On 6th May, Hardware Association Ireland (HAI) hosted virtually “Rebuilding our Future – HAI’s Retrofitting Conference”. The Conference concluded a series of webinars focused on products for retrofitting that HAI has previously hosted. Over the last 11 weeks we had 12 manufacturers/suppliers take part. With these, the aim was to replicate the in-store learning experience at a
time when physical visits to merchants and shops wasn’t possible.
The purpose of the conference and the aim of each speaker was to look at how Retrofitting will shape our industry, the challenges facing us, and the opportunities ahead.
This is timely and momentum is building. There is a groundswell in public opinion towards upgrading their homes. Almost 40% of homeowners are not happy with the heating in their homes – they believe that their homes are not warm enough and not comfortable. This comfort factor is a key to understanding why consumers retrofit their homes. In the last quarter of 2020 planning applications for homeimprovements rose by an astounding 45%.
At this point it is likely that any home improvement project will have a retrofitting element and with it the opportunity for HAI members to cross sell and upsell. It is very possible that energy retrofitting will grow and gain momentum as part of this boom in home improvements.
The government have ambitious targets, the plan is to retrofit 500,000 homes between now and 2030. And this strategy makes sense as housing accounts for 25% of our carbon emissions. Home energy retrofitting has been described by Minister Eamon Ryan as the workhorse of our climate strategy.
At present – 80% of our homes have a C rating or less and we use 7% more energy than the EU average. Even with huge strides in wind energy, most of our energy is not renewable and is imported. By upgrading our homes there are considerable savings to the public purse, as well as benefits for the environment.
It is achievable. If we look at our success in electrical waste and our roll out of the WEEE directive – Ireland is now top of class in the EU.
The conference was very well received by both those who tuned in and participants, and we would like to thank John Bourke of Dolmen Insurance, www.hardwarestoreinsurance.ie, who sponsored the morning.
HAI were delighted to be joined by three thought leaders and practitioners in their respective areas:
A panel discussion followed with some interesting and thought-provoking issues dealt with. A sample of some of the questions (with some paraphrasing) is below:
Q. Will the slowdown in building push out the government’s targets past 2030?
A. It cannot. We will have to deliver more. And typically, more projects are carried out during the summer. A major improvement in policy is that budgets and funding is now multi-annual rather than the annual budgets that were previously in place. This gets out of the start/stop trap that meant that many companies could not invest in the sector. Now companies can plan for continuous business for years ahead. The new apprenticeship schemes coming on stream also means that people can aspire to have a career as trades
professionals in the sector.
Q. What are the implications for insurance when homeowners are having a retrofit job done on their house?
A. Homeowners need to ensure that the contractors doing the work are registered with SEAI.
Q. Do the Credit Unions have preferential loan rates for homeowners undertaking a retrofit project?
A. Yes, and typically projects are funded by a mix of savings, a loan and the grant from SEAI.
Q On a retrofit project with REIL – who sets the price? who manages the project? who sorts out the grant? who deals with the contractor?
A. All of these are managed by REIL. In most cases the homeowner pays 65% of the project.
Q. Where are products sourced?
A. In the majority of cases products for retrofitting are sourced locally so it is important for merchants and hardware shops to
build relationships with contractors.
Q. Is there a push for deep retrofitting and if so, is this putting people off? Is perfection the enemy of what is achievable?
A. Originally the target was set at a BER rating of A2, this is now B2. B2 is a more reasonable solution for the homeowner. Of homeowners who inquire about retrofitting 18% sign up for a full retrofitting project. A further 20-30% do some form of energy upgrade on their home. There is a lot of activity in the €5k price range and much of this is sourced from local hardware shops and merchants.
Q. HAI has 400 members with at least 600 warehouses and offices – there is a huge square meterage of roof space for solar panels etc. Should members be thinking of an energy upgrade on their own premises?
A. 75% of energy savings achieved have been in the commercial sector. If you are looking at this the Better Energy Community Scheme is the one to avail of. There is a 25% capital grant. Their approach is to look at energy saving ideas first and renewables later. And the ability to say that you have undertaken an energy upgrade on your own premises gives credibility to any business who is selling retrofitting products.
Q. At the Energy Conference last week the Behavioural Science team at SEAI revealed insights that proved that `retrofitting` as a term has little resonance with homeowners. And, in some cases, it is perceived as a negative term as it implies that something needs to be
fixed. The term `home energy upgrade` is much better understood and received by homeowners. Should we use the term home energy upgrade in place of the term retrofitting?
A. Retrofitting is a legacy term – mainly from engineering. Those who have undertaken a project call it a variety of things, however, most use the term ‘home energy upgrade’ and that is what we should all be using from now on.
Michael O’Donohoe, President of HAI concluded the conference by stating that home energy upgrades (retrofitting) present a huge opportunity for our members, and one that HAI members intend to tap into and be part of.
The entire webinar, including the full panel discussion, is available FOC for HAI members to view on the Hardware Education Hub. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for access.