It has been described as the biggest energy efficient project in the country: a €3.3 million retrofit scheme carried out on houses at Cox’s Demesne Dundalk.
Two thousand people have benefitted from the scheme which is now in line for a European environmental award, but not everybody is happy with the changeover.
Over the last 18 months, Electric Ireland and Dundalk Town Council and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland have worked together over a period of 18 months to carry out a range of works including attic and cavity wall insulation, boiler installation, draught proofing and the installation of two zone heating controls to 573 houses in the Cox’s Demesne area.
This was phase one of the Cox’s Demesne Regeneration Scheme.
The second phase is in its early stages. It will consist of the Ashling Park pilot project which will look at improving the existing Dundalk Town Council housing stock, improvements to the physical environment and the provision of new purpose built housing.
Dundalk Town Council has been described as paving the way for other local authorities around Ireland with this latest partnership scheme.
It was certainly an ambitious project led by the town council and Electric Ireland.
The residents came on board and supported it, and the council worked with the residents to iron out initial problems.
But for some residents the changeover has been problematic because they say they can no longer use the dual heating system of coal and oil.
Back boilers were taken out when the new system was installed so open fires can no longer be used to heat radiators or water. All heating must now come from oil or gas.
“It’s the worst thing that ever happened,” said Aine McCabe. “The fire now can’t heat the radiators and it would cost me €2,000 to have the back boiler replaced.
“If I had known this I would never have changed over. It is costing me triple the money to provide heating.
“The insulation was a good thing, but the heating is still more expensive.”
Aine finds that even without using a fire, her heating would still be more expensive.
But for other residents, like Kevin Hughes, it has proved to be very economical.
“I’m happy with it,” said Kevin. “If I want to put it on for an hour I just press the button and that heats the water too.
“It just takes three minutes.
“And when the water reaches a certain temperature it automatically switches off.
“So, yes. I find it very economical.”
So it seems that a lot depends on the family unit in the house, the different needs, and since all families and occupancy is different, the economic factors are different, and the one system does not seem to suit everybody.
Now it’s up to Europe to see it the project will get international recognition.