Disruption a big factor in homeowners’ decisions – ESRI – The Irish Times



Disruption to home life during retrofit works is a potential barrier to households upgrading the energy efficiency of their homes, according to the ESRI.

In many instances the value or benefit of the grant from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) “is unlikely to offset the inconvenience and disruption to family life”, it finds.

In a research bulletin compiled by John Curtis, Gianluca Grilli and Muireann Lynch, it acknowledges “disruption and mess associated with home retrofit works cannot be avoided and, in some projects, can substantially impact on family life”.

Public policy discussion around home energy retrofits often focuses on technologies (eg heat pumps), the energy and emissions benefits or the return on investment. “There is much less discussion surrounding disruption or how it impacts on families [and] little is known about how it impacts on homeowners’ retrofit decisions,” they said.

This research estimates homeowners’ price for avoiding disruption in residential energy retrofits. “We show that disruption isn’t merely a minor inconvenience, rather it is an important element of households’ decisions, the salience of which varies considerably across the population.”

The researchers engaged a representative sample of homeowners via an online survey, asking them about their experiences and intentions with respect to home renovations. Homeowners were asked to choose between retrofit scenarios that included different levels of capital cost, energy cost savings and disruption.

Four levels of disruption were considered, ranging from full use of the property during renovations; to dust and materials affecting use of some rooms during renovation; to some rooms not being suitable for use during renovations; and finally, to the whole property not being suitable for use during renovations.

On willingness to invest in energy retrofits, on average, homeowners are willing to pay €31,000 on a retrofit that yields 30 per cent savings in their energy costs. However, behind the average there is considerable variability, the bulletin concludes.

About one in five homeowners are willing to invest less than €15,000 for the 30 per cent energy costs savings while, on the other end of the spectrum, another one in five homeowners are willing to invest €44,000 or more on the same retrofit. “Homeowners are willing to invest even more for greater energy cost savings,” it found.

When disruption is allowed for, homeowners are willing to pay less on retrofits. “If the disruption is relatively minor, such as dust and materials affecting use of some rooms, homeowners’ willingness to invest in retrofits is €9,000 lower, on average.”

Where the disruption is greater, for instance, where the whole property is not suitable for use during renovations, homeowners’ willingness to invest is €25,000 lower, on average. However, there is considerable variability across households on their appetite for retrofit disruption.

For some homeowners, the impact of disruption is practically negligible, whereas for one in five homeowners the “price” of major disruption can exceed €43,000.

When homeowners were asked to self-classify themselves into retrofit stage categories, one-quarter said they were planning or considering energy retrofits (ie, may apply for SEAI retrofit grants) but more than half of homeowners were not actively contemplating energy retrofits.

The findings suggest it will be challenging to achieve the national policy target of upgrading 500,000 homes to B2 Ber status, the researchers say. They are also investigating whether residential heating options with lower disruption to homeowners can deliver substantial carbon emissions savings.



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