Let's start with the boiler. What can be done there?
The boiler is one area where it's possible to make really big improvements. If your oil or gas boiler is over 15 years old, it's is unlikely to be more than 70% efficient today. One of the new high efficiency condenser boiler will be 90-95% efficient. According to Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), this 20% operational improvement "represents an actual fuel saving of more than 25%. In other words, by replacing an older, low efficiency boiler with a new, high efficiency boiler, you can cut your fuel bills by a quarter."
What's the next area to look at?
The other area in your house where there's scope for big improvements is your boiler controls. In fact, SEI considers this to be so important that you must upgrade your controls to a specified level in order to be eligible for a grant when you replace your old boiler. If you upgrade to a high efficiency condensing boiler with heating controls upgrade, the amount of the grant is €700. For a heating controls upgrade only, the grant is €500 under the SEI scheme. Even in very old houses, timer controls are fairly standard, so let's look at the other types of control upgrades possible.
If you have an older system, the chances are that you don't have any temperature control on your heating. Better temperature control means the installation of at least one thermostat in your house. When the temperature reaches the desired level, the boiler switches off until the temperature drops again. So on warmer days, or when you've a fire on, the system will automatically save oil.
Space Zones Control
This is a more advanced version of the house thermostat. Instead of having a single thermostat in your hall for example, the house is split into zones each with an individual thermostats. This means you can set a different temperature upstairs and downstairs as well as different heating times. This does involve considerable changes to your pipework but will save you in the long run.
Make A Water Zone
A separate water zone allows you to heat water for the household without heating up the radiators. This is a much more efficient way of heating up your household hot water than your electrical immersion. In effect, your hot water cylinder is configured as a separate zone,
Thermostatic Radiator Valves i.e. Better Radiator Knobs!
Given that half the radiators in Ireland, seem to be permanently stuck, this could probably do a lot for our national carbon footprint. Replace the standard knob with a thermostatic radiator valve. Unlike standard valves, with are designed to be either on or off, these can gradually modify the flow of hot water into the radiator to achieve better temperature control. Again, because you don't keep on "overheating" your room, this is a cost effective way of saving you money.
Insulate exposed pipework. You want the heat to get to the radiators, not get lost in the pipes. Some of the pipes will be under the floor, but it's still worth insulating pipework in the attic and hot press.
Power Flush Those Radiators
For a few hundred euro, old radiators and pipework can be flushed clean of debris and sludge. This can be done without removing radiators from the wall and will get them working "like new" again. This should also be done, when replacing the boiler. A new boiler will not be as efficient if working through radiators filled with sludge.
Heat Your Water For Free With Solar Panels
Ok, well not totally free, you do have to install the panels first. They don't need a sunny day just a bright day. And they are eligible for grants under the SEI Greener Homes grant scheme.