An all-in-one way to cut energy costs in France

The energy efficiency of a house can be hugely improved by installing all insulation and a new boiler at the same time, instead of bit by bit.

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One company offering this innovative approach has won the approval of the environment ministry and is expanding across the country.

Dorémi, set up in Valence in Drôme by an ecology association, proposes that all renovation and insulation work be done at once, instead of piecemeal – the way most government schemes are organised.

Managing director Vincent Legrand said: “If people do things bit by bit, there is often no coherence, and overall energy efficiency is lost. When things are done all at once, the upfront costs are higher, but the result and the long-term savings are much better.”

He said the company works with houses built before 1975, of which there are at least eight million in France.

“After 1975, new building regulations came in as a result of the oil price crisis, which meant that some insulation had to be put in new houses,” he said.

The difference doing all the work at once makes can be spectacular: insulating the roof, putting in double glazing and insulating doors and walls, insulating the floor where possible, changing the boiler, and putting in a system of ventilation, which keeps the maximum amount of heat in.

“In houses that have a 30Kw boiler, we find we can cut it down to a 3Kw boiler,” said Mr Legrand.

For a fairly typical family home of 100 square metres, the price of the all-in-one insulation and heating renovation is about €40,000 – far more than most people can envisage spending.

It is at this point that Dorémi, which is owned by a non-profit association, says it has the expertise in maximising state aid, which can vary between €15,000 and €25,000, depending on where you live and your personal circumstances.

Added to this are interest-free loans of up to €30,000 for 15 years, which are offered by the state-owned bank Bpifrance for energy efficiency projects.

“One aim in setting up the company was to help people with modest incomes renovate their homes and cut energy use,” said Mr Legrand. “We find that sometimes we can arrange for the work to be done without them having to pay anything upfront.

“The savings they make on energy more than pay for the loan part of the work.”

About half of the company’s clients have not paid anything upfront and the other half have the bill greatly reduced compared to the estimates they get from going around individual tradesmen.

Mr Legrand said old houses are often very expensive to heat, with monthly bills of €250 to €5,000 common.

Dorémi makes its money from links with local authorities, which often have energy efficiency targets to meet to get government funding, and by running training courses for artisans in its global approach.

“It is simple to say there is no point in putting a new boiler into an old house if the insulation is not done first but it is actually a significant change of mentality and working, which is where our training is important,” said Mr Legrand.