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EPCs: Getting energy information off the page and into your home

•  Certificates are needed – but not always understood
•  We explain the key points page by page
•  Thousands of pounds of savings possible by taking action

Whether it’s to buy or rent, if a home is on the market it needs an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). For homeowners, getting one is also a good starting point to make your place more energy efficient.

But in order to do that, you need to know what’s in the certificate – and how the information can lead to improvements around the house. Here, we take a closer look.

If you're looking for details on a particular page, you can jump to sections focusing on page one, page two, page three and page four of your EPC. It’s worth noting that not all EPCs look the same. In this guide, we are using a recent certificate as an example. Older certificates will have most of this information, although it may look a bit different and may be in a different order.

The basics

Energy Performance Certificate

Starting from the beginning; what exactly are EPCs for? Well, they’re useful for two main things.

Firstly, comparing properties to each other – something that can be very useful when looking to buy or rent a property. 

Then, understanding what improvements can be done, how much they will cost, and how much you can save. This can be useful when looking to improve your current property, or if you’re looking to buy and improve.

Improving a home not only lowers bills and increases comfort, it can also increase its value. Let’s move on to the certificate itself.

 

Page one

Current and potential energy costs

 

Energy Performance Certificate

The first page of your EPC starts with an estimate of the current and potential energy bills of the property. This is useful for knowing how much a new property will cost to run in energy bills, how much lower the running costs would be if the energy efficiency was improved. You should note – these costs are just for your heating, hot water and lighting. It doesn’t include any additional energy costs from your home appliances (such as the cost of running your fridge, oven, TV etc.), so in reality your energy bills will be a bit higher. However, the costs shown are really useful for comparing between properties, so you can see which building would be cheaper to run.

In this case, as you can see, the potential savings add up to nearly £4,000 over three years in this three bedroom semi-detached house. Changes well worth making, it would seem. 

Energy efficiency rating

 

Energy Performance Certificate

Staying on the first page, the next thing you’ll see looks a lot like the energy labels you get on home appliances – and it is. It’s a good, quick visual comparison of property performance. There is a current energy efficiency rating on every EPC, with A being the best. Some EPCs also have a similar chart for the environmental performance of the property.

It also shows the potential rating if all suggested improvements are carried out. In this example home there is the potential to jump from band F to B with energy efficiency upgrades. 

Top actions

 

Energy Performance Certificate

Here is the summary of energy efficiency actions that can be taken, with the savings attached to each. Page one sticks to the biggest priorities, but these and the rest will be covered in more detail on page three of the EPC.

 

Page two

Performance

 

Energy Performance Certificate

On the next page, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of each element of the property with a description and an energy rating from one to five stars (five’s the best). It’s here to help you understand the construction, heating and hot water system, and lighting of the property. This can be especially useful for comparing to other properties when you’re looking to buy or rent.

In the case of this property, it has an efficient heating system and some roof insulation, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. 

Low carbon energy

 

Energy Performance Certificate

If the property has low or zero-carbon energy technology they will be listed here. The above image shows a property with both solar water heating and solar PV for renewable electricity generation. Such technologies can save on energy bills and benefit from government incentives.

Heat demand

 

Energy Performance Certificate

This section looks at how much heat the property is expected to use, and how that will be reduced by improving the insulation

It might not look very useful, but for those considering renewable heating options, this section is used to calculate Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments.

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Page three

Improvements

 

Energy Performance Certificate

Now we arrive at perhaps the most important section of the EPC: the recommendations.

Numbers on a page are nothing without action on the back of them, and here you get a detailed breakdown of the recommended measures, costs, savings and how much each measure will improve the property’s energy efficiency rating. 

Not only that; they are shown in order of importance, and the energy efficiency improvements figures are based on doing the improvements in that order. Of course, you might not be able to do them all, or in the order listed, but it’s a good guide.

The number of recommended measures will vary, depending on which ones the property is applicable for. This home’s first priority is wall insulation, and if the homeowner is really committed to bringing the rating up to B, the checklist ends with the installation of solar PV panels.

Alternative measures

 

Energy Performance Certificate

The next section lists other measures that can improve the energy efficiency of the property. Although there is less information about potential costs and savings, these alternatives can be something to look into instead of (or on top of) the recommended measures. Definitely a part of the EPC for the curious and creative sorts. 

This home, for example, could benefit from innovative heating technologies like an air source heat pump (ASHP) or a ground source heat pump (GSHP). 

 

Page four

Further information

 

Energy Performance Certificate

The EPC’s final page begins with information about the EPC, the date of assessment and the assessor and their accrediting body. Basic stuff. 

Energy Performance Certificate

It winds up with some information about environmental impact. This shows the carbon emissions from the property, compares them to the average, and illustrates how much they could be reduced by making improvements.

You also get current and potential ratings shown on a scale similar to the energy efficiency rating, with higher scores again being better.

This section is of particular value to those interested in sustainability, not just financial savings. Ratings for CO2 emissions can be useful in comparing the impact of different properties, and understanding how much the impact can be reduced.

With greater links between home energy performance and financial services proposed over the coming years, there is ever more reason to cast a close eye over EPCs when you’re searching for the ideal home.

For homeowners, if you haven’t already got one, you should. There’s all the information you need to make a telling reduction in home running costs and emissions. 

You can view your own home’s EPC – or perhaps your neighbour’s to see what energy saving improvements they have made –  by visiting the EPC Register website. If you're based in Scotland, visit the Scottish EPC Register.

Do you have a question about your EPC? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, or tweet us directly at @EnergySvgTrust.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

Post a comment

My EPC was written in 2014.
Since then I have made some improvements.
What do you recommend now?

How do you get an EPC?

I have a problem with the improvements section, this indicates that wall insulation is the priority, however with a payback of 7.8-27 years, very high costs and impact on day to day life during installation it is highly unlikely that most people will even consider it unless undertaking major refurbishment works. Not sure if the costs/savings include interest component of Green Deal Finance, if they do not this makes the option even less attractive.

It's a shame EPCs are almost pointless due to Government incompetence, with the ridiculous Ten year validity of EPCs NO one can compare EPCs because absolutely millions are factually incorrect.

the improvements section is all nonsense really as they always list things you already have installed so you can't improve in that direction.

I am disappointed that you do not include in your analysis the advantages/disadvantages/costs of ambient air heat recovery nor of deep bore ground heat recovery for central heating/water heating.

Why are we encouraged to adopt electric vehicles whilst at the same time being discouraged from using electric heating in our homes?