The Ordering of Energy Performance Certificate Recommendations to Reduce Energy Use Are Illogical

The Ordering of Energy Performance Certificate Recommendations to Reduce Energy Use Are Illogical

The recommendations of things that homeowners can do to improve the score they achieve on their energy performance certificates (EPCs) look illogical in terms of the order in which they are presented – and no one in the media ever seems to have ever asked why.

Also, too few are questioning the logic of attempting to implement some of the things. Solar panels, for example, take around 21 years to recover in energy savings on the cost of installation, in the example I show here – which is longer than their actual life. This has to make no sense if one is concerned with saving the planet, irrespective of whether one believes in “imminent climateageddon”.

I will show you how this is the case for one of the properties I own and let. I could have picked any other older property, as indeed you could dear reader.

You will observe the same lack of logic.

If you look any energy performance certificate, the first main section is an energy rating score, this shows the current score and energy rating and the potential score and potential energy rating.

In the example I am going to look at, the property is a late Victorian era mid-terrace two-up, two-down house with a single skin wall, very like many hundreds of thousands up and down the land, mostly built in the period 1890 to 1914 when Britain was rich from the proceeds of the empire and just before we decided to engage in a costly, pointless and horrifying war that scythed down many young men and was the start of the impoverishment of our nation.

Many such properties are popular with landlords and their tenants as they often come with more space – both inside and outside – than later-built modern houses. And they meet the needs of a wide variety of tenant types, from singletons to couples to families. They are arguably the workhorses of the private rented sector and of owner occupiers alike.

For this property, the EPC score when I bought it was 39, which is a very low-grade E (grade E runs from a score of 39 up to a score of 54) and the potential (if I did all the things I could do) was for a score of 77, which is a highish grade C (grade C runs from 69 to 80).  

A key section on the certificate tells you how much it costs to heat and light the property based on energy prices at the time the EPC report was done, (which was when I bought it in December 2018), and then there is a statement that tells you how much CO2, (some would call this “plant food accelerant”), the property chucks out and how much it could be reduced by if you followed all the measures suggested in the report.

After the CO2 stuff, we then get to the meat of the certificate – the breakdown of the property’s energy performance.

The next key section looks at the features in this property.

Features get a rating from very good to very poor, based on how energy efficient they are. Ratings are not based on how well features work or their condition. A note always appears here that says, “Assumed ratings are based on the property’s age and type. They are used for features the assessor could not inspect”, so obviously there is a bit of guesswork going on, if the assessor is unable to get into any part to assess it properly. (Bear that in mind if you are getting any work done – try to document it, if it will be covered over once it is done).

Here is that section for my property.

FeatureDescriptionRating
WallSolid brick, as built, no insulation (assumed)Very poor
RoofPitched, no insulation (assumed)Very poor
WindowSingle glazedVery poor
Main heatingBoiler and radiators, mains gasGood
Main heating controlNo time or thermostatic control of room temperatureVery poor
Hot waterFrom main systemGood
LightingLow energy lighting in 56% of fixed outletsGood
FloorSuspended, no insulation (assumed)N/A
FloorSolid, no insulation (assumed)N/A
Secondary heatingRoom heaters, electricN/A

So far so good (or bad) – and the table above ought to be telling you what you already know.

The next important table is entitled, “Changes you could make”, which always comes with a note saying, Do I need to follow these steps in order?” to which the certificate will always say, “Yes. Each step builds on the one before it so you can save the most energy. For example, it’s more energy efficient to insulate your home before you buy a new boiler. A well insulated home will lose less heat so you do not have to run your boiler as often”.

It is this statement that I have an issue with, because it seems to be to be patently untrue, as I shall show.

So, let us have a look at changes I am told I should make and in the order that they come up in the certificate. (Bear in mind that this EPC was done in December 2018 and the costs reflect the costs at that time. However, the same problems exist in terms of the recommended ordering for doing the changes for EPCs that are being done today – and certainly for older properties such as this one).

Here are the order of the jobs that they list.

The first step they say is to improve the Internal or external wall insulation.

Typical installation cost that is quoted here is very wide – they say it varies from £4,000 – £14,000, with typical yearly savings of energy of a measly £139 per annum. The potential rating after completing this step would be to get to a score of 45 (so still an E) , but an improvement of 6 from the initial score, which you may recall is 39.

So, if we assume a median cost of £9000, it would take a whopping 64.7 years (average of £9,000/£139) to make up for that initial cost in terms of the saved annual energy cost – or to look at it another way, £1,500 for each jump of one point on the EPC rating. (Note: Anyone with half a brain will spot that in this analysis, I have ignored the opportunity cost of what your money could have done for you in that 64.7 years period! Once you factor that in, the time period to recover the upfront cost would be a whole lot longer – and well in excess of the lifetime of the longest person who ever lived, including some Biblical figures, probably) .

The second step they say is floor insulation (suspended floor)

Typical installation cost quoted is helpfully in a narrower band – they say it varies from £800 to £1,200 ,with typical yearly savings of energy of £28 per annum. The potential rating after completing this step and the previous one is 46 (so still an E), and just one better on the score after the first step, which was 45. Keep up at the back!

So, if we assume a median cost of £1,000, it would still take a whopping 35.7 years (£1,000/£28) to make up for the saved annual energy cost – or to look it it another way, £1000 for each jump of one point on the EPC rating.

OK, it is still a big expense, (though only a ninth of the costs of internal or external wall insulation) and the time to get a return, (though still very long), is considerably less than for internal or external wall insulation and the bump up on the EPC score certainly costs less per unit.

