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The ultimate guide to BER rating in Ireland

What is a BER Rating?

A building energy rating or BER is an energy efficiency rating for your home. The better your homes BER, the lower your energy bills and the less carbon dioxide (CO2) your home will emit when you turn your heating on. Your BER rating can also affect the potential value of your home.
 
BER’s are measured on a scale of A to G.
A-rated homes are the most energy efficient and tend to have lower energy bills.
G-rated properties are the least energy efficient, often requiring significant amounts of energy to heat to a comfortable level which results in energy bills being on the higher side.  
 
A difference of just a few grades on the BER scale can have an impact on a home's heating bill and the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted.

How do I find out my homes BER rating?

Recent research conducted by RedC research for An Post Green Hub found that one in two people are unsure of their homes BER rating yet a BER certificate is a legal requirement if you are buying, selling or renting a home.
 
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) have a helpful tool, National BER Register, where you can check if your property already has a valid BER certificate. If your property is registered, you can download the BER cert. You can also review BER details of a property for sale or rent. BER Certs are valid for a maximum of ten years. 

To search the register, you will need one of the following pieces of information:

  • MPRN (Meter Point Reference Number) which can be obtained from the top of your electricity bill

  • Existing BER number from the BER Certificate and Advisory Report

Check your BER rating for free with the Green Hub BER calculator. 

What if my property doesn't have a BER Rating?

If your home doesn’t have a BER rating, you can use our Green Hub BER rating calculator to get an estimation of your BER based on similar properties to yours using your address or eircode. If you wish to obtain an official BER rating and cert for your home, you can appoint an independent assessor to inspect and survey your home. They will use unique software, DEAP (Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure), which calculates the energy performance and carbon dioxide emissions of your homes heating source, ventilation, lighting and water heating source.

The inspection process generally takes about 30 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of your home, and during that time the assessor looks at a number of different elements including:

  • Type of heating system your home has

  • Your insulation: are the walls, attic and floors in the house properly insulated?

  • Quality of windows and doors

  • Orientation of the property

  • The size and number of occupants in the property

While the number of occupants in your home is considered, the calculation is not exclusively based on that. The BER rating is based on the building itself, the materials and fabric of the property and any of its installed systems.

What does BER exempt mean?

Certain buildings and structures are exempt from the BER rating process and do not require a BER certificate when being sold or rented. Typically, buildings that are exempt from needing BER certificates include:

  • Stand alone buildings that have a total floor area of less than 50 sq/m
  • Protected structures
  • National monuments
  • Places of worship or buildings used for religious activities, for any religion
  • Non-residential agricultural buildings
  • Industrial buildings that have an installed heat capacity that does not exceed 10W/m2

Why would a house be exempt from needing a BER Certificate?

If your house is a protected structure – in many cases Victorian and Georgian homes will be listed under protected structures - then it will be BER exempt. Your local city or county council should be able to provide you with a list of protected structures in your area. If your house is BER exempt, it is still worthwhile having a BER assessment completed.

How much do I need to pay to get my home assessed for a BER rating by an BER assessor?

There is no set fee for a BER assessment, so it is best to shop around with at least three suppliers for the best price. The cost of a BER assessment for an apartment can cost approximately €150. The cost for a standard house, penthouse or duplex can cost between €200 and €300. Make sure that you check the following before booking your assessor:

  • The assessor insured and registered
  • The price quoted is inclusive of the SEAI registration charge

What happens when the BER Assessor comes to assess my home?

Your homes BER rating is calculated based on energy performance and any associated carbon dioxide emissions from:

  • Your heating system for room temperature and hot water

  • Lighting

  • Ventilation

In order to complete the BER calculation, your BER Assessor will need to collect information on these various aspects of your home. They will need access to all areas of your home including the attic, hot press (if any), ventilation, all windows and doors, lighting systems, meter cupboards (if any) and your heating systems and controls. During the BER assessment, you BER Assessor will collect information which will include a number of calculations, measurements and photographic evidence of each of these aspects of your home. Once your assessment is complete, you will receive a copy of your BER Certificate and Advisory report. The BER Cert indicates your property’s rating while the Advisory report provides information and recommendations on how your property’s rating can be improved through home improvements which are more energy efficient and will, in turn, improve your BER rating.

What can I do to improve my homes BER rating? I don’t know where to start

Your BER Advisory report will provide with some unique recommendations based on your home. In addition to that, Patricia Power, well-known Quantity Surveyor and An Post Green Hub ambassador, outlines some of her top tips on where you can start to improve your homes BER rating.

The Green Hub from An Post makes home energy upgrades easy. From building contractor and project management, to grants and financing, we'll support your project from start to finish.

 Use our home energy upgrade service

Insulation

According to Patricia, the majority of Irish homes built before 2011 are not sufficiently insulated and she advises that insulation can be a great starting point for many homeowners. 30% of our homes heat loss is through the roof of our homes so improving your attic insulation is the best place to start. Patricia recommends checking what insulation lies between the ceiling joists in your attic – it should be between 300mm and 400mm. In older homes, insulation is usually non-existent or is about 100mm in depth. Insulating the attic is like putting on a hat. Heat rises, so you will see an immediate benefit from this work.

 Next, tackle external walls which are another high source of heat loss. There are two main external insulation options that could meet the needs of your home: external wall insulation or dry lining. External wall insulation can add 100-150 mm of rigid insulation to the exterior walls of your house, giving complete coverage and avoiding any cold bridges. When adding external insulation to your home, consider your windowsills, which will need to be made deeper and an adequate depth of fascias and soffits to take the thickness off the insulation. Downpipes will also need to be adjusted. A professional external wall insulation company will guide you through this process.

External insulation also allows for a coloured render system, thinner than a more traditional sand cement render, but maintenance-free and available in a range of colours. This is more expensive, but if you are not moving out of your home or planning to redecorate, it saves in the long run.
 
Another option is internal insulation, known as dry lining. This involves using insulated plasterboard varying in thickness, ranging from 82mm to 112mm, to suit your home. The plasterboard is applied to the inner face of the external walls of the home. This means the existing skirting boards and sometimes floor finishes will need to be removed for application. 

This approach is more invasive. It is difficult to live in a house while this is happening. If you are dry lining, you will also have to consider the time it will take to make electrical and plumbing changes, and whether re-plumbing or re-wiring is required.

Choose energy efficient windows

According to Patricia, windows should always be the first consideration when considering more energy efficient improvements. Changes can be made much easier with a specialist window replacement company. 

I always recommend upgrading windows to triple glazing. The additional cost versus double glazing is minimal, but the results are windows with a better acoustic value and a feeling of a more secure home. This also benefits the u-value, which measures the insulating characteristics of the class, including the heat flow or loss that can occur due to different indoor and outdoor temperatures. 

Upgrading windows gives homeowners the opportunity to give their house a facelift, by changing the window break-up. Homeowners could choose to add more opening sections, or less if preferred. If this is the sole change homeowners choose to make, they may also have to re-paint window boards, window heads, reveals, and maybe even entire rooms.

When upgrading your windows, ask your specialist to use thermal foam and airtightness tape. This will prevent drafts caused by the junction of the window and the wall because of poor fittings and sealing standards of the past.

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