We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

hot house

How knowing your BER rating could save you money

To find out more about the ins and outs of BER ratings, spoke to Tom Halpin from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

IF YOU HAVE sold a house in the past six years you will be familiar with BER ratings.

If you haven’t, you may have noticed slightly unusual looking symbols popping up around the place…

BER rating The type of rating that is now displayed

EU law has dictated that houses are required to have the Building Energy Ratings since 2009 and it has been law that they have to be displayed in advertisements since 2013.

But what is it that decides how energy efficient a building is? And how do you find out your BER rating?

To find out more about all of this, spoke to Tom Halpin, Head of Information with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

So how exactly did all of this come about anyways? It’s pretty new thing, right? 

The idea of the BER has been around for quite a long time, maybe fifteen or twenty years. For all intents and purposes it is like the miles per gallon on your car – or the rating of the energy label on your fridge or washing machine.

It takes the standard use of that product and says how much energy that would take.

It came in as part of an EU directive. It first came into being in the early noughties but was brought into legislation in Ireland at the end of 2006. That directive has since been recast – meaning it was revised and strengthened – and the recast directive came into effect in Ireland in 2012.

So who is in charge of a house’s BER? The builder or the owner? 

If you go back one step from there. The regulation is that since 2009 any property that is offered for sale or for rent must have a BER. So in that regard it is effectively the owner of the property that is responsible for getting the BER done and then making that available at time of sale or rent.

If there was a self-build situation – your are required under law to have a BER for that property before it is occupied. Even though you are not buying it or selling it yourself.

In all instances it is the owner who is responsible for the BER and then making it available.

But isn’t this just for people who care about the planet and stuff? Do homeowners actually benefit from it? 

Since 2013 – certain details of the BER must also appear on property advertisements. This makes it much more prominent for a person buying it or renting it. This is where we are seeing the real effect now – with BER having an effect on sale’s prices and on rental prices.

But what if you’re not planning on selling your house? 

The BER rating is on a scale from A1 through to G. Some of these are broken then a little bit more. Effectively it runs from a short green bar to a long red bar.

If you went all the way from A1 all the way to G – with a G property you would be using twenty times the energy as an A1 property.

I am not saying that, say, if a person has a 50 square metre apartment that is A1 and another person has a 50 square metre apartment that is G – it doesn’t mean that the person in the G apartment is going to spend 20 times as much. But they may have to cut back on energy and not be as comfortable.

ber certificate What a BER certificate looks like SEAI SEAI

So how does someone go about getting one of these BER assessments done? 

Somebody can chose to use a BER assesor from anywhere and get a price to do the work. We always tell people to shop around.

When the assessor is doing the assessment they will go out and visit the property. They will take certain details about the attributes of the property like its size, its dimensions and its orientation.

They will then do a very detailed analysis about what goes to make up that property in terms of the types of walls, the types of windows, the types of rooms, the sizes of the rooms. All of that – and there is about 80 separate pieces of data – are entered into a software tool which we provide and goes to give this uniform objective assessment of the energy performance of the house.

The homeowner is then provided with the BER certificate, and also an advisory report which indicates ways to improve it.

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland / YouTube

But wouldn’t a single person use a lot less energy than a family of seven? 

One of the things it is important for people to understand is that there is no account taken of the current energy bills. Simply because how one person uses a home could be very different from another person. A bachelor living in a house who may not be there much of the time will use far less energy than a young couple with three kids and a young baby.

And how much can a person expect to pay out for the assessment? 

It is an open market. We have no mandate to set prices and we don’t want to be guiding. The lowest price may not be the best one for you to look for. It depends on what additional services you want. Some assesors offer a lot of value-added services. Not only will they give you the certificate and the adviser report – they will help you work through the adviser’s report and decide which items you should be investing in.

Finally and most importantly – is this going to save me any money? 

Absolutely. A modern three-bedroom semi built within the current regulations – you might expect a heating bill to be as low as €500. If you took that same semi built back in the 1970s, you could expect the heating bill on that to be €2,000.

Although, as I said, they might on the other hand chose to not heat it as comfortably. To turn the tempreture down to 19 degrees from 20 degrees. That in itself will knock €200 of their bill. They’re are a little less comfortable but it is about how they use it as well.

Tom Halpin’s top tips on BER ratings…

  • Any property being sold or rented has to have a BER rating.
  • Having a good BER rating can help the performance of your house when you are selling or renting it out.
  • Shop around when getting someone to do a BER audit on your house as prices vary.
  • Improving the BER rating of your house will reduce your heating bills in the long run.
  • BER ratings are always the property owner’s responsibility.

Find out more about BER Ratings on the SEAI’s website here. 

Read: Review: Will the Nest Thermostat help reduce your heating bill?

Also: Irish homes are a lot warmer than they were 10 years ago