November 12, 2008

EPC - Easy Profit Con?

On the face of it, the Government's Energy Performance Certificates sound like a good idea: every home being sold, or rented, has to provide a rating similar to that of a fridge or a washing machine, giving its energy efficiency on a scale of A to G.

In practice though (in my experience at least) they seem more of an easy money-making scheme that looks like it's doing something to help, without actually helping much. Our flat had its EPC survey done recently, which seemed to consist of a bloke wandering round recording the sizes of the rooms and noting down features like double-glazing and whether or not the light bulbs are compact fluorescents.

We got the results today, and its rating is D (65). According to the landlord, the UK average is E (46), so it's doing well for a high-ceilinged Georgian terrace built around 1870. I'm surprised it's fared better than Geoff's place in Cambridge, which only ranked at E and is a fairly similar sort of building - just a few decades newer (at a guess).

Phil Clark's flat is a lot newer, being built in 2003, but as he blogged today, is still a way off the top rating; coming in with a C. I suppose that shows we've got a lot of scope to improve matters, which is handy given the targeted reductions in CO2 emissions.

It's a shame then, that the EPCs don't seem to be suggesting anything useful to improve energy efficiency. Our recommendations (filtered through the landlord - I haven't seen the actual report myself) are pretty similar to Phil's "install low energy lighting" - the landlord is looking into replacing the few light fittings that can't take low-energy lighting, and the only other recommendation would be to add a room-thermostat to the existing per-radiator thermostat controls. The government could've sent everyone a check-list of basic things to implement and saved everyone a fortune.

Geoff's certificate shows that even if he followed all their suggestions it still wouldn't get his house out of the E band! If that's true then we either need to start demolishing most of our houses, or give up on the whole fight against climate change.

Apparently our survey didn't make any recommendations about the lack of double-glazing because the huge sash windows are protected by the house being in a conservation area. Surely double-glazed sash windows could be installed? It could be that it's a convenient get-out clause for the landlord, which I can understand given the amount it would cost to replace all the windows in the twenty flats they own in the terrace; but that cuts to the heart of the problem: how to bring the existing building stock up to top efficiency without destroying the character of the properties or costing a fortune.


Posted by Adrian at November 12, 2008 01:10 PM | TrackBack

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Hi Adrian,
I think the principle of EPCs are good. What is lacking, as we have both experienced, is largely down to two things: proper advice; and a lack of real energy data rather than theoretical performance. Until we know how much carbon buildings are actually guzzling what's the point really?
You're spot on in identifying the serious blockages that are stopping us really tackling the problem of the existing stock. The UK Green Building Council has done a lot of work on finding realistic policy ideas to deal with this - - which was submitted to government last month. Let's hope there's some action on this. But don't hold your breath.

Posted by: Phil Clark at November 15, 2008 04:54 PM

Indeed. To look on the positive side, there is now a mechanism in place to look at properties and maybe in time the advice and possible modifications will improve. And I'm working on helping people know how much carbon their building is using ;-)

But I'll feel better when the Government starts acting rather than continually talking about acting. (And obviously I'm not holding my breath...)

Posted by: Adrian at November 18, 2008 11:51 PM
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