A warm and cosy Christmas for local authority tenants

Hundreds of local authority tenants will have a warmer winter thanks to upgrade works designed to make homes warmer and more energy efficient.

On top of that, 106 older people’s homes have been brought up to date with cheaper, easier heating systems at a cost of €225,000.

One pensioner in Rathwire, in the north of the county, who was using three bales of briquettes a day in an outdated range is using just over one bale a day since the range was replaced with a modern stove, the meeting heard.

And while many older people resisted stoves, senior engineer Howard Costello said they flocked to be part of the scheme when they saw the difference it made in the lives of their friends and neighbours.

He was giving details at the recent Westmeath County Council Housing SPC of a broader programme to increase energy efficiency in the council’s housing stock.

Stoves are cleaner, easier to maintain, and provide more heat than ranges which many older people were unable to cope with, he said.

While some people love them, still use them for cooking, and keep them well, many can’t keep ranges clean and because the smoke and soot rises when the top is removed, they find their homes dirty, smoky, and unhealthy.

Solid fuel ranges are just 45 per cent fuel efficient, he said.

On the other hand solid fuel stoves give a return of up to 70 per cent but gas and oil-fired stoves are up to 90 per cent efficient.

The council was lucky to get money for the older people, Mr Costello added.

Close to a thousand local authority houses in Westmeath will have their insulation upgraded by early 2014 at no cost to the homeowner or the council’s budget.

Some €743,000 has already been spent in the county bringing 159 Older Persons Dwellings and 489 Family Houses up to date with cavity wall insulation, attic insulation, and lagging of hot water cylinders.

Rooms and roofs have also been ventilated as part of Phase 1 of a three-phase Energy Efficiency Programme 2013-2015.

The money was made available by the Department of Environment under the programme announced by Minister Jan O’Sullivan, and aims to reduce energy costs in local authority houses as well as reducing the national energy consumption.

Phase 1 involves fabric insulation as outlined, Phase 2 relates to the replacement of single-glazed windows and doors and Phase 3 sees a review of inefficient heating systems.

However, the council was successful with their advance application for special funding for stoves for the 106 older and vulnerable people.

Next year will see a return to the phased schedule and if funding is available, the council will replace single-glazed windows and doors, in 120 houses, and replace inefficient doors in 150 houses by the end of 2015.

The estimated funding is €1.02m and comes in at up to €5,000 per house.

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