Energy efficiency and sustainability more important to homeowners but cost concerns remain

The growing emphasis on sustainable living is evident among homeowners today. However, deciphering the best route to achieve it often hinges on the expertise of leaders in the sector. Chris Grant, CEO of Agent Green, a premier provider of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), sheds light on the latest trends and challenges in property sustainability.

Recent data from “The Natwest Greener Homes Attitude Tracker”, conducted alongside S&P Global, has unveiled that 40% of aspiring homeowners regard an EPC as pivotal when purchasing a home. This is a notable increase from 39% in the previous quarter.

Highlighting the increasing demand for green homes, Chris Grant of Agent Green asserts, “The EPC is not just a certificate; it’s a reflection of a home’s eco-friendliness and energy efficiency. Our commitment at Agent Green is to guide homeowners through their green journey, starting with understanding their EPC.”

The survey further revealed that an encouraging 66% of homeowners plan on retrofitting their homes for enhanced sustainability in the coming decade, a rise from the prior 63%.

Still, there are challenges to address. A significant 20% of homeowners currently have no green renovation plans for the next decade, while 14% are undecided. Disruption concerns and financial implications stand as primary barriers.

“Financing green modifications is a genuine concern,” observes Grant. “For instance, the integrated cost of green installations, from heat pumps to solar panels, can average around £34,500. But with companies like Agent Green, homeowners can gain valuable insights into managing costs and maximizing their return on investment.”

Lloyd Cochrane of Natwest commented on the growing need for sustainable solutions, emphasizing the role of industry experts like EPC Choice in guiding homeowners. He mentioned, “The goal is to make sustainable living choices more attainable for UK homeowners. This is where experts at Agent Green excel, by offering both advice and solutions.”

In conclusion, as the demand for sustainable homes continues to surge, homeowners can rely on industry leaders like EPC Choice to navigate their green transition seamlessly.

What You Need to Know About the New Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards

When the Energy Act 2011 was passed, it brought the first introduction of the concept of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES). Then in 2017, the government published new guidelines that are to come into force in April 2018. These guidelines now make it a legal requirement for rental properties to be in line with these new energy standards – those that aren’t, will not be eligible to be let.

It’s vital that all landlords know that MEES will initially apply to all new commercial leases and lease renewals when it comes into force in April next year. It will then apply to all existing leases on private residential property in April 2020 and then to existing commercial leases in April 2023.

Using the Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) as the standard for MEES, those properties that are rated as an F or a G would be considered as sub-standard and therefore not eligible to be let. The Local Authority will be responsible for imposing this penalty and fines.

It is estimated that as many as 18% of commercial properties and up to 10% of residential properties currently meet the EPC rating of F or G. These properties will be classed as non-compliant. In the first 3 months of non-compliance, fines of 10% of the rateable value of commercial properties with a minimum of £5000 and a maximum of £50,000 and £2000 for domestic properties.

If the breach of regulations continues for more than 3 months, there will be fines calculated from the rateable value of the commercial properties with £10,000 being the minimum fine and £150,000 maximum and £4000 for domestic properties.

There will also be an exemption register used where all landlords who breach the MEES regulations will have the breach published for 12 months minimum.

Check the accuracy of your EPC rating

With up to 70% of ratings estimated to be incorrect, it’s of primary importance that you check the accuracy of your property’s rating. This discrepancy in rating accuracy is down to the quality of assessments and how they are undertaken. EPCs are currently valid for ten years. If you have had any changes made to your property, then this could reflect either positively or negatively on your rating.

What happens when properties don’t make the grade?

The property will not legally be able to be let with a sub-standard rating, and it could also make it difficult to sell it without an upgrade. The value of the property would also be impacted by a low EPC rating.

Are exemptions available?

There is the possibility for exemption in some cases such as listed and/or historic buildings and those in conservation areas. However, granting these exemptions are not automatic and the criteria for doing so are strict. Other exemptions include:

  • If the market value of a property would be reduced by more than 5% after making the energy efficiency improvements
  • If the improvements will not pay for themselves after 7 years of energy saving, and are therefore considered to be financially unviable.
  • Churches or other buildings used as a place of worship.
  • Detached buildings with floor space that is under 50 sqm.
  • Temporary buildings that will be used for 2 years or less.

All exemptions will need to be added to the PRS Exemption Register held by central government before 1 April 2018 and last for 5 years but cannot be transferred to a new landlord.

With deadlines looming, it’s time for landlords to ensure the accuracy of their EPC rating and to take steps to improve it if necessary.

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) Rating

Since 2008 Landlord have had a legal requirement to provide Tenants with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), you will also have seen the rating now shown in property adverts. EPCs are produced by Accredited Domestic Energy Assessors (DEA) who will be governed by one of 6 Accreditation Bodies.

In this article, we cover what a DEA is looking for in any property assessment so that you can ensure that you attain the best possible EPC rating for your property.

The primary elements that the DEA will be looking for during an EPC survey are:

  • How and when the property was constructed
  • Your heating system and controls
  • How the water is heated
  • How well the property is insulated
  • The ventilation systems for the property
  • The lighting of the property

It’s the role of the DEA to collect data about these features which will then be fed into software to generate the EPC rating certificate. The procedure used to calculate the results is known as the Reduced Data Standard Assessment Procedure (RdSAP) which is a minimised version of the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP).

Here are 7 easy ways to improve your EPC rating in preparation for your EPC inspection:

Ensure access

It’s vital that your assessor can gain access to all parts of your property for inspection. You don’t want them making assumptions, as this could result in a downgraded EPC rating. For example, if your assessor cannot enter the loft area to confirm that you have insulation, he will need to assume that you don’t. It is also the same with the hot water cylinder insulation. If he cannot see it for himself, he is going to presume the worst case scenario .

Make your documentation available

If you have had any conversions or major changes made since 1996, then it’s important that the assessor can see the relevant building regulations sign off documents. If he cannot, then he will defer to using the construction date of the main building, which will produce a lower EPC rating for your certificate.

Insulation of your water tank

Most nearer hot water cylinders will have 25mm of foam insulation. However adding an additional jacket will add as many as 2-3 points to your EPC  rating. Cylinder Jackets are an inexpensive way to achieve this and you will do no harm in doubling up on jackets if you want to go that extra mile.

Remove portable heaters

If the assessor discovers any portable electric or propane heaters during the EPC inspection, then this will be considered as a secondary heating method. This will most likely mean a lowered rating for your EPC as secondary heating is a less efficient means of heating than the primary heat source. By removing these heaters, then the Assessor will only consider the primary heating method.

Swap out coal for wood

If you use a fireplace, the DEA will assume that whatever fuel they see is the one you use in your fire place. Coal as a fuel will produce a lower EPC rating than wood, so we recommend that you remove your coal shuttle and add a wood basket.

Block unused flues

Open flues in a property will produce a lower EPC rating. Flues allow heat to rise out of your property, so it’s advisable that you block off any flues that are not in operation. The Assessor will need to see that the blockage looks permanent, so avoid just stuffing your flue with old newspaper.

Lighting requirements

Wherever possible change your light bulbs to Low Energy fittings. Your target should 70-80 % LE bulbs throughout your house. Remember, Low Energy is different to Low Voltage so 12v Halogen bulbs are NOT low energy. Achieving that target 80% will add a valuable SAP Point to most houses.

Next steps

If you are looking at spending more money or taking greater steps there are other ways to help your EPC rating which include increasing your loft insulation, replacing your boiler with a band A boiler and filling your cavity walls.

Agent Green are the UKs leading provider of Energy Performance Certificates for Landlords.