Energy Performance Certificates are in urgent need of reform, Which? warns

Energy Performance Certificates are in urgent need of reform, Which? warns

The next government must prioritise reforming Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) due to their current unreliability, which can cost homeowners when selling or improving their properties, according to the consumer champion, Which?. An investigation by Which? has revealed that EPCs, introduced in 2007, are plagued with inaccuracies and unhelpful advice.

The UK faces significant challenges in reducing energy use and switching to low-carbon heating. For many households, EPCs are the initial step in receiving advice on improving energy efficiency. Access to grant funding or ‘green’ financial products, such as loans or mortgages, often depends on meeting specific EPC-based criteria.

Which? conducted a snapshot investigation, selecting 12 members who were homeowners across England, Wales, and Scotland, booking EPC assessments for them between February and March 2024. Their properties, built between 1650 and 1999, ranged from a one-bedroom flat to a five-bedroom detached house. The investigation uncovered several issues with the accuracy of the results and the recommendations homeowners received.

One homeowner never received their EPC certificate despite having the survey done. Although the survey fee was refunded, the homeowner was left without crucial information about their home’s energy efficiency. Among the 11 participants who received their certificates, only one was 'very satisfied’ with their EPC, and just three would recommend getting an EPC based on their experience. Most participants (eight out of 11) reported inaccuracies in their EPCs, with incorrect descriptions of key home aspects like windows, roofs, and heating systems.

Many participants found the recommendations unaffordable. One consumer noted that draught proofing was overlooked in their EPC report, despite having an open chimney and a single-glazed front door.

Peter and Carol Vermeulen in Aberdeenshire received a D rating for their 1980s four-bedroom semi-detached bungalow. However, their EPC contained several discrepancies, such as no mention of their solar PV or solar thermal panels or their wood-burning stove. The suspended floor was described as uninsulated, even though they had discussed their underfloor insulation with the assessor. The assessor later admitted omissions due to software issues and issued a corrected EPC with an improved B rating. A better EPC can significantly impact homeowners, enabling them to command higher prices when selling and making the property more attractive to tenants.

Megan Dobney, with a D rating for her two-bedroom Victorian terraced house in London, received recommendations for improvements like internal or external wall insulation, suspended floor insulation, solar water heating, and solar panels. The combined cost could reach up to £26,700, while the annual savings would be around £920, making the payback period nearly 29 years. Megan expressed concerns about the high cost and significant disruption these improvements would entail.

Given the high energy bills faced by millions of UK families, EPCs could be a valuable resource for saving money and improving home efficiency. However, they are in dire need of reform. Which? urges the next government to make EPCs more reliable and useful by addressing concerns about their accuracy and reliability. The design and content of EPCs should be reformed to provide consumers with the necessary information and advice, including preparing for the transition to low-carbon heating.

EPCs should become more interactive, allowing consumers to input their information for more relevant advice. They should also include up-to-date costings, provide links to financial support, and list government-certified installers. The auditing and training requirements for Domestic Energy Assessors should be reviewed to ensure they have the skills for reliable assessments.

Rocio Concha, which? director of policy and advocacy, emphasised the need for reform, stating that EPCs could help consumers save money and improve home efficiency amid the UK's energy transition challenges. Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark, suggested introducing a Property Passport to enhance EPCs, capturing EPC data digitally, and providing detailed guidance on improving energy efficiency.

Reforming EPCs is crucial for the next government to ensure they become a reliable and useful tool for householders, contributing to the UK's energy efficiency and low-carbon heating goals.

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