Recruitment is now open for SuperHomes 2016, which aims to give homeowners the opportunity to retrofit their house to an ‘A’ energy-rating standard. But what is a SuperHome and how can this standard be achieved?

Tipperary Energy Agency has been working on domestic retrofit projects since 2004, supporting the retrofit of thousands of houses. It has acted as project co-ordinator for a number of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grant schemes in Tipperary and Galway in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, ensuring a total energy reduction of 5.7Gwh (primary energy savings) and generating 245,282kWh of renewable energy.

The residential sector in Ireland consists of an estimated 1.7 million homes. In the past seven years, some 300,000 (17.5 per cent) homes have been retrofitted to become more energy efficient. SEAI suggests that an estimated €35 billion over 35 years will be required to make the remainder of the existing housing stock low carbon by 2050 at an average cost of €20, 000 per retrofit.

Given the many new developments in methods, organisational delivery structures and technologies, it was decided that 2015 was the year to embark on a Near Zero Energy Building (NZEB) retrofit. As a result, the SuperHomes pilot project was born.

SuperHomes aims to provide a deep retrofit for homeowners in Ireland. Ireland needs an alternative to shallow retrofit and to eliminate fossil fuels at a domestic level. Heat pumps are a solution to the decarbonisation of rural heat. If Ireland replaces 50 per cent of oil boilers in a SuperHomes-type retrofit, it could result in annual savings of €600 million (10 per cent of Ireland’s energy bill).

SuperHomes was designed to implement all the cost-effective measures in one package. SuperHomes, funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, and supported by Electric Ireland aims to give homeowners the opportunity to retrofit their house to an ‘A’ energy-rating standard.

The main aims of the 2015 SuperHomes pilot project were:

  • To achieve a minimum of a B1/A3 rating on average;
  • Supply renewable electricity to the domestic sector with full use on-site;
  • Supply renewable heat to all houses;
  • Provide heat pumps and/or wood pellet versus oil for heating;
  • More advanced ventilation measures than natural ventilation (demand control, central and distributed heat recovery);
  • Provide a mechanism to achieve centrally procured scaled-up retrofit;
  • Test and confirm that heat pumps and enabling air permeability and ventilation measures work in private housing;
  • Provide knowledge for research on solutions to achieve NZEB retrofit for once off housing in Ireland; and
  • Provide an incentive for financial institutions to finance “green loans” at attractive rates.

What is a SuperHome?

SuperHome Pic

What is a SuperHome? (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

A SuperHome is a comfortable, warm, draught free, energy-efficient home that has all the cost-effective energy retrofit measures such as insulation, airtightness and ventilation with its heat and hot water supplied by renewable-energy technologies.

The features of a SuperHome are:

  • Cavity wall, attic, flat roof and external-wall insulation;
  • Airtightness throughout the house;
  • High performance windows and doors;
  • Demand control ventilation;
  • Air source heat pump; and,
  • Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof.

In the case of this retrofit project, the measures implemented are detailed in the chart below. Each house was required to meet a minimum standard of performance (on a measure-by-measure basis, bespoke to the individual house).

In addition to the mandatory measures, there were also a number of measures advised to the householder. In many cases, buildings for one reason or another could not complete a given measure, or could not complete it cost effectively: in this case, the building did not have to complete that specific measure.

In the case of a mandatory measure, it needed to be completed, either during this project or before. The three minimum measures required were as follows:

  • Air source heat pump: this is the key minimum requirement and all houses (unless there is currently no fossil fuel use on site) required this upgrade;
  • Airtightness retrofit and test: required unless an airtightness test had been carried out before this project started and reached Q50 Standard; and
  • Demand controlled ventilation: one key building block of a low-energy house is to provide adequate ventilation, without excessive ventilation.

Tipperary Energy Agency surveyed the properties, specified the minimum mandatory measures together with recommended measures, tendered the contractor, completed the quality control and supported the homeowner through the scheme.

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Measures implemented – SuperHomes pilot (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The measures undertaken in the ten homes upgraded to Near Zero Energy Buildings in 2015 are outlined in the table on the right:

A number of key insights were recorded. For example, a large amount of attic, cavity wall and external-wall insulation was completed – i.e. many of the applicants had already completed some form of retrofit works. Solar PV was recommended with an immersion dump for houses that did not have solar thermal; the houses listed as ‘not advised’ under solar PV already had solar thermal installed.

