Tipperary Energy Agency (TEA), supported by SEAI and Electric Ireland, launched the SuperHomes Pilot Project in 2015. This project was inspired by the Picardie Pass Rénovation (SPEE) project. Designed to help homeowners to upgrade their single-family houses from a D2 to an A3 standard (BER - Building Energy Rate), the project aims at becoming the complete one-stop-shop for deep retrofit of homes in Ireland, with an investment target of €15 million by 2020.
The development of this project aiming at a deep renovation in Ireland is financed under the European program ELENA. € 1.5 million are dedicated to the financing of the project from July 2017 to July 2020. The initiative is also supported by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Towards the end of 2016 SEAI introduced the Deep Retrofit Pilot Scheme which offered significant grant funding for the type of retrofit that SuperHomes had been trialling. This grant seeks to reduce energy consumption in Ireland through the deep renovation of homes.
What is a SuperHome?
A SuperHome is a highly efficient home that combines a range of the most appropriate and cost effective energy measures. The components work together successfully to deliver a healthy, efficient and low carbon home, carried out in one carefully planned installation. SuperHomes implemented all the cost effective and sensible energy efficiency measures. Such work includes:
- Insulation to a high standard
- Air to water heat pump as the primary heating system.
- Airtightness improvement (reducing draughts and heat loss)
- Advanced ventilation as demand control ventilation for healthy air quality.
- solar photovoltaic panels can also be installed depending on the projects.
All these technical works are framed under a homeowner value equation based on trusted and demonstrated savings, comfort and environmental performance.
The whole customer process of SuperHomes goes through 4 stages:
- On the first one, through an online application form sent to the customers, SuperHomes gets an overview of the current condition of their houses including building fabric and heating method which provides feedback on expectations, measures and costs.
- The second stage entails the potential retrofit discussions with the homeowner, estimated costs are given as well as an explanation of financial commitment and funding timelines.
- The last two phases take place with a professional “advisor”: there is a double checking of the wants and needs of the homeowner before moving to tender.
- Finally the Energy Report is delivered and fees paid.
How are Superhomes Financed?
The residential programme offers a tailor made financial plan to meet the needs of the homeowners, balancing savings on the energy bills with long-term payments to make renovation affordable
The program includes a subsidy that can reach up to 50% of the costs of the renovation, provided by the Irish Sustainable Energy Agency (SEAI) within its multi-year program "Deep Retrofit Grant".
The initial investment corresponds in its entirety to the owner of the home, and the corresponding subsidy is recovered after 3-6 months (once the SEAI has verified that the works will provide the expected energy savings). So far, there has not been any case of default, since the initial consultations with the homeowners on means of payment, return on investment times. The average reduction in energy consumption is 85% meaning that the average return on investment for the owner is quite short (around 7 years).Priority is given to homes with a less efficient energy performance (C3 on BER). This scheme has no intervention of financial institutions/banks since it doesn't represent an attractive operation for investors. TEA is developing a possible cooperation with credit cooperatives to involve them in the near future.
Operational Capacity and Network
Superhomes is implemented thanks to the action of the TEA Staff, contractors, suppliers, surveyors and support staff. The project operates on an open feedback forum between surveyor, contractor and TEA. The TEA makes the specification of works. A contract is set up between the Homeowner, the contractor and SuperHomes.
- TEA staff focuses on the communication with the homeowner regarding the options, timescale of works and outline of deliverables, taking into account the needs and desires of the homeowner and its expectations. The TEA staff educates the homeowner on the technology installed and any problem areas identified are addressed by them.
- The technical surveyors are the ones who take care of the on-site review (inspections) and feedback.
- A single contractor is responsible for all works and whose competence is assessed. He acts as well as the point of contact for the homeowner´s feedback and manages the procurement process for the homeowner. The Contractors go through a Contractor Approval process through a Prequalification Questionnaire. They are also involved through a specific training. There is as well a Manufacturer/supplier approval to install products and required for warranty and Certification (eg Hetas, Eco design label. RECI). 20 contractors were accredited in 2018, and 35 in 2019.
Key success factors
SuperHomes project has been runing for 5 years now. It kicked off with only 47 applications from homeowners in 2015 and now it counts more than 558. Starting with 10 retrofit pilot projects in 2016, to date the Super Homes project has delivered deep retrofits for more than 150 homes. The average investment by the homeowner was €28,000, (€16,000 when the funding was applied). As well as average savings of €1,500 per annum on oil, homeowners also benefited hugely from living in a more comfortable, healthier house with better air quality. Find some stories from Homeowners who benefited from the SuperHome Project here.
Overall the project achieved Energy Savings aroudn 20.8 GWh a year a reduction of 10950 tonnes in GHD per year. One of the key success of the project also relies on the government's commitment. This allows for a secured funding to support Superhomes training and development, which makes key stakeholders financially committed too. SuperHomes also provides an expertise, and is regularly called on to advise on energy policy, appearing in front of the Dail Committees and making significant contributions to many international fora. In July 2019 for example the Programme Manager and Retrofit Advisor of TEA attended the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to discuss housing and retrofitting.
The Superhomes team is now working at scaling up these investments. TEA is partnering with a large utility in order to roll out the project at scale, and underline the increased asset value of deep renovation to to homeowners considering it.
Several challenges are still to be adressed: insufficient number of contractors and contractor regional coverage, the difficulty to build skills of contractors in a manageable format due to the timelines, or the misunderstading from some export contractors about some retrofit methods such as Airtightness, Integration of heat pumps for low temp operation and Demand control ventilation. Those difficulties makes difficult to scale up and manage growth after the end of the 3 year deep retrofit pilot scheme.