First thing to ask yourself is what would you like your EPC rating to be on your property. The ratings run from A to G with A being the most efficient (same as your fridge), so naturally you would like your house to be an ‘A Rated’ property. The average property rating in the UK is in fact a band D. A great many newly built properties don’t achieve the A rating unless they include some renewable technology (Solar panels etc).
When we have conversations with clients on how to improve a properties rating we do tend to look at the cheaper options first and there are plenty of lower cost options which can make the biggest difference.
If you look at an EPC it will feature a list of improvements that you can carry out, some of these are ‘default’ recommendations which are not practical to achieve. Floor Insulation is in most cases completely impractical for most households to achieve. External/Internal Wall insulation will appear for any property built of stone or solid brick (generally built before 1929) even if it a beautiful granite faced building which you wouldn’t want to touch, that recommendation will appear. Whilst External Wall Insulation is suitable for a number of properties, it is a long term investment.
So let’s look at the practical low cost improvements.
Loft insulation – If you have a conventional lost space the level of insulation should be approx. 300mm (1 foot). This often the easiest improvement you can make but generally the hardest logically because we do tend to store a lot of ‘stuff’ in our loftspace – and no ‘stuff’ if not good insulation! The rolls of insulation can be bought relatively cheaply, the DIY stores often have offers on and it is a good opportunity to have a sort out. An important word of advice, if you have taken the time to put down the insulation don’t then squash it back under boarding or under ‘stuff’ invest in some risers (again from DIY stores) which will allow you to lay any boarding higher than joist level and therefore not ruin your hard work of insulation.
Cavity Wall insulation – if you have a property built before 1983, the chances are that any cavity wall will be empty. There have been loads of grants around for getting the cavity wall insulation done free of charge – and there are still a few around but you have to look a little harder.
An interesting point for those who have had the wall insulation done (look for the telltale drill holes) if you are finding that you don’t think it has been done properly, it is worth checking with CIGA (Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency) as there is a 25 year with the insulation and if you are still within the guarantee period you may be able to get it replaced even if the installer company is no longer trading.
Heating – if you have a gas boiler and it is has an efficiency below 80% then you could expect it to come up as a recommendation on the EPC, even if it is serviced regularly every year and has never been a problem, it will over time become more expensive to run.
But almost as important as the boiler, the heating controls can make a big impact on the EPC rating. I always think of it as a triangle – timer/programmer, thermostat, radiator TRVs. Having all of these, even if the programmer and thermostat are a combined unit, are seen as giving you the most efficient control of your heating system.
And lets not neglect your hot water cylinder, if you have one then it should have a cylinder thermostat attached to it, and it should be well insulated (minimum 50mm insulation, either factory fitted or loose jacket)
Electric heating – there is a definite trend to install the very sexy looking electric radiators, often to replace night storage heaters which are considered a bit old fashioned. One of the problems with night storage heaters is that they work on a system of ‘drift heat’ so ideally all rooms should be left with doors open to allow the heat to ‘drift’ through but this now rarely happens (especially if you have teenagers) There are now highly efficient ‘quantum’ storage heaters which almost as controllable as a gas central heating system and worth a look. However if you choose to remove all storage heaters and install electric radiators, you will find a recommendation to ‘install night storage heaters’ on the EPC. Our advice is to keep one night storage heater in a habitable room – not a hallway, and this will make the difference.
Also keep to the dual rate electricity tariff that would have gone with the night storage heaters and make sure you have a dual immersion – again it is a little trick that can make all the difference on the EPC rating.
Lightbulbs – first thing that always gets mentioned when you talk energy efficiency – Lightbulbs. To give you an idea if you have your property half with Low Energy Bulbs and half not – changing to all LELs with add 1 point to the EPC rating – 1 point can still make a difference but it is not as dramatic a difference as some of the other things mentioned.
Open Fires – fabulous in the winter, but impacts on the EPC as it is an inefficient heating system. A wood burner is more practical or if you don’t use the fireplace then block off the chimney part – you will see us check chimneys by feeling for the draught.
These are just a few of the lower cost (honest) things you can do but if you want some advice and pointers so that you make sure that any improvements have the impact you are looking for then we are happy to give you some free advice.
Also see: What is an EPC?