Heating Alternatives: the pros & cons

Sep 05, 2022

As living costs, particularly energy and heating prices continue to soar - many households as well as businesses are feeling the pressure to look at alternative ways to heat their homes and recognising the return on investment.

Changing your heating system is no easy feat and is a significant investment. It can feel like a daunting and unnecessary process.  We wanted to investigate what options and grants are available for homeowners looking to move away from oil or gas heating to a more sustainable alternative.  

The most popular choice at the moment is the air-to-water heat pump. The heat from the air is transferred to the water in your heating system, such as your radiators and your hot water tank. Unlike gas and oil boilers, heat pumps deliver heat at lower temperatures over a longer period of time. It is not a new technology; it has been used in fridges since the early 1800's. 
At present SEAI offer a number of different grants for homeowners, including installation, insulation and assessment grants.  The first step in the process is to get your home’s energy efficiency assessed.  The building needs to be well insulated – nearly 30% of heat escapes through the walls and 30% through poor attic insulation.  

This is a worthwhile step for any house owner; to review their wall and attic insulation in order to maximise their heat retention and reduce their heating costs – with or without a change of system.  

The problem we encountered when looking into the grant application was the feasibility of meeting the criteria to avail of the grant.  For many homes the cost of improving their insulation to meet the specified “heat loss indicator” is too much to be feasible.  In some instances, it may not be possible to reduce the heat loss enough for the grant criteria even with a large investment in insulation.  

Yes, you can always go ahead and price the heating system changeover without applying for the grant. If your home does have high heat loss the main issue is that the heat pump will not be able to run at an optimum level and may use more energy than necessary to maintain an ambient temperature.   

An air-to-water heat pump home installations usually cost between €8,500 and €15,000, depending on the size and power of the heat pump, how much hot water storage you would like and whether you want it to be controllable over the internet.  Heat Pumps normally last for 15 - 20 years and generally come with a 3 - 7-year warranty. Annual maintenance needs to be carried out to ensure efficient performance, but many installation companies include this in their costings. 

The decision to change to a heat pump may need to be driven by a desire to reduce fossil fuel dependence and consumption. It will also reduce your fuel bill significantly, but the initial investment is always daunting and whilst the grant is there, it is not a viable option for everyone. 

As a country we need to be looking at how to get as many households as energy efficient as possible.  Whilst we advocate for personal responsibility, we do feel our government need to assist homeowners in larger capital re-investments. The grants are a great initiative, but we question – how do we help homeowners who will not meet the necessary BER rating set out because their home is too costly to re-insulate?  We need to be incentivising sustainability and make it inclusive for all.   

Do you want to learn more about how you can become more energy efficient? Check out our newly launched 'Green Skills for Life' programme which focuses on empowering people to reduce their environmental impact by becoming resource efficient, as each individual’s actions has an impact on climate change.

 Or email us on [email protected]

Thank you for reading today!

 The FSG Team 💚




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