Digital Citizenship

Efficient New Build Homes

This blog will show how efficient new build homes today, otherwise known as ultra-efficient homes, which incorporates innovate construction. It can do this by using up to date technologies. This takes place early on from the foundation process to the key being turned in the door of the finished home.  The technologies used are efficient and sustainable heating systems. They are cost effective to run new homes. The technology uses less electricity by using appliances that are energy efficient and uses two different electricity sources; Environmentally-friendly by using no fossil fuels.  Achieved by extracting the energy for the air outside the home, very low carbon footprint thus helps alleviate climate change.  Should this type of system be incorporated into the planning permission legislation? Why it may be an issue for all home owners to avail of this system, it would be very costly to upgrade existing homes.  It will also reflect back on Ireland and how homes were heated and when electricity was introduced into Ireland.

Reflecting back and give examples on how homes were heated long ago, the light source and how they heated water before and after electricity was introduced into Ireland. Oil lamps and candles were the main source giving light to the home prior to the insulation of electricity. The main source for heat and cooking was fossil fuel, such as turf, coal and timber.  For hundreds of years the hearth and open fire was the main source of heating and cooking in Ireland. Ranges were introduced in the 1950s also using solid fuel and were an improvement on the open fire.  Oil and gas was introduced in the 1960s, gas was only available in the towns and cities. With the oil heating, radiators were installed in each room in the house. These systems were not environmentally friendly, nor cost effective, but with very high carbon emissions.  They were also unsustainable into the future as our oil source is only predicted to last for another thirty years.  Our bogs are also being depleted, with new laws now in forced to halt turf cutting.  In comparison today where energy used for heating and hot water comes mainly from the environment and is sustainable.

In 1946 electricity first came to Ireland. It was 1979 before it was fully complete, by then it had connected 420,000 customers in rural Ireland (ireland2050, 2017). This was a major change for Ireland and in particular the women of Ireland.  Appliances such as cookers, washing machines, electrical irons, and electrical kettles to boil water were now available to buy and install in the homes.  Quite a few of those homes had very few plugs installed, as not all homes could afford the new appliances now available (ireland2050, 2017). When Electric storage heaters first came into Ireland it was seen as a great new development.  It used electricity at night because it was cheaper.  It was made up off ceramic bricks, which heated during the night and released the heat during the day. The issues with this system were it was hard to control plus the cost of electricity increased.  It could heat the rooms if enough energy was stored the night before in the units. Causes maybe it was switched off or set to low (, 2017). Electricity usage was high in comparison to homes today.  The energy demand today is far greater than back in the seventies.  This is due to the number of appliances now used in the homes.  Electric cookers, fridges, kettles, irons, one radio and one Television were the main appliances used back then.  In comparison today, there is at least one television installed in each room. The bathroom has Bluetooth with digital sound, can be remotely controlled. Sound systems connected in all living areas, controlled by smart phone and lights that activate when you enter a room and turn off when no movement is detected in the room. They can now turn on the most appliances from their workplace; their fridge has compartments, controlled temperature for the different types of food.  All of those appliances are energy rated A*****, which means they use less energy.  They are very costly to buy but the savings over time is incredible as seen by the graph below on the energy bills. Internet installed, insuring that security systems, appliances, fire alarms and security cameras can be seen or activated at all times.

Electricians today have a very difficult job with the number of different cables required in a new home. It’s called smart home technology; from the traditional wiring of just plugs and light switches to a maze of cables to power ever ending new technology driven appliances. Washing machines, dishwashers, cookers, clothes dryers, microwaves, toasters, fridges, TVs, stereo sound, WIFI, charging units, smoke detectors, radon detectors, alarms and surveillance cameras. Inside and outside lights, motorized garage doors and automated gates. Most of those appliances today can be turned on or off, opened or activated by a smart device such as a mobile phone. With such demand on electricity you would expect the bills to be high.

Examining the cost of upgrading existing homes proves to be very expensive. As stated in the 2011 CSO census there are approximately 1.4 million homes in Ireland that were constructed with old planning regulations. Assuming that those houses were upgraded to energy efficiency it would take a lot of years to see the return on the cost of the investment. Because this is such an innovative and efficient method of heating a home and technologies used it reduces not only fossil fuels but electricity needs as well. The government should have a grant available to home owners to install such a system. The rewards it would reap would be great, from sustainable energy source to a reduction in electricity used by homes. The advantage to Ireland would be environment friendly, low carbon footprint, ensuring that we play our part in reducing climate change.

