Housing Executive expands green heating scheme

Terraced houses

Ulster University led the program with the Housing Executive.

A Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) scheme to decarbonise home heating is being rolled out to another 300 homes.

It follows successful trials in the year since COP26.

The Rural-Led Energy Transition (RULET) project uses smart energy systems with environmentally friendly heating so that the most vulnerable households are not left behind in the transition to net zero.

Ulster University led the program with the Housing Executive.

NIHE is responsible for 85,000 homes in Northern Ireland.

Two years ago, six homes in Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh, formed the pilot project.

In 2021, 10 properties in Omagh, County Tyrone had their insulation and windows upgraded, before installing an air-source heat pump or a hybrid heat pump and back-up system at the fuel oil.

Raymond McAler

Raymond McAleer, from Omagh, said his self-contained heat pump meant he used less energy

Raymond McAleer of Hunter’s Crescent in Omagh got a stand-alone heat pump.

“The heating, you maybe don’t need to turn it on as often, you use less energy,” he told BBC News NI.

“You can keep your heating really low and let it tickle a bit, so you save money too.

“It’s a better system, there’s more control. I would never go back to what I had.”

Like about two-thirds of the houses in Northern Ireland, his house was previously oil-fired.

His new system is controlled via a panel on the wall and an app on his phone, which also provides NIHE with information on how the system is used and functioning.

Robert Clements

Robert Clements says the program has many benefits

“The housing executive has two roles here,” said Robert Clements, the organization’s sustainability manager.

“It is the strategic housing authority and the largest landlord in Northern Ireland so we want to use a clear database and will update all other housing providers on best practice as we transition and a just transition to net zero.”

But he added that renovating a home, including improving insulation and installing a renewable heating system is not cheap.

“The typical average cost…is around £18,000 per house,” he said.

“It’s going to cost money upfront, but there will be benefits in that there will be less carbon, more thermal enhancement, better health and well-being and better returns for the housework.”

Project organizers recognize that many people will not be able to afford the cost.

But they say RULET will have a long-term impact beyond the people living in social housing who directly benefit from it.

Patrick Keatley

Patrick Keatley said the program will eventually reduce costs

“Longer term, it will reduce costs,” said Patrick Keatley, senior lecturer in energy policy and infrastructure at the University of Ulster.

“The scale of the social housing sector will eventually drive down those costs and open up markets for everyone to get on with.”

He said previous incentives, which depended on people having money to spend in the first place, created the risk of putting in place a “middle class subsidy”.

Residential greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by more than one-fifth (22%) since 1990, the baseline year for emissions measurement.

But they still contributed 13.7% of Northern Ireland’s total emissions in 2020.

The expansion of this smart energy project into the western counties is expected to allow more of the wind power generated in Northern Ireland to be used, instead of sometimes being turned off.

RULET heat pump

Heat pumps are used in the pilot project

“It’s not just about putting together a kit, it’s also about changing the way people live their lives, so that they benefit from it,” said Professor Peter Roberts, chairman of the Housing Executive .

“They have a warmer house, they consume less diesel or electricity than before and overall the carbon budget is reduced.

“It also has a positive impact on their portfolio.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *