Energy Performance Certificates Explained

How well insulated is the house? How much heat does it leak into the air outside? How energy-efficient is the power source? EPC assessment matters a lot when you’re buying a property, and is just as important for sellers. Your bills could end up sky high in an old stone place with high ceilings, a roof that needs replacing, single glazing and 1960s central heating. A well-insulated modern eco-home with the latest cheap-running heating system costs less to heat, cool and light. 

Since 1st October 2008 an EPC certificate has been a legal requirement when selling, renting or building a residential property in England and Wales. A domestic EPC is simply a certificate to show you how energy-efficient or not your property is – or isn’t! It includes EPC ratings, estimated annual energy costs and a summary of all the property’s energy performance related features. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, it makes a lot of sense to understand what the EPC is telling you. This EPC Guide does exactly that. 

What are Energy Performance Certificates

You need an EPC energy certificate every time a property is built, sold or rented out to tenants. You’ll also need an EPC survey to show potential buyers and tenants before you start marketing a place. In Scotland you have to display a residential EPC somewhere visible indoors. 

An EPC contains information about the place’s energy use and typical costs, plus common sense  suggestions about how to cut the amount of energy used and reduce the bills.

  • The property’s energy usage
  • Carbon dioxide emissions
  • How much energy it uses and whether or not it’s energy-efficient  
  • How much CO2 the building generates
  • How to reduce energy use and save money
  • Any ‘green’ benefits it qualifies for

The certificate gives the property an energy efficiency rating of A to G, with A the most efficient. It’s valid for ten years.

EPC Ratings

What are EPC ratings? The EPC system uses a simple A to G EPC rating system. It’s easy to understand at-a-glance thanks to simple colour coding.

Every property gets an overall colour-coded letter from A to G. A is colour coded green,  the most efficient of all with the lowest fuel bills. G is coded red and is the least energy-efficient. An A rating means a rating between 92 and 100 points, extremely energy efficient with low running costs. A G rating gives you just 1 – 20 points, suggesting the place is highly inefficient and costs a fortune to heat or cool.

What is a good EPC rating? Achieving a B is quite something! Most homes will be a D, with a rating of  55 – 68 points, and only the newest, most efficiently designed eco-homes stand a chance of hitting an A grade.

Every new-build or property that’s going to be sold or rented needs an EPC as long as it has any kind of heating or air conditioning. And as well as private homes they’re a must for most buildings. If you want to build, let or sell a business premises, you’ll need a commercial energy performance certificate.

How to Get an EPC Certificate

To get an EPC, book a properly qualified and accredited domestic energy assessor. They’ll carefully check your property and issue you with an EPC. If you’re using an estate agent or property management company they might be able to recommend someone to you. Some bigger estate agencies and management companies have their own assessors on the books. If not you can visit the EPCregister.com site if your property is in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, and go to Gov.scot if it’s in Scotland. The assessor will measure the home, examine the way it’s been built, check the heating systems and the insulation, and take a suite of photos, just for the assessment and kept completely private.

When is an EPC Needed?

So does your property need an EPC? If you’re selling you need to make the EPC available to potential buyers as soon as you start marketing the property, whether you’re selling or letting. People need to know how energy efficient their choices are, including how to make potential savings on fuel. When you carry out the energy efficiency recommendations outlined in your EPC, get a new EPC. And don’t forget – if you don’t have an EPC you can be fined, although there are some exemptions. A listed building, for example, doesn’t need an EPC.

Does a commercial property require an EPC certificate? You must have an EPC when you’re letting or selling, or the place you’re building is finished. You need an EPC, for example, when you split a building into flats. It makes sense when development means updating heating, lighting and cooling  systems, insulation and more. 

You have to display your commercial EPC on the building when the commercial building has a total usable floor area of more than 500 sq m, is often visited by the public, or the EPC has already been created so the building can be sold, rented out or completed.

The cost of your EPC depends on the building being assessed. If you don’t provide one when you’re legally obliged to, you can face a fine of anything from £500 to £5,000 based on the building’s rateable value.

There are some energy performance certificate exemptions.

  • Exemption through devaluation – Where a landlord can get a temporary exemption of five years if they can show improving energy efficiency would reduce the market value by more than 5%
  • Exemption for new landlords – If you become a landlord under specified circumstances laid out by the MEES Regulations you might get a temporary 6 month exemption
  • Exemption through third party consent – Where a landlord can’t get someone’s permission to improve the EPC rating so is allowed to let the property as ‘sub-standard’

How Much Do Energy Performance Certificates Cost?

And the Energy performance certificate cost? People often ask what it costs to get an EPC certificate. The answer is simple. There isn’t a standard fee. It depends entirely on things like the size and type of property, its age and construction. As a rough guide, prices tend to start at about £60. It makes sense to get quotes from a few local energy assessors – just make sure they’re accredited.

How Long Do Energy Performance Certificates Last?

How often do you need to have an EPC reassessment? An EPC lasts for ten years but if you make changes to the property to make it more energy efficient then sell or rent it out, it’s wise to have the property re-assessed. Sometimes energy bills can be the thing that makes or breaks a sale or rental.

How to Improve an EPC Rating?

How to improve your EPC rating? There are plenty of relatively simple things to do. Your local council might offer grants for some of these:  

  • Add extra insulation to walls and roof spaces
  • Fit double or triple-glazed windows  
  • Use LED light bulbs  
  • Fit carpets over bare wood or stone floors
  • Swap your old system for a new, efficient heating system like a ground source pump instead of a gas or oil boiler  
  • Use a smart meter to help you understand and control your energy bills better

Essential EPC certificates

Don’t forget you need to take note of the law around EPCs. And remember, an EPC is always worth having. It’s a genuinely useful document that reveals exactly where your property stands around  energy efficiency, and how to make it better, and does it all in a simple colour coded way that everyone can understand.