Energy performance certificates have been a legal requirement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2009. You must get an EPC if you want to sell or rent your home. So, we’ve all had time to get used to the idea, but what is an EPC?
We strip away some of the myths to bring you the facts about energy performance certificates, and answer the pressing questions.
We have had energy performance ratings for a long time. Every time you buy a washing machine or oven, you will see a coloured chart showing you the energy efficiency of that appliance.
It helps you choose the most efficient model to reduce energy costs and save you money. It also encourages manufacturers to make their products more environmentally friendly as customers demand the most cost-effective technology.
In essence, an EPC for a property is a four-page document that rates your home’s energy performance using a coloured chart ranging from green for the best to red being the worst. Each colour is allotted a letter from A to G.
It also provides you with suggestions to help increase your home’s rating to improve efficiency, including the potential costs and savings.
If you are selling or renting your house, you will need an EPC within seven days of the property coming onto the market. They are a legal requirement. The good news is if you are using Beals Independent Estate Agents to market your home, we will sort this out for you.
If you fail to produce an EPC, you could receive a £5,000 fine.
Your EPC is carried out by a qualified and accredited Energy Performance Assessor. These assessments can be sourced independently, but the vast majority of sellers and landlords use their estate or letting agents to organise the report.
If you are selling your home, you cannot fail the energy performance certificate. The report ranks your property from A to G, with A being the most efficient and G the worst performance.
However, if you are selling your home, a low score will likely damage your chances of securing a buyer, which could negatively affect your asking price.
If you are renting your property, things are slightly different. Prior to April 2020, the law demanded that homes should have a minimum of an E-rating in order to secure a new tenancy. Post-April 2020, this now applies to all tenancies.
You will not be able to rent your property if it scores an F or G-rating. Before installing a tenant, the law states that you must perform improvement works recommended in the report to a maximum value of £3,500 (VAT inclusive).
This is going to change because the UK government has pledged a minimum of a C-rating for all rental properties by 2030. Given that the UK has the highest concentration of old and leaky homes in Europe, that equates to a lot of upgrades.
There are instances where an EPC is not required. For example, if you rent an individual room within your home. But bear in mind that a self-contained flat within a property with its own entrance and facilities will need an EPC.
If you own a listed building, it is protected, or in a conservation area, your property is exempt from an energy rating. This is to protect the property because some energy improvements could dramatically alter the outward appearance.
You can check the status of your home with your local authority conservation officer.
Your EPC is valid for 10 years and it rates the home and not the person commissioning it. You can reuse the EPC multiple times within that time frame.
You don’t have to get your home rated after improvements that you think will improve the overall score. However, if you are thinking of selling within the 10-year period when the EPC is still valid, it might be a good idea to increase buyer confidence.
It might also help you attain a better price.
If you don’t understand something, or you disagree with the report, you can contact the energy performance assessor who did the assessment. Their details are listed on the document under the “About this document” section.
If the problem remains unresolved, you can make contact with the accreditation scheme listed on the document.
If you are worried about the EPC result, you can do some simple things to improve the rating before the assessment is carried out.
Lighting is surprisingly energy-hungry, especially if you use halogen or non-low energy bulbs. Consider changing your old bulbs for light-emitting diodes (LED) or compact fluorescent lights (CFL).
LED bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent lighting. When you multiply the number of light bulbs in your home, that’s a massive energy saving.
Old gas boilers are one of the biggest causes of a low energy score on your EPC. It’s expensive to replace your gas boiler but it is worth doing if you have the funds and you think it is necessary.
New condensing gas boilers are 95% efficient, with only 5% of the energy being used to power the boiler. Compare that to an old boiler, which could be as low as 60%. That means that 40% of the energy used powers the boiler.
This is a long-term energy solution, and you are unlikely to see the benefits if you are selling your home, but it will improve your EPC result.
Heat rises, so is it any wonder that a poorly insulated roof leaks all the heat from your home. Ensure the loft insulation is a minimum of 270mm thick to trap the heat in and reduce heating costs.
The good news is if your insulation is 90mm or less, you can apply for funding to upgrade the insulation.
Older homes have cavity walls, which is essentially two skins of brick with a gap between them to allow air to flow. While they are excellent at helping your home breathe, they can be drafty. Consider cavity wall insulation to solve this problem.
One of the biggest influencers of the EPC rating is cavity walls, so a simple way to get the highest score is to insulate your walls.
Old boilers are inefficient, but you can improve their performance by updating your heating controls. New thermostats and individual thermostatic radiator valves (TRV) increase the efficiency of your heating system.
Using a smart meter also helps you improve how you use energy because it tells you how much you are using in real-time.
Try not to look at the EPC as a stick to punish you for having a poorly insulated home. Remember that when you sell, you usually need to buy, so by applying the same standard, we all benefit, including the planet.
Energy performance certificates are designed to drag the UK’s old, leaky and inefficient housing stock into the 21st century to reduce energy bills and help to save the planet. That has to be a good thing for you and your children’s futures.
Climate change is the single biggest issue facing the planet, so is it any wonder that we are looking for alternative ways to heat our homes.
Gas boilers have been the mainstay of home heating in the UK for generations. The modern gas boiler can trace its roots back to 1868, when Benjamin Waddy Maughan developed an instantaneous gas heater for domestic water.
Even though his “Geyser” boiler had no flue and was prone to exploding, it was still popular. Britain’s love affair with the gas boiler has been a long time in the making.
But, it seems the glory days are over for the humble gas boiler. Fossil fuels are polluting the planet, and we need a greener way to heat our homes.
The Government is recommending a switch to heat pumps, in a bid to phase out gas boilers, as we move to more sustainable energy solutions. Say hello to the heat pump.
