An improved grant for householders to remove lead pipes from their properties has been announced by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.
Removal of lead pipes from drinking water networks is a public health goal, as long-term exposure can affect children’s brain development leading to problems with learning, behaviour and attention. Lead may also harm the kidneys, contribute to high blood pressure, and has been linked to cancer.
The improved grant follows criticism from the Environmental Protection Agency in a number of annual reports of efforts to eradicate lead piping from public drinking water supply networks.
The improved scheme removes a means test, and introduces a 100 per cent grant — up to a level of €5,000 for the first time.
It was accepted the old grant scheme, under which the amount paid was determined on the basis of gross household income and either 80 per cent or 50 per cent of the approved cost of the works, was not significantly attractive to householders.
Long-term rental properties are also included as a qualifying residence. The minimum threshold for expenditure on eligible works to qualify for a grant has also been raised from €200 to €750.
Mr O’Brien said he was “pleased that these changes will widen the availability of this scheme to more homes”.
“The enhanced funding will make the grant more accessible to householders to undertake these works. Removal of lead pipes from the drinking water system is an important public health objective for this Government and increasing access to the grant will contribute greatly to achieving this goal,” he said.
The use of lead as a plumbing material was common in buildings built before and during the 1970s. Mr O’Brien urged people who have purchased older homes and may be renovating to incorporate lead pipe replacement into their renovation plans, utilising the available funding.
Meanwhile the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has urged homeowners to take advantage of Government funding for energy upgrades.
Currently, about half of Irish homes have a BER rating of D or lower, which means their homes do not retain heat well. The SEAI said homeowners should start home energy upgrades by insulating their attic and walls, availing of “significant” Government grants.
Susan Andrews of the SEAI said that “with options to suit most budgets and circumstances, we are urging people to start their home energy upgrade journey sooner rather than later”.
“A poorly insulated home will lose up to 30 per cent of its heat through attic spaces and walls,” she added. “So, a good place to start is with SEAI’s individual grants for insulation with the immediate benefit of reduced energy bills because. quite simply, your heating won’t be running as long.”
In February, the Government approved a target of 500,000 home energy upgrades to B2 Building Energy Rating (BER) standard by 2030. Included in that announcement was a new delivery model for grants called the One Stop Shop service. This scheme is for homeowners who would like to upgrade the energy performance of their home in one go to a BER B2 rating. Under the programme, the homeowner gets the grant amount deducted from the cost of works and so gets the value of the grant upfront.
SEAI data also shows that to the end of August 2022, 13,406 homes have been completed across the residential and community energy upgrade schemes.