In June 2017, as part of EU Sustainable Energy Week, four innovative sustainable energy projects received EU Sustainable Energy Awards. The Home Energy Saving Kit project, which supplies energy saving toolkits to households in Dublin, Ireland, was the winner of the Consumers category. Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Communications Manager for the company behind the project, explains further.
1. Where did the idea for the Home Energy Saving Kit project come from?
The idea for the Home Energy Saving Kits started when Codema, Dublin's energy agency, was leading an EU project called ACE, which focused on promoting renewable and sustainable energy to citizens across North West Europe. Codema's Energy Awareness Manager Verena Brennan came across a scheme in South Australia, where the local government was lending out energy toolkits to the public through its library network. We all thought that this was a very good idea. The INTERREG NWE ACE project then gave us the opportunity to connect with citizens by making the Home Energy Saving Kits available for the public to borrow through Dublin City Council's library network. Householders can use the six tools in the kit to get a sense of where energy is being used in their homes, and identify possible problem areas. We see the kit very much as the first step on your sustainable energy journey; it's the catalyst that gets you thinking about your habitual energy use and the areas in your home that might need upgrading.
We launched the pilot phase in March 2016, where we had 17 kits available to borrow across 10 Dublin City Council public libraries. This was extremely successful, with huge demand from the public and long waiting lists in many of these libraries. The kits were used in 275 homes across the city in the first year. As a result, we expanded the scheme in March 2017 by making an additional 50 kits available in all of the public library branches across the city.
2. Can you explain what the kits contain?
The kits contain six practical tools which address key areas of energy use in the home, such as space heating, hot water and electricity consumption. The tools in the kit can also help to identify common issues such as lack of insulation, poor ventilation and the appliances that might be driving up electricity bills. Each tool has the following function:
- Fridge/ Freezer Thermometer - to measure the temperature of your fridge and freezer accurately and adjust accordingly
- Thermal Leak Detector - to detect energy leaks in your home by showing you the temperature differences with a coloured LED spot. This helps to spot thermal air leaks and identify areas for additional insulation and/or draught proofing
- Temperature and Humidity Meter - to identify both the temperature as well as the humidity levels in the home
- Plug-In Energy Monitor - to understand how much energy the appliances in the home use and help calculate their running cost
- Radiator Key - to bleed radiators if a wet central heating system is in place, by releasing trapped air and making the radiators run more efficiently
- Stopwatch - to measure the flow rate of water taps, showers and bath to ensure that no water or energy is wasted.
The kit is also contains by a step-by-step user manual to guide you on how to use each tool correctly (there are also online demonstration videos). Finally, each kit contains a survey form so the public can give us feedback, and this will help us evaluate the impact that the kits are having on user behaviour, and a blue envelope for the householder to keep. This envelope contains a brochure with energy-saving tips, a temperature card, and a worksheet to track and compare results.
3. What has the impact of the project been on people taking part?
Our evaluation phase will not be complete until the end of this year, so it is hard to measure this scientifically, although anecdotally some householders are indicating that they are interested in carrying out energy efficiency works on their home as a result of using the kit. Codema and Dublin City Council's Public Libraries have partnered with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland to evaluate what elements of the kit are leading to actual behavioural change, homeowners applying for energy-efficiency grants, and carrying out energy upgrades on their home. Those who complete the kit’s survey form have the option of staying in touch and coming along to public workshops that will be organised in a selection of Dublin City Council's libraries later this year.
4. What does winning an EU Sustainable Energy Award mean to you?
It means a great deal to win an EU Sustainable Energy Award for the Home Energy Saving Kit. This is the first scheme of its kind in Ireland, so it’s great to have it recognised at EU level, particularly when there were so many great projects nominated. Codema’s unique relationship with Dublin City Council's Libraries has made it possible to bring the kit into hundreds of homes across Dublin, and help our citizens take the first step on their sustainable energy journey. The kit, while focusing on the efficient use of energy, is also promoting the idea of community energy through its availability in the libraries, and winning this award is making this project even more visible.
5. What are the future plans for the project?
Codema is committed to expanding this project to the entire Dublin region and we hope to begin that process next year. Ireland's Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, has also announced that he intends to roll the scheme out to other parts of Ireland, such as Galway, Roscommon and Leitrim, and Codema has had a number of enquiries from local authorities around the country that are interested in introducing Home Energy Saving Kits into their library network. So it would be great to see the scheme going national, and eventually form an energy club of like-minded householders that we can guide through the steps of making their homes warmer, cosier and more energy-efficient!