A heat pump is a system that moves heat from one source to another via a compressor and liquid refrigerant. Think of it as a fridge in reverse. Instead of taking warm air and cooling it using refrigerant, it draws cool air and warms it.
Heat is extracted from an outside source through the compressor and pumped inside your home. Heat pumps are more efficient and use less energy than other electrical methods of creating heat. Plus, you can reverse the process in the summer to provide air conditioning.
Heat pumps are about 300% more efficient than gas, oil, and other electrical systems that create heat. Despite this, the UK lags behind other countries because of our fixation with gas boilers.
This is about to change because the current Government is looking to consign gas boilers to the annals of history. To help with this transition, the Government has offered incentives to help the public move away from gas boilers..
Heat pumps are not a cheaper alternative to gas boilers. The typical cost of a gas boiler will set you back between £1,500 and £2,500, depending on the size of the boiler. You won’t get much change from £3,500 after you factor in the installation, but these costs are tiny when compared to heat pumps.
Heat pumps start at about £9,000 but can cost as much as £25,000, depending on the type of pump, system requirements and size of your home.
Maybe now we can see why gas boilers are so popular in the UK. However, with recent fuel price hikes, that popularity is waning. The government will soon offer £5,000 grants to help with purchasing and installing a heat pump, but it still doesn’t match the price of a gas boiler.
As technology improves and the take-up increases, the price is sure to drop, but that takes time. Weaning the British public off their reliance on gas is not going to be easy.
Essentially, there are three types of heat pump: air source, water source and ground source. Which you choose depends on many factors.
Air source heat pumps are the most popular because they are easier to install and involve minimal disruption to you and your home.
They extract air from the outside and pump it through liquid refrigerant and a compressor to deliver heat inside your home. Air source heat pumps are probably the most accessible in terms of cost, making them the obvious choice when gas boilers are phased out.
Water source heat pumps create heat by either drawing water through the system or a series of coils laid under the water. These coils are filled with a special refrigerant liquid that draws heat from the water.
Water source heat pumps are between 300% and 600% efficient. So, for every pound you spend generating heat, the system returns £3 to £6 in efficiency savings. When you compare that to the average modern gas boiler at 95%, you can see why heat pumps are better for the environment and your wallet.
Now for the elephant in the room. Not everyone lives near a body of water, making water source heat pumps a niche way to heat homes.
Ground source heat pumps operate on the same principle as water-based heating systems by using the planet’s natural resources to extract heat. So, how do they work exactly?
A series of coils filled with a liquid refrigerant (usually antifreeze and water) are laid under the ground just below the frost line. The temperature below the frost line (about four to six feet down depending on where you live) stays at a constant 50 degrees Fahrenheit in northern latitudes and 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the south.
These coils are laid either vertically or horizontally, depending on the geology and exterior space you have available.
The advantage of ground source heat pumps (commonly known as geothermal heating) is they are green, cheap to run and as efficient as water source heat pumps. Also, the heat source will never expire as long as the world keeps turning.
The downside with ground source heat pumps is the cost. An entire system can cost between £15,000 and £25,000, which puts it well out of the reach of most people. You also need a decent-sized garden because the coils take up a lot of space when laid horizontally.
The other issue with this form of heating is the suitability of your garden. Before geothermal heat pumps are installed, a thorough geological survey is needed to establish the feasibility of the ground conditions.
Granite beneath your feet will seriously ramp up the costs because you will need specialist equipment to bore down into the rock.
Heat pumps are entirely safe because they don’t use combustion to heat your home. Compare this to a gas boiler which uses combustion, and you can see why they are safe. Also, when you consider that gas boilers create carbon monoxide, a heat pump is a much safer option.
Heat pumps have fewer moving or mechanical parts compared to gas boilers, so they are less likely to break down. This makes them easier to maintain and manage.
Aside from efficiency savings, swapping gas for a heat pump means you spend on average about £500 less heating your home annually. With the increase in gas prices (and the likely upward trend for the longer term), you could see the savings increase further.
Given that air source heat pumps typically last 15 years with the right amount of maintenance and servicing, a £500 annual saving equates to £7,500 over the lifespan of your heat pump. Working on the basis that a heat pump will cost around £12,000, it should pay for itself if you factor in the £5,000 Government grant.
Water and ground source heat pumps can last for between 30 and 50 years, which means you are sure to get your money back in energy savings and reduced fuel costs.
These kinds of savings make installing a heat pump a wise move. Not only does it save you money, but it also helps the planet. It’s a win, win for you and Mother Nature.
The Government estimates that the number of qualified heat pump installers in the UK is between 3,000 and 4,000, but the industry widely disputes those statistics. According to Professional Heating and Plumbing Installer magazine (sounds like a fun read), there are only 600 qualified and accredited heat pump installers in the UK.
Whatever the correct numbers, there is a bottleneck coming down the line, where demand will outstrip supply, putting strain on prices, materials, and timescales. When that happens, typically, prices will rise in the short term.
So, you might be waiting for a long time before you can switch from gas to a heat pump.
A heat pump will add value to your home because of the energy savings and fuel efficiency of the system. The new owners will reap the benefits annually when they start paying their fuel bills.
Air source heat pumps add the least value, although they still have a positive effect on the house price compared to gas boilers. Water source and ground source heat pumps add the most value because they are efficient and considered to be the greenest type of domestic heating.
Keep In Mind: Ground and water source heat pumps may add the most value, but they also cost several times the amount of a gas boiler.
A house with geothermal heating removes the uncertainty about fluctuating fossil fuel prices, which gas-heated homes still rely on. It puts you in control and keeps your energy bills at a sustainable level.