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Over the last few years we have seen a major move towards environmentally friendly energy efficiency in the home. While initially there was some resistance to this move, recent developments and research has seen more people consider how energy-efficient their home is and how they may be able to improve it. So, whether buying or renting a property, how can you make your home more efficient? What are the legal obligations?
What does an energy chart look like?
You will no doubt have seen at least one of the diagrams which rank energy efficiency and the environmental impact of the property. The chart is commonly referred to as an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) just in case you see this reference anywhere. These charts are legal obligations when selling a property or renting and those ignoring the laws can get in serious trouble. The colour codes on the diagrams are fairly simple, red is the worst ranking up to green (green friendly) and with regards to with the environmental impact, it starts out a dark grey colour and works up to a light blue when you tick all of the boxes. It is worth making yourself familiar with these charts because you will see them more and more going forward.
Ask to see the energy charts
Whether buying a property or renting a property, make sure that you ask to see the energy charts. This would prove that the vendor/landlord is serious and abides by the various regulations. Think of it this way, if a vendor/landlord is willing to cut corners on something as important as energy efficiency and their legal obligations, what else might they cut corners on? Also, if a property is inefficient with regards to energy and not environmentally friendly it will be you who pays the cost in higher living expenses. Make sure you go into any purchase/rental arrangement with your eyes open.
What if the vendor doesn’t have an EPC?
As we touched on above, if the vendor’s not have an EPC then this should set alarm bells ringing. The UK government and their EU counterparts gave property owners/landlords, and property developers, more than enough notice of the introduction of the certificates. Ignorance is not an excuse when it comes to energy/environmental rankings and it does not reflect well on a vendor. The truth is that you will be the one who pays the price in higher fuel bills and if looking to sell a property in the future, there could be further consequences. There is no room for complacency!
What is the average home energy efficiency rating?
Scotland and Northern Ireland produce their own property data with England and Wales tending to work together. So, as you will see from the England/Wales example below this indicates the average energy performance rating and how an energy performance certificate looks. The average English/Welsh property has an energy efficiency rating of 60 which is just above the middle of the scale. While there is obviously a lot of room for improvement, this is a good start and can lead to significant lighting, heating and hot water savings on an annual basis.
Indeed, the estimated energy cost for a dwelling over three years is around £11,124 but even with an average energy efficiency rating, there is the potential to save more than £4200 per annum. Put this in perspective, this three-year saving would be more than enough for an overseas family holiday. It isn’t necessary difficult to make property more energy efficient and despite rumours to the contrary, is not necessarily expensive either.
How can I compare different EPCs for different properties?
It is all good and well printed figures, potential savings and estimates going forward, but how do you compare properties using their EPCs? Well, each EPC will give you an example of traditional energy use such as a computer, television, fridge, etc. This will allow you to compare and contrast different properties using these traditional use figures. It is always useful to see figures that you can relate to and understand immediately. There is no doubt that energy/environmentally efficient properties will be the “norm” going forwards therefore we will all need to recognise and understand these charts in the future.
We now take a look at some simple actions you can take to make your home more energy efficient: –
In the years ahead you will hear more about smart design properties which are built with maximum efficiency in mind.
Energy modelling software
Many new homes are now using energy modelling software during the build process to reach the ultimate goal of net zero energy. An interesting but not necessarily straightforward activity!
Many newbuilds are now sealed airtight although there is obviously controlled ventilation otherwise it would be a horrendous environment in which to live. You will also see significant focus on insulation to ensure minimal heat loss. Straightforward and very effective.
In years gone by solar panels were so expensive that it was not really cost efficient to use them. However, significant improvement in technology and a reduction in costs has been a game changer for the solar power industry. Very easy-to-use and the perfect way to generate free energy.
Phantom plug products
While there is a need to use electrical appliances as sparsely as possible, it can be very difficult to find that “phantom” plug load. This can have an impact upon energy waste figures and is something you need to consider.
Energy efficient lighting
Many modern homes are built in such a way as to draw in as much natural lighting as possible. We are seeing more and more use of energy-efficient lighting such as environmentally friendly bulbs where this is not possible.
When looking at energy efficiency and the impact on the environment from new and existing properties, the EPC should be your first port of call. It will give you an overview of the efficiency of each individual property and an idea of the scope for improvement going forward. As you can see from the examples above, issues such as solar power, energy-efficient lighting, super sealed/insulated properties and the use of energy modelling software make a huge difference. However, if a vendor/landlord does not have an EPC you need to ask why and question whether there may be other unwelcome surprises in store.