was formed. They are a great asset to the community as they are involved in keeping the school litter free, promote energy efficiency and recycling and reusing in the school. They were also involved with the development of the Community Park.  They were presented with an Endeavour Award  in recognition of their great work and achievements. They are busy planning some very exciting projects at the moment which are so top secret thet they won’t even divulge the details to the Ferns Tidy Towns Committee. May just watch this space!

Sensory garden and hopscotch area

Picnic Area in the Community park

Members of Junior Tidy Towns enjoying the end of year party organised by Ferns Tidy Towns Committee.

Junior Tidy Towns receiving their well deserved Endeavour Award

It is one of the most energy efficient schools in the area. Over the years the school has taken on projects such as upgrading their insulation, installing new windows and replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy saving light bulbs. The children have a great awareness of energy saving. Simple measures like turning off lights and closing doors when leaving a room help to conserve energy.

 

Nissan have turned over a New LEAF!

We were invited to come along to the Nissan LEAF Roadshow in Kilkenny to test drive the world’s first affordable, mass produced electric car, the Nissan LEAF. This was one of only two in Europe and was a left hand drive version.

The Nissan Leaf

They were very sceptical, another electric bubble car, how would this one differ? Arriving at the Roadshow they were very surprised to see that the Nissan LEAF looked like a normal 5-seater family car, but this was no normal car. It is a car that runs on 100% electricity, a car with no fuel tank, no mechanically propelled engine and no exhaust pipe and is therefore a zero emissions car. Mechanics may not be over the moon about its arrival as it is the dawn of a new breed of vehicle that does not have the associated high service and maintenance costs that we have come to accept. In fact the average annual running costs for the Nissan LEAF, based on 12,000 miles or 19,200 kms, are expected to be in or around €232, or less than €20 per month. With the LEAF the standard service intervals of a normal car are a thing of the past with replacement tyres now probably being the biggest maintenance cost.

The Nissan Leaf

This is a sleek looking mid-size family car with a very eye catching appearance and a surprisingly spacious interior; four adult males were easily and comfortably accommodated. No key in the ignition, no clutch and no gear stick, just a press of a button and the car is started, but shut your eyes and you wouldn’t realise as the only indications are visual ones. The Nissan LEAF has the performance of a 1.6 litre petrol engine and is very quick and smooth in acceleration, it drives like an automatic but much more responsive and without the associated gear change shunts and roaring engine. Power is delivered via an 80kW a.c. motor that develops enough torque to reach a maximum speed of over 140 km/h. Acceleration from a standstill is very impressive indeed and the LEAF floats on seemingly effortlessly and silently. The LEAF is so silent that below 30km/h it emits an audible beep to alert unsuspecting pedestrians and cyclists of its presence.

Charging socket under the Nissan badge just in front of the bonnet.

The electric motor is powered by a bank of lithium-ion batteries that are mounted under the seats and floor of the LEAF thus giving a low centre of gravity and balanced weight distribution resulting in excellent handling and ride comfort. The latest generation lithium-ion batteries used in the LEAF are manufactured by Automotive Energy Supply Corporation (AESC), a joint venture company between Nissan and the Japanese electronics company NEC. These batteries are more efficient, more powerful and faster to recharge than anything gone before. The batteries can be recharged to 80% battery capacity in about 25 minutes from a fast charging point but the more normal method is a slower overnight charge. A full charge delivers a capacity of about 160kms but is very dependent on driving habits. The charging socket is under the Nissan badge just in front of the bonnet. ESB will install home charging points free of charge to the first 2,000 electric vehicle customers.

Underneath the Bonnet

Underneath the Bonnet

Under the bonnet Nissan have provided a mock engine but this space could have been put to better use. There is a standard 12V DC battery also to cater for starting and instrumentation on the dash, there is a small solar photovoltaic (PV) panel on top of the boot door that provides some level of recharge to the 12V battery. The boot is just adequate, certainly wont be carrying your full set of golf clubs in there. For a car with the latest generation lithium-ion batteries whose thinner structure and distribution around the vehicle allows for more room inside the vehicle itself, it is a pity that the lack of a conventional engine does not mean pucks of cargo space as well. But this is the only real negative in what is otherwise a breath of fresh air to the automotive industry and a real credit to Nissan.

Small solar photovoltaic (PV) panel located on the boot

Nissan Leaf Boot Space

The Nissan LEAF that will be available in Ireland will come fully equipped with features such as 16” Alloy Wheels, fully automatic Climate Control, Satellite Navigation that doubles up as a screen for the Rear Parking Camera, Cruise Control and a quick charge socket. Safety equipment such as Driver, Passenger, Side and Curtain airbags will be standard along with Electronic Stability Control. Equipment will also include the very distinctive LED headlamps which is a first for Nissan.

According to Nissan innovative smart phone connectivity will allow an owner to control many elements of the LEAF’s functions remotely, including telling the car when to re-charge, to heat or cool the interior of the car before starting a journey and many more innovative features. The Satellite Navigation on the LEAF can connect directly to a Global Data Centre via the Telematics System giving owners updates on charging points, driving patterns and so on.

Charging Point

Road tax is €104 per year but should these state of the art zero-emissions vehicles be exempt from road tax?

Nissan have certainly set the bar extremely high indeed and for this they must be applauded. The LEAF is certainly suited to city driving and low mileage driving but as technological advances extends the range of these vehicles they will become the vehicle of choice for all types of customers.

Test drive the Nissan Leaf at a branch near you!

Thanks to Liam Martin, Wexford Car Centre for the invitation to test drive this great piece of technology. It was a truly unexpected surprise. Test drive the LEAF at a branch near you!

All photographs copyright of Eco Evolution

New Consumer Features to be introduced to Home Energy Saving Scheme

~Online Home Energy Self Survey and Building Energy Rating Integrated into Grant Scheme~

On June 8th, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) will introduce two new features to the Home Energy Saving (HES) scheme, designed to further empower consumers, first by guiding them on suitable upgrade works and secondly informing them of the impact of works undertaken.

The Home Energy Saving scheme, administered by SEAI provides grants to homeowners for insulation and heating system upgrades and continues to prove very popular with over 58,000 homeowner applications approved since the scheme was launched in March 2009.

Sample of BER Cert ~ Photo Credit SEAI

Sample of BER Cert ~ Photo Credit SEAI

Online Home Energy Self Survey

The smart online Home Energy Self Survey will only take minutes to complete, taking homeowners through a number of simple steps to identify the current condition of their home and guiding them towards the most suitable upgrade works.  This new survey will be offered to all applicants at the start of the online application process and will also available in hard copy on request from the SEAI call centre.  The survey complements the existing fast track online application system and links directly to SEAI’s other resources including the Buyers’ Guides.

Integral BER Requirement

At the same time a Building Energy Rating (BER) is to become an integral part of all grant applications under the HES scheme, whereby homeowners must undertake a BER to measure the impact of works undertaken.  This will give homeowners a thorough and objective assessment of the energy performance of their home following upgrade works, including a BER certificate with a A-G performance rating.  The first such BER assessment will attract grant aid of €100.

At the time of completing the BER, the assessor will also provide an estimate of the energy performance of the home before upgrade works, based upon the pre-works condition of the house.  This will inform the homeowner of the effectiveness of the upgrade works in terms of energy and CO2 emissions improvements.

Householders making applications  on or after Tuesday 8th June will be required to use the new application system or  the new application forms.