That's where Energy Performance Certificates, or EPCs, come in. Find out what info an EPC contains, how you can get one and how it can save you money.
The purpose of the EPC is to give you an indication of how much it will cost you to heat and light the property, and how much CO2 the property emits. In a similar way to the multi-coloured stickers you see on new domestic appliances tell you how energy efficient the appliance is, EPC ratings vary from "G" - the most inefficient rating indicated with a red colour - to "A", which means very efficient and shown as dark green.
You will also see a numerical score for the current and potential energy ratings of the property, along with recommendations from the assessor covering the areas in which improvements can be made. This could include everything from adding insulation to switching to energy-saving lightbulbs.
The idea behind an EPC is both to inform you of what you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your property, and hence save money, and also to show how attractive the property is from an energy perspective for potential buyers.
The better the rating, the lower the cost of running the property.
Not all EPCs look the same, but they should all be clear and easy to understand. The address at the top of the document should be correct, while elements such as Date of Assessment, Date of Certificate, Reference Number and Total Floor Area should all be fairly self-explanatory. The Type of Assessment field will show either SAP or RDSAP. These are the two types of assessment methodology - RDSAP stands for Reduced SAP and is a cheaper assessment method.
The next section indicates potential costs and potential savings based on the thermal coverage of the floor, walls and roof of the property. This is then extrapolated to produce the energy efficiency rating, which should be at the bottom of the report.
The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) came into force on 1 April 2018 and set new energy efficiency regulations for private rented properties throughout the UK. It is designed to highlight low standards of energy efficiency in properties in a bid to get landlords to take measures to raise them.
With the MEES in force, the lowest rating a privately rented property is allowed to achieve is an “E” - anything rated at “F” or “G” is not allowed to be rented out.
The landlord will be required to make these improvements to bring a property’s rating up to “E” but can only spend a maximum of £3,500. If the property cannot be improved to that point without spending more than £3,500, they will be able to apply for an exemption.
The EPC register both stores existing certificates and allows homeowners to find a registered domestic energy assessor to conduct a review of their property.
It also allows anyone having an energy performance review undertaken to check whether the inspector is properly accredited.
Once a property has a certificate, it is placed on the EPC register, where certificates can be easily retrieved. EPCs are valid for ten years.
If you don't want your Energy Performance Certificate to be accessible to others, you can opt out of the EPC register. To do so, contact the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, formerly known as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
EPCs can only be produced by accredited domestic energy assessors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland, Energy Performance Certificates can only be produced by organisations approved by the Scottish Government, while only chartered surveyors registered with RICS can produce energy reports.
If you need an Energy Performance Certificate for your home, you can visit the Landmark website to find a registered domestic assessor in your area.
You can also search through the EPC ratings of other properties in your area for free. This will help you compare your property’s rating to others in the area — all you need is the postcode.
A domestic energy assessor will visit the property and take into consideration a number of factors to determine how energy efficient your house is.
The assessor will need access to the entire property and will take photographs and measurements. Their checks will include:
The lighting used including how many low energy light bulbs are fitted in the property
The overall size of the property
The type of insulation used and how much it is used throughout the building
The heating systems located on the property including working fireplaces
The type of windows used throughout the house i.e single, double or triple-glazing.
While it depends on the size of the property, most domestic EPC assessments can take up to an hour on average.
As well as telling you what measures to undertake, new EPCs give far more detail on the potential cost of upgrading your heating, lighting and water.
It also tells you the savings you can make on your bills after you’ve made the upgrades, to give you a cost comparison.
You’ll also be able to see the total savings you could make on your property and the EPC rating you’ll receive after the upgrades.
Additionally, the MEES is good news for tenants because it should see energy costs become lower in the long run. With better insulation, more energy-efficient lighting and other measures taken to improve the energy efficiency of the property, you should end up paying less in energy costs.
It costs between £60 and £120 to get your property on the EPC register. Since costs vary, it is worth shopping around and comparing a few different quotes — as long as you make sure your assessor is registered.
You can often lower the cost of getting an Energy Performance Certificate by getting your assessment done directly rather than through an estate agent. You can find an assessor in your area by checking on the EPC register.
If you are looking to sell or rent your property then you absolutely need an Energy Performance Certificate.
However, even if you’re not intending on selling your property, getting an EPC is a cheap and quick way to assess the energy-saving potential of your property.
Bear in mind that a lot of newer properties may already have an Energy Performance Certificate, and may also be very energy-efficient.
Prospective landlords looking to rent their property must also have an EPC available for tenants to view. If they fail to produce one, they could face a fine.
The only other situation where you need an Energy Performance Certificate is if you are looking to receive payments under the Feed-in Tariff scheme for solar panels. Your property must have an EPC rating of ‘D’ or higher to be eligible for Feed-in Tariff payments at the standard rate.
If you’re looking to sell a property you will need to order an Energy Performance Certificate before you market the property to sell. As the property owner, you are responsible for obtaining an EPC for potential buyers.
By law, landlords and letting agents are responsible for providing an Energy Performance Certificate for any properties they put up for rent.
If you are renting a property, you are not required to order an EPC. However, you should ask the agent or landlord to show you a valid EPC before you sign a tenancy agreement.
If you weren’t aware of this and have already moved into a rental property, you can still ask your letting agent or landlord to see the property's EPC. If they fail to produce a valid EPC, you can make a complaint to your local Trading Standards office. If your landlord or letting agent fails to obtain an Energy Performance Certificate, they may face a fine.
While most buildings are legally required to have an EPC, there are exemptions. These include:
Some listed buildings where certain minimum energy performance requirements would unacceptably alter their character or appearance
Some buildings in conservation areas
Places of worship
Holiday properties that are rented out less than four months per year
Some buildings that are scheduled to be demolished
Residential properties that are intended to be used for less than four months a year
Buildings that stand alone with less than 50 square metres of floor space
Temporary buildings that will only be used up to two years.
For the full list of exempt buildings see the government’s dedicated EPC site.
It's in your interests, whether selling or buying, to increase the EPC rating of your property as much as possible, and the only way to do that is to improve the energy efficiency of your home.
Simple steps like ensuring you have adequate loft insulation installed, investigating whether cavity-wall insulation is suitable for your property, and installing draught-proofing measures around doors, windows, fireplaces and letterboxes, should be your first steps.
Read more in our simple guide to home insulation.
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