Home improvement grants underperform

Half of the contractors carrying out grant-aided energy upgrades are still not up to scratch.

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) statistics shared with Selfbuild show grant aided contractors continue to underperform when carrying out work to upgrade Irish homes to be more energy efficient.

The Better Energy Homes scheme partly funds measures such as adding insulation but can also refer to adding heating controls or solar thermal panels. The upgrades are meant to make your home more comfortable and cheaper to heat.

Homeowners currently must choose a contractor from the SEAI’s approved contractors list to carry out the work, but have no means to check contractors’ track records.

In 2017 the SEAI introduced a colour scale to rate the contractors taking part in the Better Energy Homes grant scheme that subsidises energy upgrades for all homes built before 2006.

Contractors in the green zone have shown good performance and are low risk, in the yellow zone are a moderate risk while those in the orange zone are high risk and in the red zone, very high risk.

Once contractors are identified to be in a zone other than green, they must take demonstrable action to improve performance including eliminating repeat issues.

If in the orange zone, they must have moved to the green zone within the next three evaluations, i.e. within 18 months. If in the yellow zone, they must have moved to the green zone within the next two evaluations, i.e. within the next 12 months. If there is no demonstrable improvement, contractors receive a letter of deregistration and have 14 days to appeal the decision.

Any contractor identified in the red zone receives a deregistration letter pending appeal within 14 days. The contractor cannot be selected for new works but may complete ongoing works.

The good news is that the figures for 2020 are a marked improvement on those recorded in 2017, when only one third Better Energy Homes contractors were in the green zone.

The Quality Assurance and Disciplinary Procedures for contractors, which rates them on the green to red scale, include checking for compliance to technical standards and overall performance.

Vetted tradesmen on the list are registered on the basis of continued National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) certification of the products and associated methodologies the tradesman uses. The heat pump grant and the photovoltaics grant, which are available for homes built before 2011, have a separate list of contractors.

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Written by Astrid Madsen

Astrid Madsen is the editor of SelfBuild & Improve Your Home magazine. She previously held the same role in an Irish trade publication, before that she worked at the National Standards Authority of Ireland. She graduated with a BA in Urban Studies from Columbia University in New York and holds an MBA from the Instituto de Estudios Bursatiles in Madrid. France of origin, she now lives in Portarlington, County Laois, where she's taken on the task of renovating a listed building! Email astrid.madsen@selfbuild.ie

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