Homeowner shares his lessons learned in energy efficient home renovation: “take into account the risks”

We need examples and experiences in sustainable home renovation for making the transition from gas to heat more common. Part of City-zen is the renovation subsidies for homeowners. Homeowners (private individuals, owners associations, housing corporations and investors) in Amsterdam made use of the European City-zen subsidy to make their homes very energy-efficient. The most important criterion included a considerable improvement in the energy performance of the home.

One of the subsidizers is Bert, a homeowner in Amsterdam. Purely based on interest in technical ingenuity and the ability to make his home self-sufficient, he made the choice to renovate his home to an all-electric one. Just like his grandfather in the 60’s, who installed gas heaters in Dutch households, Bert is fond of technological innovation. As it turns out, his newly installed heat pump is made by the same manufacturer as the gas heaters his grandfather used to work with. That builds trust. “And now I hope to experience the transition where houses are cut loose from gas.”

Thus far the story of someone who, just because of his enthusiasm, is able to convince his surroundings to make the same sustainable step. That comes in handy during the start of renovation and remodelling trajectories, but afterwards – when it’s down to the execution – it’s basically imperative. In Bert’s case this didn’t came off easy. But, all’s well that ends well. The house is almost entirely self-supportive, is certified with energy label A, is newly appraised and has increased in value. But that didn’t come without some struggles. And that’s something that is worth to share too.

When it comes to the actual execution…

renovatie_subsidie_cityzen“At first I wanted solar panels. With that in mind I met with an energy advisor. But the advisor recommended to take a further step and consider a zero-on-the-meter home. At the time our house was twenty years old, which makes you want to invest. For us this was the perfect moment to deal with this situation. It’s something that has my interest, so I was open for a rigorous change. All together, there is a lot happening at that point. Solar panels, heat and water pumps, low temperature convectors, underfloor heating and finally additional electrical facilities in the meter cupboard and power cables that had to be despatched. The technology often isn’t new, what makes it complex is the installation and customization in a home.”

“This wisdom came into effect during the implementation. You choose someone based on a good feeling and in my case I also trusted the products I was to purchase for this renovation. Evidently I’ve done my research, but beforehand I could not realise what the risks were. In my case these were mainly in the dependability of the advisor.”

warmtepomp_renovatie_cityzen_subsidie“I opted for a total package. Convenient, because with the entire renovation being done by one construction company the quotation includes everything. Once we were in the process, I found out that the energy consultant didn’t have as much experience as I previously thought and many things were new. I couldn’t rely on a good coordination and planning. This caused many frustrations and delays in the project. We’d agreed on a fixed price, so the setbacks and additional costs were for the energy consultant. Except for a bit more energy the project fortunately didn’t cost more. Giving feedback to the consultant didn’t make much sense, since this was evaded or unanswered.

“I don’t really mind that it’s a new challenge for the company you work with, but during such an extensive and intensive renovation project I expect openness and honesty. That is an essential part of the collaboration and in this case mainly an advice to the energy consultant.”

“I now like to share the experiences that I have gained with others who are interested in sustainable renovating their dwelling. At the time I also looked for people in my personal environment and professionals to assess my experiences. All insights help and it’s also a good thing that I wasn’t aware of all the risks in advance.

Now the renovation, after an initial delay, is completed successfully, Bert also takes part in a pilot project. The City-zen Virtual-Power-Plant pilot is a battery that stores the sustainable generated energy. This gives Bert the chance to relax.

Do you have question for Bert? Get in contact with him via city-zen@amsterdamsmartcity.nl


  • Make an inventory of the risks. How dependent are you on your energy advisor and supplier(s)
  • Think about how much you pay in advance and how much later in the process
  • Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of a total renovation package
  • Do a background check of the energy consultant’s company: continuity, delivery time, and experiences in sustainable home renovation.
  • The Project

    A city operating entirely on clean energy. In theory, it's possible. But in real life? How to integrate new solutions in existing buildings, systems and people's lives? What are the technical, economic or social barriers? And how to overcome these? That's what we've learned by doing in 20 projects in Grenoble and Amsterdam.

  • Our Activities

  • Achieved Impacts

    • 20 innovations in Grenoble & Amsterdam
    • 35,000 tonnes CO2 saved per year
    • 76,000 m² renovated residential buildings
    • 10,000 dwellings connected to a Smart Grid