The fire in the hearth has been burning since the early morning, and despite its best efforts to heat my little old cottage, it still feels quite cold in some of the rooms. So I took some advice from a nice magnet (pictured below) that sticks to my refrigerator and spent most of the day with my laptop in front of the fireplace. And I did indeed feel the truth of the old saying: Home is where the hearth is.
Magnet Design & Copyright by Mayfield Communications
The unexpected cold spell has brought home - literally - a problem familiar to most people: Here in Ireland about 95% of all existing houses are not properly insulated. So no matter how much I put on the blazing fire, a significant proportion of the heat is lost because the walls and roof of my house are more than 100 years old and were built when no one thought or even knew of the fine art of energy conservation.
Cottages, meant to accommodate the working underclass, were built cheaply and fast, and many a clever builder made a few extra shillings by cutting corners on the quality of walls, foundations or other parts he could get away with. Even though the house has meanwhile been modified and modernised several times, it is still an old building without proper insulation.
The vast majority of people in Ireland live under similar conditions, and even most of the new houses, built during the "Celtic Tiger" boom, lack the environmentally friendly energy-saving devices which are by now common standard - at least for new buildings - in most countries on the European continent. Once again Ireland seems to trail far behind the rest of Europe, even though we are now fully aware of climate change, carbon footprints and energy saving.
In many of the other EU countries the government provides generous grants to people who are willing to put modern insulation and other energy-saving measures into old houses, and people take it upon themselves to improve their buildings and save energy and the environment at the same time. But no such programme exists here in Ireland. While the government, and in particular Fianna Fáil, is happy to see more and more new houses built in a very short time, no one gives a thought to energy conservation.
Not even the fact that the Green Party is now a coalition partner of FF in the government has done much in this direction. Neither John Gormley, their party leader and Minister for the Environment (who seems to be obsessed with energy-saving light bulbs), nor Eamon Ryan, the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, have yet come up with an attractive grant scheme that would encourage the owners of old houses to properly insulate them.
Forget the changing of light bulbs and grand new energy schemes that won't be effective for many years! Help us to save energy on a wider scale by insulating our houses in the way our European neighbours on the continent can do it already. The energy savings would be massive, we all would benefit from it greatly, and the environment in Ireland would become cleaner and a lot more pleasant. Home is where the hearth is, and if our hearths can warm our houses more efficiently, we all have better homes and a better life.
The Emerald Islander