To improve the quality of life and living conditions of low income households through the implementation of energy efficient measures and related work, to employ and empower unemployed people through a social enterprise model and respond to community needs, this is the mission statement of Leitrim Warmer Homes CLG. We headed to Drumshanbo to meet manager Donal Quinn to find out more about this exceptional operation.
Leitrim Warmer Homes began operating over ten years ago as a project of Leitrim Development Company. A new company called Leitrim Warmer Homes was established in May, 2016. Reflecting on the genesis of the organisation, manager Donal Quinn points out, “Leitrim Warmer Homes was formed by Leitrim Development Company as a Pobal CSP [Community Service Programme] with a two-pronged mission – to generate social enterprise and employment and also, to improve the health and welfare of older people living in inefficient homes. This mission has remained and continues to focus the direction the new company takes.
Leitrim Warmer Homes primary work comes from a scheme funded by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) called Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme. This provides energy efficient measures to homes that qualify (i.e. low income households). Leitrim Warmer Homes complete these works in Leitrim, Sligo, Donegal, Cavan and North Roscommon. Considering that around 60,000 Irish households are estimated to live in persistent fuel poverty (with a further 160,000 experiencing intermittent fuel poverty), then the contribution to local communities of Leitrim Warmer Homes in helping low income families by delivering the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme, cannot be underestimated.
Through the scheme, Leitrim Warmer Homes carries out works including cavity wall insulation, attic insulation, lagging jackets for water cylinders, energy efficient lighting, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, energy conservation advice, ventilation and draught proofing. The scheme aims to improve the energy efficiency and warmth of low income, privately owned households. Attic and cavity wall insulation are available free of charge to house owners whose homes were built before 2006 and are in receipt of either fuel allowance, job seekers allowance or family income support. “As well as cavity wall and attic insulation, we also install extractor fans for bathrooms and kitchens to bring homes up to room insulation regulations. Mould and condensation are major issues due to lack of heat, lack of ventilation and too much moisture. So homes need insulation to retain the heat; ventilation for the air; and fans to remove moisture at source, Donal adds, we work in conjunction with SEAI and if the home needs a boiler or heating system installed, then that will be done as well, although not by us.”
Quality is at the forefront of everything Leitrim Warmer Homes does, “Leitrim Warmer Homes has been licensed by NSAI to use only the highest-quality materials, we’re in business more than ten years now and we have been working with SEAI for all of that time in a partnership approach”, says Donal adding, “the quality of the work is paramount. If the quality isn’t there, then SEAI won’t renew our contract.”
At present, there is crew of eight installers, “we have developed great expertise in insulation over the years and will take on any work that comes up, including a lot of cavity wall insulation for local builders, national schools and business premises. We don’t limit ourselves, though our focus is on homes”, Donal continues.
“Advertising and marketing is mainly word of mouth, parish newsletters, local papers notes. We still maintain strong ties with Leitrim Development Company, we see them as a sister company and are proud of our association with them. A great deal of their work is for vulnerable and isolated people, and so they are in a position to continue to link Leitrim Warmer Homes services with eligible clients
There’s a very strong ethos in the organisation to provide a community service and help vulnerable people. Donal says, “in keeping with our Community Service Programme, we try to use local businesses as far as possible. For example, we source a lot of materials through Mulveys Hardware in Drumshanbo, while McGowans Garages keep our vehicles on the road and all the cavity wall insulation we use is Kingspan. If a home owner needs help with applying for and securing grants, we can also facilitate them with that.
While the social element to the company is to be applauded, no business will survive as a viable, sustainable entity without some commercial activity. To this end, Leitrim Warmer Homes works on new builds and retrofits outside of the SEAI work. Any profit we make is reinvested back into the community. Leitrim Warmer Homes hopes to continue to grow, “employing more people, improving energy efficiency of homes in turn improving health and wellbeing, working with local community projects and measures, to reduce energy consumption and improve local economies,” Donal concludes.
Leitrim Warmer Homes,
Tel / Fax: 071 9640771
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Building Ireland Magazine, January 2018, Vol 4 No 1