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Guide to Energy Performance Certificates and how to get one

By Matt Mostyn Friday 02 October 2020

You’re likely already familiar with those colour-coded energy labels we see nowadays on electrical appliances like fridges, freezers and washing machines. As you probably know, they give you a good idea of how efficient your appliance is. Well an energy performance certificate (or EPC) does exactly the same thing for your property.
Energy performance certificate
This guide is intended to provide general guidance only. It is not intended to give you advice on your personal financial circumstances. You should seek independent professional advice if you’re unsure about anything mentioned in this guide or what choices to make.

In this article, we’ll cover what an EPC rating does and why it’s important to have one – and we’ll guide you through the other ins and outs, step by step. Read on to find out everything you need to know about these energy rating systems for homes and commercial buildings.

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What’s an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?

Essentially, an EPC shows how energy-efficient your property is. Which is a handy thing to know when you’re hoping to reduce your energy wastage, lower your carbon emissions, cut your bills and help save the planet

So what exactly does it cover? 

An energy performance certificate gives information on the following: 

  • Your property’s energy use 

  • Its carbon dioxide emissions

  • How much energy it uses

  • Whether it’s energy-efficient

  • How much carbon it generates

  • Ways to reduce its energy use and save money

  • Whether your property is green enough to qualify for certain benefits

For the overall EPC rating, every property is given a colour-coded letter from A to G, with A (colour coded green, for obvious reasons!) being the most efficient, and having the cheapest fuel bills. G, on the other hand, (coded red) is the least efficient.

  • A is dark green. An A rating of between 92 and 100 points means the property is extremely energy efficient and will have low running costs.
  • G is red. It represents a rating of 1 – 20 points and suggests that the property is not at all energy efficient, so its running costs will be high.

Most homes will fall somewhere in between (probably D, which has a value of 55 – 68 points). 

Only brand-new eco-homes are likely to achieve a dark green A rating.

Any building that’s newly built (or about to be sold or rented) will need an EPC if it uses any kind of heating or air conditioning.

Energy performance certificates aren’t just essential for private homes. They apply to most buildings – so you’ll also need a commercial energy performance certificate if you’re building, letting or selling business premises. 

Why it’s so important to get an EPC

There are a fair few reasons why it’s important to get an energy performance certificate, if you don’t already have one. 

Firstly, many would-be buyers and renters use EPCs to see how much their energy bills will cost in their new home. For that reason and more, every house needs to have a valid EPC before it can be sold. In fact, under current law, you can’t sell or rent your home unless you can give buyers/tenants an up-to-date energy performance certificate.

Once issued, it’s valid for 10 years, and information on each and every one is  stored on the national EPC register. That lets any potential buyer/renter do quick and easy comparisons on their potential future home. Clearly, the better your rating, the more attractive your home – and if your rating’s not as good as it could be, it gives you a chance to make some improvements.

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How to get an energy performance certificate

To get an EPC, make a booking with a qualified domestic-energy assessor. They’ll come and check your property and then issue the energy performance certificate. 

If you’re using an estate agent or property management company, they could already have a domestic energy assessor they can recommend. They may even have one on their staff.

If not, to find an assessor near you, visit:

What energy assessors do

During the visit, your domestic-energy assessor will do the following:

  • Measure your home

  • Look at how it’s built

  • Check how it’s heated

  • Check whether/how it’s insulated

  • Take photographs of everything related to this (only for the assessment, they won’t be available to the public)

They’ll then use this data (along with building regulations from the date the house was built) to produce their report.

Don’t worry about any lasting impact from the visit. The assessor won’t need to do any tests such as drilling into your walls etc. If they need to check that you have cavity wall insulation, they’ll simply look for the drill holes, or ask to see your certificate or guarantee for the work.

Most EPC surveys take between 30 and 45 minutes.

How to improve your EPC rating: 6 easy steps

If your energy performance rating leaves a little to be desired, fear not! There are all kinds of ways you can improve it. And once you’ve done that, your home won’t just be warmer and more cosy over winter. You’ll likely bring down your bills, lower your carbon emissions (for a happier planet) and improve the value of your property as well.

