Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are an essential part of buying, selling and renting homes. But what is an EPC rating? In this article, we explore what an EPC rating does, before going through the EPC step by step.
What does an EPC rating do?
In short, an EPC rating is a review of a property’s energy efficiency. They’re primarily used by would-be buyers or renters to quickly see how much their energy bills will cost in their new house or flat.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, EPCs are carried out by EPC assessors or ‘Domestic Energy Assessors’ (in Scotland, they must be government-approved organisations). The EPC assessor will carry out a brief survey of your home before producing the EPC. The house is then placed on a colour-coded scale from A to G, A being the most efficient with the cheapest fuel bills.
Your house’s EPC rating will depend on:
- The amount of energy used per m²
- The level of carbon dioxide emissions (given in tonnes per year)
Once issued, the EPC will be valid for 10 years – if your EPC is older than this, you’ll need to get a new EPC issued before you can sell or rent your house.
Anyone can access a house’s EPC online for free via the EPC register, so they come in handy when comparing potential future homes on paper. It’s the responsibility of the house seller or landlord to provide a valid EPC – the prospective buyers shouldn’t have to pay anything.
But there’s a bit more to it than that. EPCs are also a useful tool for homeowners to improve the efficiency, running cost and thus the overall comfort of their home.
The importance of a high EPC rating
Apart from listed buildings, every house needs to have a valid EPC before it can be sold. The EPC rating makes for a much easier comparison between houses, particularly when potential buyers are forced to make a tough call between several homes. Even at a glance, almost anyone would opt for the high-scoring, A-rated, green property over the low scoring, G-rated, red one.
If the latter is the case for your home, don’t worry; the EPC provides a step-by-step guide to turn it into an energy-efficient house. So, improving the energy efficiency of your home now will stand you in good stead when it comes to selling.
Once you’ve made the improvements, it’s a good idea to have a new survey done to reflect these changes and improve your EPC rating.
EPCs are also essential for claiming from government incentives, such as the Feed-in Tariff (FiT – your home must have an EPC rating of the yellow band D or above to claim), and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Once you’ve found the EPC for your current or prospective house (you can find it via the EPC register here), we’ll now talk you through what it all means. The EPC used in this example is of a 3-bedroom new build house.
Estimated Energy Costs
The first section highlights the house’s estimated cost of energy, which is divided into 3 categories: lighting, heating, and hot water. These figures are based on energy prices at the time the EPC was issued. Since the cost of energy is changing, don’t be surprised if you end up paying more than what was estimated on the EPC. Also, these running costs don’t take extra appliances into account, such as computers and TVs.
Energy Efficiency Rating
Next, the house is rated on the all-important ‘energy efficiency’ scale, just like you see on the back of modern appliances. This scale spans from A to G, A being the most efficient, and G the worst. The higher the efficiency, the lower the running costs.
Alongside the current energy efficiency rating of the house is a ‘potential rating’, which indicates how efficient the house could be if the suggested improvements are installed (there’s more on this later).
Top actions you can take
This section is most suited to homeowners looking to do some home improvements. Here the EPC assessor recommends the energy efficiency measures to take, how much they would cost to install, the savings over 3 years, and whether they’re available under the Green Deal initiative. The improvements suggested here are usually the easiest and quickest to implement, but they have a large impact on your EPC rating. Since the example of an EPC is of a new build, most of its energy efficiency measures were covered during installation in order to meet with modern Building Regulations.
Summary of a house’s features
This section breaks down the various elements of the building, for instance the walls, windows, floors, heating etc, before describing its type and energy efficiency rating.
For elements that are difficult to tell the energy efficiency, the EPC assessor will make an informed estimate. This is usually based on the age of the house. You’ll be able to tell where this is the case because you’ll see “(assumed)” written in that element’s description.
An example of where an EPC assessor will do this is with wall insulation. It’s difficult to know how energy efficient the walls of your house are without taking a sledgehammer to one of them. That’s why EPC assessors base their calculation on the age of the house, and the requirements of Building Regulations of that time.
Low and zero carbon energy sources
Your home’s heating demand
The table indicates how much heating will be required (kWh per year) in the form of space heating and hot water. If you’re living in a poorly insulated house (don’t worry, most people in the UK are), the table gives an estimate of how much this heat demand will reduce by adding the recommended measures.
These figures are also used in the calculation for the Renewable Heat Incentive.
Going into more detail from the ‘top actions you can take’, this section’s recommendations are cumulative. This effectively serves as a step-by-step guide to take your home’s EPC rating from red to green. Along with estimated costs, the EPC calculates how much could be saved per year, and the effect that measure would have on the overall EPC rating. You can find out more about this in the article ‘how to improve your EPC rating‘.
The environmental impact of buildings
Lastly, after a short section about the EPC assessor and the certificate, the final paragraph gives a (rather troubling) estimate of how much carbon dioxide is produced by your home. This is followed by the reduced estimate once the aforementioned improvements are put in place.