Inside Ireland's Smart Homes of the Future

Location. Location. Location. When it comes to house buying, location, above all else, often dictates consumer decisions.

While factors such as location, price and size are important, another significant factor will play a key role in the home-buying and home-upgrading decisions of the future. And that is energy.

The implementation of the Building Energy Rating (BER) system and tighter building regulations has raised the bar for both the industry and customer expectations – homebuyers now expect new homes to be the best in class in terms of energy efficiency.

For existing homes, there have also been a number of retrofit grant schemes in place to fund energy saving measures including installation of insulation, upgrading boilers and heating controls and adopting renewable (solar thermal) energy.

As stated in the new Better Buildings, A National Renovation Strategy for Ireland’ report, by improving the thermal efficiency of Ireland’s building stock we can make our homes and businesses more comfortable, healthier and cheaper to run.

Passive Homes

The term ‘passive homes’ is relatively new in Ireland but the movement is already in motion. In simple terms, a passive home is an international building standard that guarantees a home is airtight, has a low energy demand, and maintains comfortable levels of heat and ventilation for a healthier living environment.

In a historic vote last year, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council voted that all new buildings in the south-east Dublin borough must be built to the passive house standard or demonstrably equivalent levels (e.g. Near Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB)). This, in turn, should spur other local authorities to set the standard for more sustainable home offerings in the future.

Developers are now responding to this new demand for sustainable homes. For example, Durkan Residential recently launched Ireland’s largest ‘All Electric’ Passive House Certified development at Silken Park in Kingswood Cross, Citywest, Co Dublin.

Key Features of Passive Homes

A key feature of the Silken Park homes is the installation of an electric heat pump (integrated with a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR) system), providing all the heat and hot water needs for the new occupants. While commonplace in many European homes, electric heat pumps are a relatively new feature in Irish homes…until now.

Heat pumps are, according to the experts, the most cost effective forms of heat using electricity and most good quality systems achieve average COP (Coefficient of Performance) figures of three or more. This means that to achieve three kilowatts of heating or cooling power, they use an average of less than one kilowatt of electricity. In comparison to other forms of heating, heat pumps offer the most energy efficient heating between 300% and 400%.

Another feature of this particular development is the ability to allow homeowners to install Solar PV and become ‘prosumers’ (producers and consumers) of energy in the near future. As the cost of Solar PV and battery storage continues to fall, it is envisaged that such a sight on homes will become more the ‘norm’ than the exception in the future.

As more consumers embrace electric driving, new housing stock is also facilitating this transition with many homes now pre-wired to facilitate the installation of an electric vehicle charging point, as is the case at Silken Park.

A Brighter and Cleaner Future

Thanks to the roll out of smart technology in recent years and energy efficiency standards increasing, it is safe to say that the ‘homes of the future’ have arrived in Ireland. And such standards and expectations will only get better as we all embrace a cleaner and brighter future…at home and everywhere.

*The Durkan Residential Development involved the collaboration of ESB Innovation and Electric Ireland. Such a partnership supports ESB’s Group ambition to promote affordable cleaner living solutions for customers, as we lead the transition to a low carbon Brighter Future.