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EPCs found littered with errors, prompting calls for reform

EPCs found littered with errors, prompting calls for reform
Samantha Partington
Written By:
Samantha Partington

Homeowners are being warned to check the accuracy of their Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) as an investigation finds that some reports contained "significant errors" that could lead to costly and unnecessary building work.

Which? booked EPC assessments for 12 homeowners living in different property types across England, Wales and Scotland to test the accuracy and usefulness of the certificates.

The results revealed errors in describing property features, broad and generic price ranges for the cost of remedial work and expensive recommendations.

The findings echo an investigation carried out by into EPCs that found the computer-generated reports to be too simplistic, responsible for inaccurate ratings and irrelevant efficiency upgrades, and weighted in favour of gas heating systems, which are bad for the environment.

Investigation highlights accuracy issues

EPCs measure a home’s energy efficiency and rate a property from A to G. A is the most efficient and means the home is likely to have the cheapest energy bill, while G is the worst.

The certificate also offers recommendations to help households boost their rating and shows households how much carbon their property emits, although this isn’t reflected in the rating.

However, the majority of homeowners who took part in the Which? investigation spotted mistakes on their certificates relating to how important aspects such as their windows, roofs and heating systems were described.

One EPC contained several significant errors, which were pointed out to the assessor and corrected. Once amended, the energy-efficiency rating moved up two bands from D to B, highlighting the importance of checking your EPC and getting it corrected, said Which?.

Costs run high

Several homeowners thought that the suggested recommendations were unaffordable. One EPC recommended changes that could save £920 per year on energy bills. However, the total estimated cost of upgrades meant it could take up to 29 years to break even on the investment.

The same wide price ranges were also found quoted for vastly different property types. A solid wall insulation was recommended at a cost of £4,000-14,000 for both a two-bedroom mid-terrace and a four-bedroom detached house. “Such a broad range of prices could put people off,” said Which?, “when the costs for improving their own home could be much lower than the maximum indicated.”

Only one homeowner said they were ‘very satisfied’ with their EPC and three said they were likely to recommend getting an EPC based on their experience.

Calls for reform

Which? is calling for the next Government to reform EPCs to make them a more reliable and useful tool for householders.

In a series of investigations carried out by last year, the EPC came under fire from surveyors and the domestic energy assessors who use them.

Critics argued that EPCs were now being relied on for a purpose that they were not originally created to fulfil.

Your EPC report is generated by a computer and based on the answers to a set of questions that are uniformly applied to every property. A score is generated based on a standard visual assessment of your home, the results of which are fed into the computer programme. The higher your score, the better your rating.

However, the EPC when it was introduced in 2007 was designed simply as a cost measure to show prospective buyers or tenants how cheap or expensive a property would be to run.

Now their use has grown. Mortgage incentives such as cheaper interest rates and cashback offers are tied to A ratings, while higher-rated properties can command a higher purchase price. Landlords, meanwhile, were told that all buy-to-let properties must achieve a minimum rating of C. The policy has since been shelved, but it is one that the industry feels could resurface in the future.

With a greater reliance on the ratings to drive Government policy and homeowners’ attitudes to improving their energy efficiency, industry figures argued the system needs to be reformed.

Responding to the Which? findings, Stuart Fairlie, managing director of Elmhurst Energy – the largest accreditation company for domestic energy assessors – said: “We’re disappointed to see the Which? EPC assessment results and can understand why homeowners might want information to be presented in a clearer way, with straightforward recommendations.

“To identify inaccuracies on EPCs, we run a smart, ‘risk-based’ auditing programme [that] flags those with potential errors. If defects are found, we require reassessment by the energy assessor.

“We continue to champion reform of the wider EPC system, including ensuring quality training standards. This has been on the agenda since the Government’s 2020 EPC Action Plan and it’s imperative for the next Government to quickly deliver.”

Which? is calling on the Government to review the auditing of EPCs and the training requirements for assessors to ensure that they have the skills needed to complete reliable assessments.

“EPCs should also include clear, actionable advice for consumers such as low-cost measures they can take to improve their home’s energy efficiency, as well as more expensive options,” it added.