So why is this item listed as a second step? The cost for doing it is less and the impact in terms of energy saving is more immediate than the first step.

But it gets more stupid, as we can see from the third step.

The third step is low energy lighting

Typical installation cost that is quoted is just £20 and the energy saving is £19 per annum, with a bump up of another one point on the EPC score to 47.

So, the cost of this measure would be recovered in just over a year for the price of a small round of drinks in a pub. Again, as it is so achievable for even the poor – and as it makes such a big difference on energy savings – why is it not the first item listed?

Are you starting to see the lack of logic now?

But let’s move on, shall we?

The fourth step is heating controls (programmer, room thermostat and TRVs)

Heating controls (programmer, thermostat, TRVs) have a typical installation cost of £350 – £450. Typical yearly saving is £146. Potential rating after completing steps 1 to 4 is 54, so a jump of 7 points on the EPC score.

So, this is still reasonably cheap to do and based on a median cost of £400, would take just 2.7 years to recover in terms of energy savings. Again, like low energy lighting, it is a fraction of the cost of internal or external wall insulation and floor insulation. So, why does it come fourth in the list of items? It does not make sense.

The fifth step is replacing boiler with new condensing boiler

Typical installation cost is £2,200 – £3,000. Typical yearly energy savings are £127, so it takes 20.4 years to recover costs in energy savings and moves the EPC score up by 6.

The sixth step is a flue gas heat recovery device in conjunction with boiler

Typical installation cost is £400 – £900. Typical yearly energy savings are £23, so that takes a rather high 28.3 years to recover costs and moves the EPC score up by a measly one to 61.

The seventh step is a solar water heater

Typical installation cost is a whopping £4,000 – £6,000. Typical yearly energy savings are £23 so that takes 217.3 years to recover, yes really that long. England might even have even won the world cup by then. And this moves the EPC score up by a measly 1 point. Why is this option even listed?

The eighth step is double glazed windows

Replace single glazed windows with low-E double glazed windows. Typical installation cost is £3,300 – £6,500 and typical yearly energy savings are £68, so that one takes 72.1 years to recover and moves the EPC dial up by 3 to 65. (Based on personal experience, it surprises me that the energy savings for double glazing is supposedly so low, but this slow payback is typical of most EPC reports I have seen).

The ninth step is solar photovoltaic panels, 2.5 kWp

Typical installation cost are £5,000 – £8,000 and typical yearly energy savings are £311, so that takes 20.9 years to recover in energy savings, but it’s pretty good at the EPC score dial – shifting it up by a whopping 12 to 77 and a grade C.

So, as anyone can see, the ordering does not make any sense at all.

OK, I shall summarise the order they recommend here. I have used median costs here (Dec 2018):

  1. Wall insulation: £9,000, 64.7 years to recover cost, cost per unit gain in EPC score is £1,500.
  2. Floor insulation: £1,000, 35.7 years to recover cost, cost per unit gain in EPC score is £1,000
  3. Low energy lights: £20, 1 year to recover cost, cost per unit gain in EPC score is £20
  4. Heating controls: £400, 2.7 years to recover cost, cost per unit gain in EPC score is £57
  5. Condensing boiler: £2600, 20.4 years to recover cost, cost per unit gain in EPC score is £433
  6. Heat recovery device: £650, 28.3 years to recover cost, cost per unit gain in EPC score is £650
  7. Solar water heater: £5000, 217.3 years to recover cost, cost per unit gain in EPC score is £5,000
  8. Double glazed windows: £4900, 72.1 years to recover cost, cost per unit gain in EPC score is £1633
  9. Solar panels: £6500, 20.9 years to recover cost, cost per unit gain in EPC score is £542

Clearly, a lot of the things recommended will take a lifetime to recover the cost. In the case of a solar water heater, I think it most unlikely it will last 217 years! Jus’ sayin’! And even solar panels are thought to have a life of 20 years at best. So, I guess we just have to do a load more pollution to re-install when they wear out. This looks like economic and environmental madness to me.

At least floor and wall insulations will last a very long time, perhaps that is the real reason they come first and second, because it is sure as hell is not the time it takes to return the investment to the home owner in terms of just the accrued energy savings on the current costs side.

And what about the ordering that a homeowner is recommended to do things in?

The expert I spoke to admitted the ordering was a bit silly. He also said that new algorithms are coming out all the time, so this property or any property may score very differently if done today – and of course you will know from my previous post here two weeks ago, that the government is now hell bent on changing the scoring system to force people: a) to use more expensive (and heavily subsidised by the taxpayer) electricity and b) to use so-called heat pumps.

All this to keep people like Ed Miliband, the Swedish Doom Goblin and the other believers and grifters in the climate cult happy.

Looking at the ordering of my properties where the EPC was done more recently, I see the system tends to order them in terms of which has the biggest impact on EPC score (but again irrespective of the relative cost of doing the thing). And still there is the silly messaging that you should do them in the order presented. (Oddly, even on more recent EPCs, solar panels remain the odd man out and are always presented in last place, even though they shift the EPC dial a long way, albeit at a moderate cost).

As my other posts on EPCs have said, I am sure landlords will soon be the guinea pigs once again (after the general election) and be forced to install changes to make their houses dependent on more expensive electricity as a heat source and with the unfortunately named “heat pumps” too, thus further impoverishing both energy bill-paying tenants and the taxpayers subsidising the dash to renewable alike.

Truly, we are in the madhouse on energy.

I am all for better insulation to save on energy but the climate cult seems to have replaced the covid cult and is now driving things to the detriment of the economy but also to the obvious detriment to the environment too.

How long will this madness last?

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