EPC myth busting

With energy bills going through the roof and landlords considering how to improve the energy efficiency of their properties ahead of mandatory energy performance certificate (EPC) requirements being introduced, SAL policy manager Caroline Elgar (and also a former EPC assessor) dispels some EPC myths:

Myth 1 – If I don’t change anything at the property my EPC rating will stay the same

The software which is used to generate the EPC rating is regularly updated to try to improve its accuracy, as more is known about the energy efficiency of building materials and heating systems. This means that an EPC assessment done on a property 10 years ago is unlikely to have the same rating as an EPC assessment done now, even if nothing has changed at the property.

The Scottish Government is also considering changing the EPC report with the addition of a new graph to show “energy usage”. This was the subject of a government consultation last year and we await further announcements on this. It is widely believed that the new rating will be used to assess properties against future minimum EPC standards, instead of the current “energy efficiency” graph which combines fuel costs with energy usage, although the government hasn’t yet confirmed this to be the case. If this does go ahead then the EPC rating of the property is likely to change as it will no longer be affected by different fuel types having different prices; it will be purely based on the efficiency of the building and its heating system.

Myth 2 – I need to renew my EPC every 10 years

The EPC doesn’t need to be renewed until both of the following apply:

  • The current one is more than 10 years old; and
  • You are marketing the property for new tenants

If you have a tenant living in the property it is OK for the EPC to be more than 10 years old.

Myth 3 – Replacing old storage heaters with new electric heaters will improve my rating

Many people have put in new electric panel heaters or oil filled electric heaters following salespeople telling them they are 100% efficient. This may be the case as they convert all or almost all of the energy they use into heat. However, because they operate on expensive on-peak electricity the EPC software currently rates them very poorly. Electric storage heaters, whilst costing a lot more to install, always provide a far better EPC score as they use cheaper off-peak electricity.

If you need to replace old storage heaters then consider the following:

(i) Fan assisted storage heaters – fan storage heaters are smaller, better insulated and more responsive than traditional storage heaters.

(ii) High heat retention electric storage heaters – these retain more heat than other models and claim to be 27% cheaper to run than comparable static storage heaters.

It is vitally important to seek further advice before changing your heating (or installing any other energy efficiency improvements) to ensure you know what impact it will have on your EPC rating. EPC assessors can model your property with different improvement measures and tell you what the effect on the rating will be, before you spend any money on improvement works.

Myth 4 – Installing new double glazing will make a big difference to my EPC rating

The EPC system scores a property out of 100. In a property with single glazing, replacing all the windows with brand-new double-glazed units will only increase your score by around 4 points. In a property with double glazing which is old, draughty, leaking and not closing properly, replacing the windows with new double-glazed units will only increase your score by around 1 point. Remember that the EPC system makes a lot of assumptions about the building, including that old fittings are in good order. Windows take up a small surface area of the overall heat loss wall which is why improvements to windows make little difference to the EPC rating. Having said this, it can be beneficial to install double glazing for other reasons; it can improve the comfort of the home and noise transmission from busy roads etc. and is usually popular with tenants, making it easier to let the property. If your property is listed or in a conservation area you will need consent from the local authority to replace the windows.

Myth 5 – I will have to meet a minimum EPC rating in the future

The Scottish Government is planning to introduce a requirement for private rented sector (PRS) properties to have an EPC rating of C at change of tenancy from 2025. All PRS properties will then be required to reach a minimum standard of C by 2028. However, not all properties will have to meet that standard; exemptions will be available for properties where it is not technically feasible or cost effective to reach that standard. Not technically feasible would apply to properties where there are no more measures which can be introduced to a property to improve its rating. With regards to cost effectiveness, we don’t yet know how this will be defined, however in previous proposals a spend of £5000 per banding was being considered, provided that the landlord could obtain a government backed loan to cover the initial outlay. If the landlord spent the required amount, they would be able to continue letting the property, even if their expenditure did not raise the property to the required rating.

Another factor to consider here is that mortgage lenders are increasingly unwilling to lend on properties with low EPC ratings, even before the government legislates on a minimum standard.

Myth 6 – My EPC rating is definitely correct

There are cases where assessors have made errors and used unnecessary assumptions when carrying out the EPC and this can have a big impact on the rating. For example, if they don’t check whether there is insulation in the loft space of a house or top floor flat built before 1955 then the EPC software will assume there is none, yet 94% of properties in Scotland do have at least 10cm of insulation. We therefore recommend you ask to see all the data entries they used when making the assessment and challenge any that you know are incorrect. The assessor is only allowed to input information that they have evidence is correct so there must be visual or robust documentary evidence.