How much energy does your home use? Is it energy efficient? Are you eligible for certain benefit owing to a greener lifestyle?
These are the sorts of questions an energy performance certificate, or EPC, is there to answer.
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What is an Energy Performance Certificate?
By law, all buildings that have been newly built, sold or rented out need an Energy Performance Certificate.
Likewise, if you're buying or renting a property, you need to make sure you look at the Energy Performance Certificate.
The EPC, which is valid for 10 years, will give you an idea of how expensive the property will be to run, in terms of your gas and electricity bills.
It's good to know as much as possible about your new home's energy efficiency before you move in - it will give you a good idea the amount of money you might need to spend on the house in future, whether it's on energy-efficient measures or on your energy bills.
What info is in an Energy Performance Certificate?
Energy Performance Certificates look similar to the EU Energy Labels you see on electrical appliances, such as fridges and washing machines.
Essentially, Energy Performance Certificates are a list of statistics about the energy efficiency of your home. They also have recommendations on where you could make improvements.
EPCs carry ratings on energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. Two readings are given - one states the level of efficiency that your home is currently achieving, the other suggests what level of efficiency your home could be achieving if you were to put energy-efficient measures in place.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): how does it work?
To simplify things the EPC is done on a sliding rating scale providing summarised 'at a glance' information about the energy efficiency of your home. The rating scale is colour coded and alphabetised, running from A to G:
A (Dark green) is highly efficient
G (Red) is low efficiency
Most homes appear around grade D, this is the average.
What other information does the certificate contain?
While EPCs are known by the rating scale, and the relative financial implications of that scale when it comes to selling your home, it also contains plenty of other information designed to help you make your home 'greener'. This information includes:
estimates of the energy your property potentially uses;
carbon dioxide emissions;
details of the person who carried out the assessment;
who to contact for complaints.
Using this information you can assess the impact of energy-saving upgrades you make when you have your home reassessed later on. These estimates will also influence your eligibility for support and payments, including the 'Feed-in Tariff' payments.
What if you're selling your property?
The recommendations are only a guide, so there are no legal obligations to make the changes that the report recommends. If you do make the changes, you will improve your home's energy rating and therefore make the property more attractive to buyers.
Bear in mind that a better energy performance rating is likely to appeal to prospective buyers. Not only does this show your home is cheaper to run than a house of comparable size with a higher rating, but in an era of rising energy prices this is likely to have a greater and greater impact.
What's more most savvy buyers will know the financial implications of buying a home with a lower EPC rating. In future it's possible that taxes and benefits will be increasingly tied to a home's EPC, making the cost of reducing the carbon emissions of a home a cost factor that should be considered when buying.
How do I get an Energy Performance Certificate?
If you're a landlord or a property owner you need to contact an accredited domestic energy assessor to assess your property and produce a certificate.
If you are working with an estate agent to rent your property out or sell it, they may already employ a domestic energy assessor. Otherwise they may be able to recommend one to you.
Which buildings need an EPC?
Almost all homes need and EPC, but that technical definition is that a building requires an EPC if it uses heating or air-conditioning. By definition, it uses energy to 'condition an indoor climate' i.e. between a roof and walls.
Every part of a building, or extension to a building that uses its own internal heating system will need an EPC.
I'm installing solar panels - do I need an Energy Performance Certificate?
From the 1st April 2012, you'll also need an EPC of band D or higher if you want to have solar panels installed in your home and receive the standard rate from the Feed-in Tariff.
If your property is below band D when you first apply for the Feed-in Tariff you will receive a lower rate, which will remain even if you improve your home's energy performance at a later date.
As the Feed-in Tariff rate is a crucial component in assessing the earning potential of your solar panels it is also crucial to have your home assessed first. Should you have a lower rating it may make more financial sense to improve your home in other ways first, such as installing insulation.
If you're interested in buying solar panels or want to find out if you qualify for free solar power, click through to our guide.