Options for Improving Energy Efficiency

Improving our use of energy in the home is important for many reasons; not just for saving money on energy bills, but also to increase the levels of comfort and reduce climate change.

There are many options available to homeowners and here we look at 4 options that can be considered:

Attic Insulation

Improving the level of insulation in the attic is one of the more cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency in the home.
How much insulation to install in your attic (and what type of insulation to use) can depend on a variety of factors (e.g. will the attic be used a living space?). Typically 300mm to 400 mm of insulation would be a suitable target, however the actual amount will also depend on the performance level of the insulation selected.
This G3 Touch video outlines one particular attic insulation product:

Upgrading Heating Controls

By installing zoned heating controls to your system, you can reduce the fuel costs required for heating your home. Heating can be supplied when and where it is needed.   If you are planning to upgrade your boiler and/or heating control system, SEAI grants are available under the Better Energy Homes Scheme.
To find out more about upgrading heating controls – check out this Energycentre video:

Installation of Solar Panels:

Incorporating renewable energy can help reduce energy costs, as space and water heating account for over 70% of energy used in the home. A solar collector system can provide around 60% of annual hot water needs.
This video outlines the steps that are involved in the installation of Solar Panels:

External Insulation:

When considering improving wall insulation, there are many choices available to the homeowner. Certain factors such as the wall construction, location of property and cost, will have an influence on the upgrade strategy and whether the homeowner ultimately chooses internal, external or cavity fill insulation.
For refurbishment, external insulation is an ideal option, as it ensures a more effective way to eliminate cold bridges and reduces heat loss. However, it is very important that correct materials are used and that workmanship is of the highest quality.
This video provides more details:

Upgrading Attic Insulation – Common Pitfalls

Fig 1Air leakage not only leads to increased heat loss but also significantly increases the potential for condensation to occur within building elements, which may lead to insulation and structural degradation and mould growth.

As the building regulations require higher levels of insulation in attics, this in turn leads to a cooler temperature in the attic.

The following are 3 key considerations to keep in mind when planning to upgrade attic insulation.

Leaky Attic Hatches

The attic hatch is generally the single largest penetration in the ceiling of a building. It is essential not only to apply a hatch door which is certified airtight and adequately insulated, but the installation of the complete unit must be fully airtight to realise optimum performance.

Mind the Gap! Ventilation

When upgrading attic insulation in cold roofs, it is essential to ensure that eaves ventilation is not obstructed. There should be a continuous opening at eaves level of at least 10mm and a continuous opening at ridge level of at least 5 mm.  Typically a space of at least 50mm should be retained between the insulation and the existing roof felt at eaves level.  This ensures that any unforeseen air leakage in the attic space can be exhausted as effectively as possible. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for this critical ventilation zone to become blocked over time or even, inadvertently when attic insulation is been upgraded as illustrated on the images below.

Fig 4 - Blocked Ventilation Eaves  Fig 5 - Blocked Ventilation Eaves

Eaves ventilation blocked by attic insulation

Poor installation of down lights and poor application of insulation

Recessed light fittings can also lead to a significant reduction in the performance of insulation. This occurs when the insulation is moved away from the neighbouring light due to the risk of damaging both the bulb and the light. As a result, insulation performance can be dramatically reduced and air leakage into the cold attic significantly increases as shown on the images below.

Fig 6 insulation issues with downlighters  Fig 7 insulation issues with downlighters

There are a number of proprietary solutions available on the market to overcome this issue, such as the Optime downlight protector.

Summary

Insulating the attic is one of the most cost effective means of upgrading a buildings thermal performance. As important as it is to reduce heat loss, this should not be done without appreciating the impact of air leakage and the importance of ensuring the ventilation is retained.

To view additional information on this topic check out the full article on avoiding the pitfalls

 

Niall Crosson, Technical Engineer, B.TECH. MENG.SC CEPHC MIEI

Pictures and graphics provided courtesy of Ecological Building Systems Ltd.

Why Use Infrared Heat Panels?

The Benefits to Home Owners and Businesses

Infrared Heat Panels are a revolutionary heating solution that can produce heat that is similar to that produced by the sun.  The Infrared rays are absorbed by items within the home and the ambient temperature of the room is raised. 

Here are 4 key benefits of the many that are provided by the heat panels: 

  1. Cost Effectiveness The Infrared heat panels can take advantage of the benefit of zone heating.  By heating only the parts of your home that you are using at any given time, this allows you to save money on your heating bill.  From 30% – 70% could be saved, but actual savings will depend on insulation, type of construction and other factors.
  2. Efficiency Infrared heat panels use less energy than conventional heaters, and some can operate on as low as 300 watts of electricity.  Turning on the heater in advance is not required, as the panel delivers the heat instantly. 
  3. Flexible Locations The Infrared heat panels can be installed in a wide variety of locations – essentially anywhere that heat is required; Home, Office, Retail etc.  Annual maintenance service is not required, as there are no moving parts. They can also be customised with any high resolution image, thus making them ideal for marketing or promotional purposes.

[Read more…]

Wall Insulation Upgrade Tips

Doing something is not always better than doing nothing at all

With rising energy costs and the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many homeowners are considering wall insulation upgrades to improve energy efficiency and comfort in their home.  

It is important to understand that different homes require different retrofit upgrade solutions

Therefore the following are key considerations before embarking on solid wall insulation retrofit: 

1) What is the condition of the wall; what materials have been used in the construction e.g. brick, stone, concrete

2) You will need to address key junctions:  window reveals, joist ends, soffits, soil pipes, floors

3) The Vapour Open “Breathable” option.  What is a breathable material?  The term ‘breathable’ is used loosely and means different things to different people.  To avoid confusion for a material to be breathable it must have the following characteristics: 

  • Vapour Permeable – it has the ability to allow vapour to pass through
  • Hygroscopic – it has the ability to absorb moisture
  • Capillarity Active – it has the ability to release absorbed water through it pores or capillaries In addition to having the materials used in the system breathable, all the component parts of the wall to be insulated must be breathable also. 

4) The Vapour Tight Internal Wall Insulation optionVapour tight systems are the most common solution used in the market today, usually in the form of insulated plaster board. 

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Why Natural Insulation?

Historically natural insulation materials have been considered a niche product and struggled to enter mainstream building due to the misconception that they cannot compete in the area of performance or cost.

 When one considers the array of benefits natural insulation provide, the reality is that natural insulation materials often outperform many man made insulation products in both these categories. 

Until relatively recently it was solely the superior environmental characteristics which separated natural insulation products from the various other forms of manmade synthetic insulation products.

Natural insulation materials feature an array of characteristics which, when used correctly, can improve the buildings performance considerably.  The following are just a number of the key features and additional benefits natural insulation provides:  [Read more…]