Ben Angell-James, of Shropshire-based Energy Plus, considers some of the issues of Energy Performance Certificates and Home Information Packs
An EPC is an assessment of your home to establish its energy performance.
The certificates are part of the Home Information Pack, which the Government introduced back in August and which will apply to all residential sales from today, though new-build homes and commercial properties are not to be rolled out until April 2008.
The Government has finally included one and two-bed properties in the Home Information Packs (HIP) and these will need to be arranged when properties are first brought to the market.
A two-tier system has been in place since August 1, when it became mandatory for houses with four beds or more to have a HIP. The slow, phased introduction (three beds were introduced on September 10) has created a certain amount of confusion and, coupled with uncertainty in the housing market, prospects for the Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA) have been affected.
Indeed two of the large national EPC firms have recently been gone into administration. When Energy Plus was formed, our guiding principle was that local DEAs would be given local work.
This would provide a far better service to our clients by ensuring the DEA knew the area they were working in. They would also be in a position to respond more swiftly to enquiries and also minimise the environ-mental cost of the assessment by keeping the carbon footprint as low as possible.
We received nothing but praise from estate agents and solicitors who have said that the network of DEAs we have provided has resulted in the very smooth implementation of HIPs in their areas.
The process for generating the EPC involves an internal and external inspection of the property which must be carried out by an accredited domestic energy assessor. The certificate has two graphs, one showing the overall efficiency of the property and the other showing the carbon dioxide emissions (Green House Gases).
These are based on standard occupancy rather than evaluating exactly how the current occupant lives in the space and are scored between one and 100. There are recommendations within the report to improve the energy performance of the property.
Of the 200,000 EPCs generated thus far, approximately one fifth of all homes are falling into bands F or G (scores between 38 and 1) and by implementing the recommendations suggested by the Energy Assessor on the EPC, the Energy Saving Trust has estimated that home owners could save on average £300 each year on fuel bills.
The potential saving far outweighs the cost of having the HIP (which includes the EPC) when selling your property. The HIP should cost in the region of £300 to £350 and includes the price of the EPC.
The benefits of having an energy performance certificate is a practical method of making home owners aware of the CO2 emissions that they release into the atmosphere due to inefficient heating systems and poor insulation.
It is also a very useful tool for potential purchasers to gain an overview of what the property will cost to run annually and the potential savings they could make if they followed the recommendations.
Low-cost improvements could be installing energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the house or loft insulation, whereas more expensive options might include fitting a condensing boiler, cavity wall insulation or renewable energy such as solar water heating.
This advice, and the running cost figures, are a real bonus for first-time buyers who often do not realise the costs that can mount up on top of the mortgage payments and council tax.
What is the shelf life of your HIP and EPC? Each is valid for one year. At present it might all seem a little alien, but just as we have all become conscious of the efficiency of cars, one can imagine that the next generation will wonder how we managed in such ignorance, when making what is generally the most important purchase in our lives.
There is a further change to the HIP legislation expected next year when the Government will make it mandatory to have the EPC available prior to the property being marketed.
For those who are planning to put their property on the market next year it will be comforting to know that Energy Plus is taking only three to four days to produce EPCs so there should be no noticeable delays when going to market.
Currently one only has to have ordered the HIP before the estate agent can begin marketing the property.
* Energy Plus is a network of independent domestic energy assessors, providing EPCs in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Wales.