Here are some of the ways you can help improve your score:

  • Energy-efficient windows and doors: if your windows and doors are draughty, insulating or replacing them will not only improve your home's rating, it can reduce noise, save money on heating bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Loft insulation: insulate your loft and you’ll slow down the transfer of heat between your living space and the outside world. That means a warmer home in winter and a cooler one in summer. Better yet, it’s easy to fit, cheap to do, and it will help bring down the cost of your bills.

  • Cavity wall insulation: for a cost-effective way to keep heat in your home and save money on your energy bills, filling your cavity walls with insulation could be a very good idea. In fact, cavity insulation could save you up to £160 a year in heating bills! And yes, it could also help improve your EPC rating.

  • Solid wall insulation: solid walls let twice as much heat escape as cavity walls. Which is not good news for your rating, your bills and the environment. Solid wall insulation may cost more, but it’s worth remembering that the savings on your heating bills will be bigger – as will the impact on your EPC rating.

  • Boiler replacement: boilers become more costly to run as they age. A new, more efficient one can shrink your energy bills by as much as £315 a year. It’ll also help improve your EPC rating – and polish your halo, because you’ll also be closer to that zero-carbon milestone!

  • The Green Homes Grant: announced by the government in July 2020, the Green Homes Grant scheme gives homeowners and landlords up to £5,000 in vouchers for energy-saving renovations. Doing the work to make these kinds of energy-saving improvements will have a positive impact on your score – and best of all, it’s now cheaper than ever to do, thanks to this brilliant new scheme.

On top of all that, our assorted blogs and articles reveal plenty of other clever ways you can improve your home's energy performance. From ways to be more efficient with heating and hot water to 120 quick and easy energy-saving tips, get some insights and inspiration to help you boost performance, cut costs and reduce waste.

Low and zero carbon energy sources

low carbon heating options

 If you’re looking for other smart ways to boost your rating, low and zero carbon energy sources are other great options to consider. And they’ll also help to lower your anxiety levels when you hear that dull thud of a utility bill crashing through your letterbox!

Air source heat pumps are just one example. They take energy from the air outside (yes, even in the depths of winter) and convert it into heat for your home. They’re not only very efficient – running well without wasting much energy – but they also produce fewer carbon emissions than most boiler systems. And that helps your home waste less energy, and your heating costs cause less of a fright.

A ground source heat pump system is another smart energy-saver. It absorbs heat from the ground (using pipes buried in your garden) and transports it into your home. A well installed ground source heat pump can be 300-400% more efficient in terms of its use of electricity. And it’ll also massively reduce your carbon footprint, and help make you a carbon-kicking legend!

Next up – storage heaters. They’re much cheaper to run compared to other forms of ‘peak-hour’ electrical heating systems. That’s because they’re better able to precisely control your heating, so you waste less of the stuff! And considering that 15% of the UK's carbon emissions come from heating our homes, that can only be a good thing for your home energy performance.

Finally, solar panels are fast becoming the cheapest source of energy globally – and your home could have one too. Typically, the more electricity a solar system can generate, the more it costs. Bigger systems will help no end when it comes to cutting emissions, helping lower air pollution and reducing your home’s carbon footprint.

What is the EPC register?

The EPC register is the government's online database. It lists every EPC in the UK – making it easy to search for any home’s energy performance certificate. All you have to do is enter your postcode to view a detailed report. The report covers estimated energy costs, the property’s overall energy efficiency rating and things that can be done to improve that rating. Handy eh!

How long does an Energy Performance Certificate last?

EPCs were introduced in England and Wales in 2007, and they’re usually valid for 10 years. If you’re not sure whether you have one – or whether it’s still valid – you can use the EPC register's postcode checker to find out.

How much do EPCs cost?

Energy Performance Certificates can cost anywhere up to £120 (though the price can be much lower). Shop around to get the best deal – which you’ll often find by going direct to a domestic energy assessor, rather than via an estate agent.

Other things to consider when evaluating an EPC Rating

EPC Rating

Do I need an EPC for a commercial property?

You’ll generally need a Commercial EPC if you’re selling, renting or building commercial property. You might need multiple EPCs if your building is split into separate areas – for instance if they’re set up for multiple tenancies.

There are some circumstances where EPCs aren’t needed – for instance in:

  • Places of worship

  • Temporary buildings with a planned time of use less than two years

  • Standalone ‘non-dwelling’ type buildings with a total useful floor area of less than 50m2

  • Industrial sites, workshops and non-residential agricultural buildings with low energy demand

  • On sale/rent for buildings due to be demolished

For a full list of exemptions, visit the gov.co.uk guidelines.