The only main source of advice not implemented was surrounding the open fire. However, there are nuances in this space as some homes had multiple secondary-space heating systems. The minimum requirement was to remove oil-fired ranges and open fires as primary or secondary heating-systems. Where an open fireplace was in existence for seldom-used rooms, a chimney closer was installed (with a Part J-compliant vent).

2015 SuperHomes pilot results

Ten homes across Ireland were successfully upgraded in 2015 as part of the SuperHomes pilot project. The average net investment by homeowners in the pilot project was €18,000. As well as average financial savings of €1,000 to €1,500 per annum on oil, homeowners have also benefited hugely from living in a more comfortable, healthier house with better air quality.

The ten homes that took part in the 2015 scheme had already had a number of measures completed and commenced the project with an average BER rating of C3 (181kWh/m2) and finished with an average BER rating of A3 (59kWh/m2). This represents a 68% decrease in primary energy reduction.

Changes in BER level

Changes in BER level (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Of the two houses that did not achieve A3 ratings, one did not have sufficient time to complete an external wall insulation retrofit that was planned for spring 2016. The second was a timber-frame house with a default U value of 0.55W/m2 on the wall insulation, which remained unchanged.

The carbon dioxide emissions ratio (CDER) also decreased by just over 70 per cent from 43.4 kg/m2 to 12.8 kg/m2. This CDER will fall further as the grid decarbonises and will likely fall a considerable amount as older thermal carbon-intensive power plants (peat and coal) are replaced by gas and renewable plants.

It is reasonable to assume that by 2030, the CDER of these houses will fall to 6-8 kg/m2 without any further householder action (assuming the Grid carbon emissions falls to 300g CO2/ kWh or less by 2030).

A number of key opinions and consistent messages came from the participants in the 2015 SuperHomes pilot project with regard to the initial offering and also participation in the project. The following are some of the clear themes that emerged:

  1. The role of the independent expert is key:
    “We can’t expect homeowners to be able to design this level of retrofit without help.”
    “I’m talking about climate change while burning oil at home; I needed advice and a packaged solution.”
  2. People want to ensure value, but are not afraid to invest in perceived value.
    “If I didn’t save any money on this project, it would still be worthwhile” – homeowner after investing €15,000.
  3. The impact of comfort (including air quality) is not widely understood but is the most significant driver of satisfaction post works.
    “I never even heard of air quality, but the combination of heat and air quality has made a massive difference to the comfort of this home” – owner of 2003 timber-frame home with UFCH
    “It no longer smells of the dogs in the house!”
    “I’m down to less than €20 a week to heat my house that would have been €50+ last year.”
    “I’m amazed what a difference a constant temperature makes to comfort.”
    “I want to go to bed now; my room is no longer cold” – Emer, aged 6.

Why should homeowners take part in SuperHomes 2016?

Recruitment is now open for SuperHomes 2016. There are more places available this year and the project is open to homeowners from all over Ireland. Details of the 2016 scheme include:

  • Up to 35 per cent financial support is available;
  • A home-renovation incentive is available, depending on individual circumstances;
  • Spread the remaining cost of the retrofit over five years with a loan;
  • You can bring your home to an A3 standard or as near as is economically possible;
  • Avail of a mechanism to support home-owners to decide on the correct course of action and ensure value for money;
  • Implement all cost-effective retrofit measures in one package;
  • Achieve a warm house, with healthy interior air (through excellent ventilation);
  • Suffer from fewer colds, flus and respiratory illnesses;
  • Enjoy a green, low-carbon home that will be substantially cheaper to heat (aiming for 50% to 70% reduction of energy bills).

Bespoke energy solutions are available for your home (based on size and measures that apply). The minimum cost after discounts have been applied of €12,500 up to €30,000. The estimated simple payback of the works after the discounts have been applied will be in the region of seven to ten years.

To apply or for more information, visit

This two-minute video also gives a great overview of SuperHomes: O'RiordanCivilconstruction,energy,retrofitting,SEAI,Tipperary
Tipperary Energy Agency has been working on domestic retrofit projects since 2004, supporting the retrofit of thousands of houses. It has acted as project co-ordinator for a number of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grant schemes in Tipperary and Galway in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, ensuring a total...