One in three can't afford to retrofit their homes
Daragh Cassidy
Head Writer

Cost is still a huge barrier to many households wishing to undertake a home retrofit, according to new research from estate agent and property advisors Savills.

With climate change an ever-pressing issue and energy prices at record highs, interest in home retrofits has reached record levels,

A retrofit feels like a real win-win: you can make your home more energy efficient, reduce your carbon footprint, and reduce your energy bills all at the same time.

The problem of course is that retrofits aren’t exactly cheap and a new report today from estate agents Savills underlines this.    

According to its research, one in three homeowners say they can’t afford to make their properties more energy-efficient.

This will obviously be of concern to the Government as we have a target of achieving 500,000 home retrofits - to a Building Energy Rating (BER) of B2 or better - by 2030 under our Climate Action Plan.

EU legislation is currently being drafted which will mean property owners will not be allowed to sell their home if the BER is low. But is this fair if so many can't afford to retrofit their homes, which can easily run into tens of thousands of euro?

The research in detail

The research was carried out by Savills among a sample of 1,000 adults nationwide.

The main finding was that one in three (34%) can’t afford to make their properties more energy-efficient, despite the potential of such a move to slash their energy bills over the long-term. 

Women (37%) are more inclined than men (31%) to say they can't afford to improve the BER of their home 

The research also found that while environmental issues have come to the fore of public discourse in recent years, cost savings are by far and away the key driver behind Irish homeowners wanting to make their homes more energy efficient: 76% of respondents said the ability to save money on energy bills would be their most likely reason to improve the BER of their home. 

The older the individual is, the less likely they are to cite the environment as the key driver for a home retrofit. Only 17% of those aged 55+ would improve the BER of their home for the benefit of the environment, compared to 36% of those aged 18 to 24.

Most homeowners in Ireland (60%) also don’t know the BER rating of their home 

Speaking about the research, Beverly Ensor, Divisional Director at Savills New Homes says:

“Without doubt, any move that makes your home more energy efficient has a multitude of benefits – from lower energy costs, to adding to the saleability of your home. And while we all know that using energy more efficiently to power and heat a home is better for the environment – when it comes down to it, it is really financial benefits that drive people to act. 

“Unfortunately, more than a third of homeowners believe they cannot afford to improve the BER of their home. The cost of retrofitting a home easily runs into tens of thousands and the high cost of a home energy upgrade is clearly a barrier.

“While this could be an indication of just how hard-pressed household finances are across the board, it also suggests that the opportunity cost of a home retrofit is simply beyond the reach of many household budgets and perhaps more needs to be done to encourage the take-up of the Government’s home retrofit grants, as well as the availability and accessibility of those grants.”

Energy-efficiency grant options

If you’re thinking about a retrofit but are concerned about the cost, there are a range of grants on offer from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to support you. 

You can read about some of those grants as well as your other finance options for retrofitting here.   

Weigh up your options

Everyone's circumstances are different so it's important to weigh up your options before making a decision. Some important questions to consider are:

  • When do I want to see a return on my spend? Many retrofit options are quite expensive meaning it could take years to see a return on your spend.
  • What can I realistically afford?
  • Would I be better to pay off outstanding debt rather than take on another loan to try make savings on my energy bills?