Can you get an EPC online?

You can only book an EPC assessment online. To get the actual certificate, you’ll need to have an in-person survey of your home done by an accredited domestic energy assessor. 

Can you fail an EPC?

There’s no pass or fail with an EPC. Instead, it ranks your property on a scale of A to G. Having said that, if you’re renting your home, you’ll need a minimum rating of E for both new and existing new tenancies. 

Can you let a property with an EPC rating of F?

Unfortunately not. Any rating below E means you’ll need to carry out any recommended works, up to a cost of £3,500 (inclusive of VAT).

Will I always need an EPC?

If your property’s listed, protected or in a conservation area, any energy-efficient improvements could unacceptably alter the appearance of the property. In those circumstances you could be exempt from needing an EPC. If you’re unsure, it’s best to check with your local authority’s conservation officer. 

How often do you need an EPC certificate?

EPCs are valid for 10 years, and they can be re-used multiple times during this period – even if they were done by a previous owner.

What if I have a question about my EPC?

If you have any questions, contact the energy assessor who carried out the report. If they can’t help, you can also try the accreditation scheme listed on the EPC.

I’ve got solar panels – do I need an Energy Performance Certificate to get a Feed-In Tariff?

If you want to get the standard rate from the Feed-In Tariff, you’ll need to get an EPC and have a rating of between A and D. 

If your home has a rating between E and G, you’ll get a lower rate tariff.

Your tariff is calculated on your home’s rating when you first apply. It won’t make any difference if you make improvements and get a better EPC rating later on. For that reason, it makes sense to get an Energy Performance Certificate, carry out the suggested improvements and get a second assessment before you apply for your Feed-In Tariff.

How can I make improvements to make sure I get a good rating in my Energy Performance Certificate?

Think about doing things like insulating your roof and walls, improving your heating system and insulating or replacing your windows and doors. You could also look at:

  • Cavity wall insulation, which could save you up to £160 a year in heating bills

  • Replacing a boiler that’s more than 15 years old with a new A-rated condensing boiler. Check out our guide on how to improve your boiler efficiency

  • Slip an insulating jacket on your hot water tank – you could save around £35 a year

See our full energy saving guide for more details.

I’m selling my home, and the Energy Performance Certificate has recommended energy-saving improvements. Do I have to make them?

No – there’s no obligation to carry out the changes suggested in the report. However, if you did make the improvements, you would probably improve your home’s energy rating – and reduce its running costs – This could make it more attractive to potential buyers.

When you’re selling in a very competitive market, anything that gives your home an edge over other properties could help you sell it faster or even achieve a better price. Energy prices are unlikely to go down, so lower running costs and more efficiency should be appealing to buyers.

Future governments may introduce tax benefits and allowances for homeowners who can show that their homes use less energy, so this might also make your home more attractive to far-sighted purchasers.

How do I apply for an Energy Performance Certificate?

You need to get in touch with a qualified domestic-energy assessor who will come and check your property and issue its Energy Performance Certificate. If you’re using an estate agent or property management company, they may already have a domestic energy assessor who they can recommend. They may even have one on their staff.

If not, to find an assessor near you, visit:

Are there any buildings that don’t need an Energy Performance Certificate?

There are a few, such as:

  • Temporary buildings that will be used for less than two years
  • Some listed buildings
  • Holiday homes that are let for less than four months each year

Visit this page for a complete list.

Can I get an Energy Performance Certificate for my home even if I’m not planning to sell or let it?

Yes – it’s an excellent way to check up on your home’s energy efficiency and find out how you could improve it. You can then carry out the suggestions, to make your home not only more cosy to live in but also cheaper to run.

Are you paying too much for your energy? See whether you could save by switching to OVO. Check out our green energy plans to find the right one for you.

 

Sources:

https://www.uswitch.com/solar-panels/guides/energy-performance-certificate/ https://www.gov.uk/buy-sell-your-home/energy-performance-certificates

http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Built-Environment/Building/Building- standards/enerperfor/epcorgprg

http://forum.housingenergyadvisor.com/energy-assessments/what-does-an-epc-involve- t1676.html

http://www.epccompare.com/how__much__does__an__epc__cost_

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