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February 2024
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EPC, what does it mean to me?

I think it’s very easy to see EPC, or energy performance certificates to the uninitiated, as being theoretical ideals and bearing no relationship to the real world. But over the 20 years they have been around, they have improved the estimates no end.

As a nation, we understand that our winters are cold (and damp) and our summers are hot (and damp). The UK is not completely unique in this aspect, as the 9th largest island in the world, and due to its temperate climate, it being relatively densely populated, it has the great benefit of the Gulf Stream keeping it relatively mild in the winters for our position in the northern hemisphere.

So what?

Sorry, we need to heat our houses during the winters. Full stop. A wise friend of mine at university said the “[northern European] countries had to be more sophisticated, earlier, than [their southern neighbours] as they had to work out indoor plumbing and heating before doing anything else”.

He was in a pub in Hull at the time, on a cold, damp October evening.

Heating matters. The EPC has a section on this and its estimate was less than 4% out and that’s largely as we didn’t have the tado system fully in place last year

That means our carbon footprint is actually a little larger than the 2.8 tonnes (2.98 tonnes last year) but should reach that next year.

It also gives an estimate on how much your electricity bills and heating bills should be (lighting, heating, and hot water generation), and for most households, like ours, that has gone up the last year. The less you need to heat your property, the better.

Now, that EPC doesn’t give your total usage. Washing clothes, cooking, drying clothes, watching TV, making tea and coffee, etc, are not included in the sums.

That’s important because you can eat cold food, barbeque, use solar cookers, etc. The rest is less of a choice – you cannot live in the dark and you cannot go without heating.

Heating? It’s springtime in England…

To preserve health, houses should be at least 16C at all times. That’s the minimum to ensure there is no mold growing. In bath and shower rooms, that may need to flash up to 19C to ensure the rooms dry out fully for some hours a day.

Which is tough to do when you’re short of spare money due to inflation: there is a great deal of inflation in the energy market with gas and petrol prices rising a great deal over the past few months. There is currently talk of reducing the duty on heating oil, to help those off grid. Personally, that help should be going towards reducing your need to burn fuel.

Government should sort that out!

How? I’m not being funny, but high energy prices should lead to demand dropping. In terms of climate change, that’s a good thing – if the war between Ukraine and Russia hadn’t lead to sanctions, governments across the world might have had to increase taxes to curb demand.

We live on a major road, and we see fewer cars out and about during non-commuter times. Petrol locally is retailing for £1.67 and diesel is £1.78 per litre today.

In principle, no-one wants to see global warming, but it’s harder to justify turning down the central heating a degree, if you can afford it. Replacing thin insulation or filling gaps under floors is a real hassle, not to mention expense, if you don’t really need to do it from a cost point of view.

We’ve been ahead of the curb because I chose to prioritise it and have worked towards a five year improvement plan trying to work out what would work for us in terms of comfort, cost, and “bang per buck”. (To the discerning, return on investment, either in terms of savings or reduction in CO2). No move has been made in a hurry, and to spread cost and effort, in small steps.

EPC is one way the government is looking to make the changes count. If you rent a property, your landlord should ensure the property has at least an EPC rating E and in three years time, that needs to be a C. In terms of costs today, that’s an energy saving worth £500 per annum.

Left to me to make the change as I don’t rent 🙁

Plan – a big bang approach to this is, potentially, going to cost a lot. If you have an analogue thermostat and radiators, changing the valves to thermostatic ones one month means you can change the thermostatic ones to smart thermostatic ones the next month. Then do the room thermostat last – expensive but not as big a hitter in terms of energy efficiency!

Decorating a room and getting new carpet? Well, that’s a good time to look at the floor’s insulation. Though it’s a good bet that a house built before 2007 is unlikely to have insulated floors. Even a Victorian house can have the upstairs floors insulated by fibre glass – cost effective in terms of materials but you might want to devote 4 hours to each room, including remediation. Some floor underlays can help keep provide extra insulation too.

Guess it would recoup the money long term…

In the short term, it can make a big difference to your house’s value. – the value of efficiency shows that a band C has a 10% higher price and a band B-A has a 14% higher value. In our area, that’s equivalent to £7,880 (the cost of a 4MW solar array) and probably improve the speed it takes to sell. After all, would you want to down grade from a B/C rated house to a D rated one, if you had a choice? The average property in the UK is rated D – a brand new home from a big developer is not necessarily better than a Victorian one that’s been modernised.

An EPC also gives advice on what you can do to make a difference and often includes solar generators, solar water heaters, and low carbon heating schemes though there seems to be a price limit on these recommendations, with few being made if the cost is above £10,000.

We’ve not finished our journey. Our windows are OK, but not particularly high spec. That’s the next big job in our house.

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