In the UK, properties are responsible for approximately 40% of the Nation’s carbon emissions. That’s because buildings usually require daily heating, cooling and lighting that uses a considerable amount of energy. To help understand this better and how improvements can be made, EPCs were introduced. But what is an EPC, are they mandatory and are they useful for the average homeowner?
What is an EPC rating?
EPC is short for Energy Performance Certificate. An EPC rating is an assessment of the energy efficiency and the environmental impact of a building. In the UK, you are required to have an EPC Rating when selling or renting a property. Only listed buildings are exempt. To get your rating, a qualified EPC Assessor carries out a brief survey of the building. Using the information gathered during the survey, a rating of 1 to 100 is issued based on the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP).
The rating is valid for 10 years and can be viewed online by anyone free of charge.
An EPC is a review of:
– Energy efficiency
– An estimation of annual fuel costs
– CO2 rating and environmental impact
– Recommendations for improvements
It’s an easy way to compare properties and have an idea about how much it will cost to run. Potential buyers or renters are given the information to help them decide if the property is right for them.
But the rating is also useful for homeowners who are not selling. It helps them understand how energy efficient their homes are and what improvements can be made to help lower bills and carbon dioxide emissions.
What are the EPC Rating Bands?
EPC ratings have been divided into bands to make it easy for everyone to make comparisons. There are 7 bands altogether ranging from A (the best rating) to G (the worst). The bands are colour coded, sliding from green for band A, through yellow and orange to red for band G. These coloured bands are the same as the ones displayed on new appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and ovens.
Properties that are rated higher up the bands are likely to be the cheapest to run, and those in the bottom band will cost more. The average home sits in band D.
How to improve your EPC Rating
The EPC Rating isn’t fixed, there are always ways to improve the energy performance of a property. Here are the top ways to lower the rating:
- Loft insulation is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve an EPC rating. The recommended depth of loft insulation used to be 10cm many years ago, but today, new energy-efficient properties are installing 30cm deep insulation when adequate ventilation allows. You can install loft insulation yourself, and it can be bought at local DIY centres.
- Cavity wall insulation is another way to stop your property from losing heat. This is a job for the professionals, and not all walls can have it installed but if it can be done it’s a great way to improve your EPC rating.
- Double or triple glazing is essential for insulating homes. Older glazing units are not as efficient as modern ones so if it’s been a while since the windows and doors in your home were updated, consider changing them. A lot of energy could be saved with newly installed double or triple glazing.
- To make a marked difference to both the energy performance and the carbon impact of your home, consider installing air source heating. This is an expensive investment to make, but the benefits are considerable. They can cut heating bills in half, and they only require servicing every 3 years or so. It costs around £10,000 to install a new air source heat pump, compared to roughly £3000 for a gas boiler, so you would need to crunch some numbers before deciding if it’s cost-effective.
- Solar water heaters are becoming more common and are efficient at using the free energy from the sun thus improving your EPC rating.
- Make sure that all the light bulbs in your home are LED. Not only do they use a lot less energy to light a space, but they also last as long as 20,000 hours meaning they don’t need changing very often.
Get the best out of your EPC rating
Armed with your EPC report, use the information to make some changes. It’s not only a tool for buyers and renters, it can be used to lower your energy bills and reduce your impact on the environment. By making alterations you can save yourself money on fuel bills, and make your home more desirable if you sell it in the future.
If you’re not ready to improve your EPC rating at the moment, make sure it’s in the front of your mind when you consider value-adding home improvements in years to come. For example, if you plan to extend your home in a year or two, think about installing triple glazing and look at adding solar panels if there is space. Every small improvement will help your EPC rating.
Diarmuid Hennessy is the Operations Manager of HomeCheck. Since 2016, they have been providing property survey services to homeowners throughout Ireland.