How to improve your property's energy performance certificate (EPC) on any budget

How to improve your property's energy performance certificate (EPC) on any budget
This guest post was provided by ViewScape property marketing specialists.

The energy performance of your home is easily overlooked, and its importance in selling or letting property is often undervalued. As a marketing tool, an energy efficient home is an increasingly high priority for buyers and tenants alike and may act as a selling point or a reason for a higher offer - particularly among those looking for a long-term home or tenancy such as families.

In an economic environment where utility bills are under close scrutiny from home occupiers, and a social environment where many seek to reduce their individual environmental impact, improving your home's energy efficiency makes commercial sense for any seller or landlord in the market, with potential to add to your home's value or rental yield in the process.

From the perspective of legal compliance, April 1st 2018 saw the introduction of new UK regulations on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) requirements for domestic dwellings.

Specifically, owners of residential lettings are now legally required to ensure their properties hold an EPC rating of no lower than E, on a scale from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).

Whether you're looking to achieve legal compliance, or to further improve the efficiency of your already compliant property, it can be tough to know how to make the most of your budget. Below we outline the quick wins, small budget and large budget projects you can undertake to boost your property's EPC.

Quick Wins

For those with time or budgetary constraints there are a number of quick and relatively cheap was to improve your home's energy efficiency.

Firstly, it's worth checking that all light bulbs in the house are energy efficient. Any non-Low Energy Lighting, such as halogen bulbs, should be replaced with LED or CFL bulbs wherever possible.

Second, consider whether your windows, doors, letterboxes, keyholes and cat flaps are letting in any draughts due to disrepair or poor fitment. Whilst the provision of draught excluders will help the property to retain heat for longer, the EPC only considers permanent improvements to the building's fabric. This means that a trip to the DIY shop is required to achieve an EPC rating boost by fitting new locks, letterboxes etc. 

Finally, you should check your appliances - especially the fridge freezer, washing machine, dishwasher and tumble drier.  Any which are particularly old or faulty could be wasting a significant amount of energy on the meter. Consider replacing these with more up-to-date models, keeping an eye on their published efficiency ratings and aiming for A++ wherever possible. This will impact a rental property's EPC only if the appliances are included with the property for the tenancy. 

Small Projects

With a little more time and expense, you can achieve some more significant EPC improvements which will further serve to future-proof your property from an energy efficiency standpoint. These improvements, in addition to the above quick wins, should be looked into for those looking to improve an F or G rated home.

Many of the following focus on installations such as windows or insulation. Your first step should be to ensure that all documentation of these improvements is available and provided as part of your EPC inspection, so that all existing efficiency measures are accounted for.

The least extraneous of the small projects is to seal up any open or draughty chimneys, which are indeed considered within your EPC. If not in use these should be permanently sealed with block or brickwork where possible. Otherwise, if you wish to make use of the chimney area, a closed heater with a high efficiency rating should be installed.

Another void in the structure of most buildings - the windows - have the potential to emit around 10% of your home's heat. This is particularly prevalent if you have single glazing, in which case you should at the very least look to fit secondary glazing, but ideally should consider full double glazing. For those with older-style double glazing or wishing to push the upper boundaries of the EPC scale, triple glazing is also available.

Heat inevitably rises, and the quality and thickness of your roof or loft insulation determines how well this rising heat is retained within the building. It's recommended that loft insulation is at least 270mm thick and could add between 2 and 15 points to your EPC rating, depending on the existing depth of your insulation.

If your property has cavity walls, insulation is also a big factor in Energy Performance Certificates. Filling cavity walls with a favoured type of insulation, typically foam, could add 5 to 10 points to a domestic EPC. For solid walls, insulation is a more expensive and complex process, discussed below as a larger project.

Having considered the means of retaining heat within the property, we turn to the home's heating source. From plug-in oil or electric radiators, to storage, under floor or gas central heating, the means of providing warmth to your home has a direct influence on your EPC. Wherever possible a well-maintained gas central heating is recommended, but there are many electric wall-mounted alternatives which are also efficient.

Where gas central heating is installed, to improve energy efficiency you can either replace any old radiators or consider replacing an old boiler, if applicable. Depending on the age of your existing boiler this may improve your EPC score by 5 to 20 points.

Installing a new boiler is a fairly significant expense; for those selling property you may wish to balance this against any potential increase in value, whilst landlords should consider the payback period in terms of reduced maintenance, and potentially attracting a slightly greater yield through an increased rental income owing to improved energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

If you don't think a new boiler is worthwhile, you can still have a positive impact on your property's EPC by installing modern controls such as a boiler programmer, individual room thermostats, or thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs).

Bigger Projects

As mentioned above, solid walls cause a property to have a lower energy efficiency rating than those with cavity walls. It is possible to insulate solid walls either internally or externally, both of which are relatively expensive and may result in a minor loss of living space if applied internally. If you chose to take either of these options you may achieve a 5 to 10-point increase in your EPC.

The final, most significant means of future-proofing your property and making it a positively eco environment is to install means of capturing renewable energy - typically through solar panels, biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps, and sometimes with a small wind turbine.

Whilst renewable energy sources can have a very significant positive impact on a property's overall energy efficiency, environmental impact and cost of energy bills, it's worth considering that they will only contribute to an improved EPC rating if being used directly to heat the home. Their payback period is also counted in decades and should be offset against the forecast selling price or rental income.

Whether you need to improve your EPC for compliance with new regulations, hope to use energy efficiency as a marketing tool, or simply wish to do your bit for the environment, we can see there are a number of proactive projects you can undertake to improve your property's energy efficiency ahead of an EPC inspection. See our summary below:

Quick Wins

*   Install energy efficient light bulbs
*   Permanently fix any draughts from letterboxes, keyholes, etc
*   Replace appliances with energy efficient models
*   Obtain documentation for any existing improvements

Small Projects

*    Seal open/draughty chimney
*    Consider efficiency of your windows
*    Thicken roof or loft insulation
*    Install cavity wall insulation
*    Replace old radiators
*    Replace an old boiler
*    Install heating controls

Large Projects

*    Insulate solid walls
*    Harvest renewable energy

If you have any questions about EPCs or any other Landlord legislation, you can speak to your local Whitegates branch.