The first part of the actual builds, the windows and insulation used is complicated. The windows are treble glazed with a special glass that allows heat in and keeps in. It’s a thermal insulated glass in conduction with thermal break spacer bars between the treble glaze window are highly efficient and very effective.    It is also referred to the G-value or solar factor. There are many different types of insulation that can be used to insulate walls, floors, ceilings and attics.  The planning permission outlines the required thickness of the insulation.  Only when the house is completely airtight then the heating system will work at their best.

The heating system, which has been development over many years, initially they were not very effective. With many years of air-to-water heat pump experience and over 150,000 units installed throughout Europe, the continuously strive to optimise the system performance. This is achieved by a constant focus on limiting electrical inputs during each new product-development-process, resulting in further reducing the running costs

Diagram 1

Many who purchased the old systems threw them out and reverted to oil or fossil fuel to heat their home.  The system has been redesigned and preforms to a very high stander. This has been achieved through technological advancements.  The re-designed air to water system works well. It is a new and exciting way in heating homes. The most important part, it ticks all the boxes looking after the environment, climate change, low carbon footprint, very low running costs and most importantly this system has sustainability.  It is costly to install; it works with either under-floor heating or the conventional radiator heating external unit that draws in the air from outside the home. The internal unit that extracts the heat from the air (see diagram 2).

Diagram 2

Diagram 2  shows the heat recovery system in the attic that distributes the heat around the house. The air to water system was developed based on how a fridge works.  It removes hot air from the food inside the fridge and passes it out through the back of the fridge.   This same theory is used in the air to water heating and hot water system.  It takes the heat from the air outside and transfers it into the house.  The suppliers of this system state that for every four units of heat use, three are free from the environments.

The heat recovery unit moves heat or moisture from the kitchen, bathroom or any room which has excess, and distributes it evenly around the house. It cleans the air via ducts which extracts the stale air from the house via a duct and draws in fresh air from outside also distributes it via the inward ducts.  This system again is costly; ceilings must be suspended on a two-story house to allow for the ducts to be installed for the ground floor. The first-floor ducts are installed in the attic with the heat-recovery unit as shown in diagram 2.

This air to water system is environmentally friendly, cost effective, with low carbon emissions footprint and this system is sustainable for the future. The running costs are very low in comparison to conventional systems.  See table below, bills for heating and electricity in a new home in comparison to an older built house.  As you can see from the table below the first bill was the most expensive as this is known as the drying process before the house can be liveable.  As you can also see from this table the month on month reduction in the bills comes from a learning process of managing the system. However, in comparison to the cost of an older traditional built townhouse with a conventional system this newer system is more efficient. Older built houses have oil central heating, non-energy efficient appliances, poor installation and single glaze windows. Therefore, the average energy cost of an older built house per annum is €1760 compared to the average energy cost of the efficient new build homes at €1.152 per annum.

In conclusion this blog shows how efficient new build homes are today. It considered traditional system, such as fossil fuel, the predicated lifespan of those fuels and a law in acted to protect our bogs. The introduction of electricity to Ireland precipitated great changes that took place in the homes with appliances now doing some of the work that women did manually at that time.  It discussed the impact of fossil fuel in the environment, and climate due to the emissions from them.  It had a very high carbon footprint that contributed to climate change.  It examined the new technology’s that now run a home from the windows to installation and how it works very efficiently in keeping the heat inside the home.  The wiring and the numerous wires so that all appliances, lights, security systems, heating systems, automatic garage doors and gates outside the home.  The types of electricity used and how they are used one for day the other for night.  It looked at the heating system and how cost efficient it was in comparison to older systems. How environmentally friendly it was with very low emissions and very low carbon footprint thus reducing climate change thus ensuring its sustainability into the future.  Should this system be used in existing homes, it considered the high cost and wondered if the government would give a grant to cover most of the cost to the home owner.  It would be in every body’s interests to invest in such a system.  It would lower cost of energy for the home owner.  It would also be environmentally friendly reducing the emissions for Ireland as a hole and reducing our footprint on climate change.


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Mary Hanley is currently an undergraduate student on the Bachelor of Sciences (Applied Social Sciences) Degree Programme at the National University of Ireland Galway