How this bungalow went from a BER rating of F to A2 with Electric Ireland Superhomes

Hot Water Bottle

How do you turn the ‘house that Jack built’ into a modern, functioning family home? 

Electric Ireland Superhomes did just that with a 1970s bungalow that architect Hugh Wallace described as ‘two bungalows stuck together’.  

Niki Byrne and Davin Larkin bought their bungalow in Galway five years ago with the intention of renovating it before they moved in. But life comes at you fast, and the young couple welcomed a son, Jasper, and before they knew it were moved into their home that Niki admitted wasn’t functioning for their new family life. 

When they moved in, the bungalow had a BER rating of F.  

“When we first bought this house, it was extremely cold, damp, draughty – and there seemed to be a persistent smell of must and mould from the furniture and our clothes,” Niki told Electric Ireland. 

Niki and Davin, who featured in RTÉ programme My Bungalow Bliss, sponsored by Electric Ireland Superhomes, worked with Studio Red Architects to redesign the layout of their home. The architects led with an emphasis on sustainability and energy-efficiency.  

Niki and Davin from My Bungalow Bliss, sponsored by Electric Ireland Superhomes,
Niki and Davin with Electric Ireland Superhomes engineer Declan Daly. 

Electric Ireland Superhomes designed a bespoke ‘whole house’ retrofit. The result? A modern, warmer and more energy-efficient home with a BER rating of A2.

The four key aspects of Niki and Davin’s retrofit were: 

  1. A fabric-first approach with significant insulation improvements
    1. An air tightness strategy

    2. Mechanical ventilation

    3. An air-to-water heat pump to provide sustainable hearting and hot water.

    All of these changes resulted in lower energy bills and reduced carbon emissions for the family.  

    What is a heat pump?  

    A heat pump is a machine that extracts heat from one place and transfers it to another. Refrigerators and air conditioners are both common examples of heat pumps. Heat pumps transfer heat by circulating a substance called a refrigerant through a cycle of alternating evaporation and condensation.

    A compressor pumps the refrigerant between two heat exchangers. In one heat exchanger, the evaporator, the refrigerant is evaporated at low pressure and absorbs heat from its surroundings. The refrigerant is then compressed enroute to the heat exchanger, the condenser, where it condenses at high pressure. At this point, it releases the free heat it absorbed earlier in the cycle. The heat from the fluid is transferred to the water in your heating system, including radiators and underfloor heating, as well as your hot water tank.  

    An air source heat pump is an essential measure in a Superhome. In Niki and Davin’s home, the existing heating system was removed, and a heat pump installed with full controls upgrade. This delivers a comfortable, constant temperature in every room throughout the house of between 18 to 21 degrees.  

    “It is certainly a well thought out and well-designed system that gives you more time essentially to do things that are more important to you than worrying about the fire, the heating or the hot water,” said Niki. 

    Other retrofit measures included insulation, airtightness and ventilation. The floors of the once-cold bungalow were insulated, and underfloor heating was added and finished with a polished concrete floor.  

    The original external walls were treated with internal insulation and the roof space and attic were upgraded with earthwool insulation. 

    Finishing touches, including double-glazed windows and new doors, achieved a U value of 1.4 W/m²·K.  Double-glazed windows are known to retain 85% more heat than single-glazed windows. 

    “It retains the heat once you put it into the building and that’s costing us less and when it adds up, it is quite a significant saving over time,” said Davin. “We were burning firewood, turf – very unsustainable in the long term.” 

    Electric Ireland Superhomes carried out all the retrofit work, as well as took care of all the paperwork for the SEAI energy-efficiency grant that Niki and Davin were entitled to.  

    To catch Niki and Davin’s bungalow transformation, tune into My Bungalow Bliss, sponsored by Electric Ireland Superhomes, on RTÉ One and the RTÉ Player. Follow along on social media using #MyBungalowBliss.  

    Considering your own Superhome? Visit Electric Ireland Superhomes for more information.