19 January 2017

Renovating your home: ecological and economic options

Are you about to renovate your home and would like to help the environment and save money at the same time? Find out how.

What is eco-renovation?

If your primary goal is to reduce your fossil fuel consumption, this is known as eco-renovation. It is specifically designed to reduce your carbon footprint and help protect the environment.

Benefits of eco-renovation

This work is generally more expensive than traditional renovation, but the energy savings over time largely offset the initial investment, which is more important. It is therefore a long-term investment that has an immediate impact on your energy bills.

A few figures

Let's take the example of photovoltaic solar panels. On average, a family of 3 people consumes 3,500 kWh/year. The initial investment needed to cover this requirement is €6,000. The energy performance of the panels is directly dependent on their orientation and the slope of the roof. By combining this performance with the financing method, any government grants, and the rise in energy prices, the financial returns on the panels can vary between 2.3% and 6.8% per year. We can therefore see that even in the worst case, it is still a better deal than a savings account.

Eco-renovations also help to reduce the primary energy consumption index (i.e. not converted) of a property. This index is used to create the PEB certificate, a tool that classifies and compares the energy performance of buildings on the market in an objective way. Better performance obviously increases the value of the property.

The stages of ecological renovation

Well-targeted action helps to improve thermal comfort and save energy Here are a few tips to help you begin, which will maximise your (financial) efforts.

Insulation: the most important stage

Before undertaking a new installation, it is essential to improve the thermal performance of your property, so that you can reduce your heating needs and not waste any future savings you will make.

You therefore need to insulate your property effectively to reduce heat loss, either through transfer or lack of airtightness.

  • Limiting heat transfer loss: create an effective envelope for the building, with thick, well-insulated walls, roofs, floors and window frames, to which you can add triple-thickness windows. Also, remember to reduce thermal bridges (gaps in the insulation), especially the points of contact between the walls, floors, roofs and rafters.
  • Limiting heat loss due to lack of airtightness: prevent loss through joints and cracks by aiming for total airtightness.
Efficient heating

After insulation, you can assess the available efficient heating options: thermal solar panels, heat pump, boiler or wood burner, or high-energy-content pellet fuel.

Renewable energy

The current trend is for renewable energy: green electricity and solar energy. The popularity of photovoltaic solar panels reached a peak prior to 2012, mainly due to the tax benefits and bonuses granted by the Regional governments. Although it has slowed down since 2012, following the removal of tax benefits, then bonuses (in the Flanders region only), growth is still positive and Belgium remains a significant contributor of solar energy in Europe.

How to finance your eco-renovation
Regional government green loan

The 3 Belgian regions support eco-renovation. In particular, they subsidise minimum-rate loans for their residents. To receive these, you may be subject to an income cap, as well as conditions concerning the nature of the renovation. Please look at the relevant website for more information:

Support from banks

Some financial institutions also support these initiatives and offer very attractive rates for eco-renovations. Make sure that the work you are planning is included in the ecological category defined by your bank.

An example: an ING loan to install photovoltaic solar panels

Let's take the case of a building with an average annual consumption of 14,000 kWh/year (considerably more than an average family's consumption, as we have seen earlier). If you have a roof with an appropriate slope and solar panels can be installed with the optimum orientation, you can maximise your energy performance. The initial investment needed to cover this consumption will be €24,000.

  • If the panel installation is funded by an ING 5-year loan with a fixed annual rate of 1.95%, the cumulative interest over the period of the loan will be €1,208.39.
  • For this building, the annual savings on energy bills will be over €3,000, without counting any rises in energy prices over time. The savings over 5 years will exceed €15,000, which will easily cover the cumulative interest. With these annual savings, the initial investment will also be paid back quickly.

Financing with a suitable loan will therefore help to maintain the positive returns on this eco-renovation. If the building is located in Brussels or Wallonia, it will also benefit from green electricity generation bonuses, giving it even greater returns.

To sum up

Eco-renovation can help to reduce your carbon footprint and save money at the same time. This type of work will also help your house increase its value.

You now have all the information you need to fund your project, so don't hesitate to help protect the environment!

Article written in association with TopCompare.be (FR).