How to Reduce Energy Bills and Understand EPCs

27th Feb 2024
Daniel Frogley

With energy prices at a record high and set to increase even further, you might be thinking of ways to cut down your energy bills. As Winter approaches, here are our top tips to help reduce your energy consumption and keep bills to a minimum.

Turn off sockets

A simple way to cut down energy consumption is to turn off appliances left on standby. You can use plug sockets that can be turned on and off via your phone, or use timer plugs to schedule appliances to be turned on and off.

Install a smart meter

Smart meters, or smart thermostats, help reduce your energy consumption by allowing you to track your usage and giving you more control.

They only heat the rooms that you are using, learn how long it takes to heat a room and can be controlled by your phone so you can change the temperature whilst you're not in the house.

Energy efficient appliances

Whilst replacing a perfectly good appliance won't save you a lot of money,  swapping old appliances for high-efficiency appliances is a worthwhile investment. Look for A+++rated appliances as these use less energy, helping cut your energy bills.

Cooler clothes washes

Washing clothes at a lower temperature helps reduce your energy consumption, and if you can condense the number of cycles you do per week this will cut your usage further.

Stop the draught

Retaining heat in your property is key to cutting your energy consumption as a draughty home can cause it to lose heat quicker, making you want to keep your heating on for longer.

Investing in double glazing helps insulate your home, as well as sealing cracks, lining your letterbox and blocking unused chimneys.

What Is an Energy Performance Certificate?

Energy Performance Certificates have been a legal requirement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2009. You must get an EPC if you want to sell or rent your home. So, we’ve all had time to get used to the idea, but what is an EPC?

We strip away some of the myths to bring you the facts about energy performance certificates, and answer the pressing questions.

We have had energy performance ratings for a long time. Every time you buy a washing machine or oven, you will see a coloured chart showing you the energy efficiency of that appliance. 

It helps you choose the most efficient model to reduce energy costs and save you money. It also encourages manufacturers to make their products more environmentally friendly as customers demand the most cost-effective technology. 

In essence, an EPC for a property is a four-page document that rates your home’s energy performance using a coloured chart ranging from green for the best to red being the worst. Each colour is allotted a letter from A to G. 

It also provides you with suggestions to help increase your home’s rating to improve efficiency, including the potential costs and savings. 

Do I Need an EPC?

If you are selling or renting your house, you will need an EPC within seven days of the property coming onto the market. They are a legal requirement. The good news is if you are using Beals Independent Estate Agents to market your home, we will sort this out for you. 

If you fail to produce an EPC, you could receive a £5,000 fine. 

Who Does the EPC?

Your EPC is carried out by a qualified and accredited Energy Performance Assessor. These assessments can be sourced independently, but the vast majority of sellers and landlords use their estate or letting agents to organise the report.

Can My Home Fail an EPC?

If you are selling your home, you cannot fail the energy performance certificate. The report ranks your property from A to G, with A being the most efficient and G the worst performance. 

However, if you are selling your home, a low score will likely damage your chances of securing a buyer, which could negatively affect your asking price. 

If you are renting your property, things are slightly different. Prior to April 2020, the law demanded that homes should have a minimum of an E-rating in order to secure a new tenancy. Post-April 2020, this now applies to all tenancies. 

What If My Rental Home Has an F-Rating?

You will not be able to rent your property if it scores an F or G-rating. Before installing a tenant, the law states that you must perform improvement works recommended in the report to a maximum value of £3,500 (VAT inclusive).

This is going to change because the UK government has pledged a minimum of a C-rating for all rental properties by 2030. Given that the UK has the highest concentration of old and leaky homes in Europe, that equates to a lot of upgrades. 

When Am I Not Required to get an EPC?

There are instances where an EPC is not required. For example, if you rent an individual room within your home. But bear in mind that a self-contained flat within a property with its own entrance and facilities will need an EPC.

If you own a listed building, it is protected, or in a conservation area, your property is exempt from an energy rating. This is to protect the property because some energy improvements could dramatically alter the outward appearance. 

You can check the status of your home with your local authority conservation officer.

Will I Need to Renew My EPC?

Your EPC is valid for 10 years and it rates the home and not the person commissioning it. You can reuse the EPC multiple times within that time frame. 

Should I Update My EPC If I Improve My Home?

You don’t have to get your home rated after improvements that you think will improve the overall score. However, if you are thinking of selling within the 10-year period when the EPC is still valid, it might be a good idea to increase buyer confidence. 

It might also help you attain a better price. 

How Do I Query My EPC?

If you don’t understand something, or you disagree with the report, you can contact the energy performance assessor who did the assessment. Their details are listed on the document under the “About this document” section. 

If the problem remains unresolved, you can make contact with the accreditation scheme listed on the document. 

Ways to Improve Your EPC Rating

If you are worried about the EPC result, you can do some simple things to improve the rating before the assessment is carried out. 

Start with Lighting

Lighting is surprisingly energy-hungry, especially if you use halogen or non-low energy bulbs. Consider changing your old bulbs for light-emitting diodes (LED) or compact fluorescent lights (CFL). 

LED bulbs use 75% less energy than incandescent lighting. When you multiply the number of light bulbs in your home, that’s a massive energy saving.

Replace Old Heating

Old gas boilers are one of the biggest causes of a low energy score on your EPC. It’s expensive to replace your gas boiler but it is worth doing if you have the funds and you think it is necessary. 

New condensing gas boilers are 95% efficient, with only 5% of the energy being used to power the boiler. Compare that to an old boiler, which could be as low as 60%. That means that 40% of the energy used powers the boiler. 

This is a long-term energy solution, and you are unlikely to see the benefits if you are selling your home, but it will improve your EPC result. 

Update Roof Insulation

Heat rises, so is it any wonder that a poorly insulated roof leaks all the heat from your home. Ensure the loft insulation is a minimum of 270mm thick to trap the heat in and reduce heating costs. 

The good news is if your insulation is 90mm or less, you can apply for funding to upgrade the insulation.

Update Wall Insulation

Older homes have cavity walls, which is essentially two skins of brick with a gap between them to allow air to flow. While they are excellent at helping your home breathe, they can be drafty. Consider cavity wall insulation to solve this problem. 

One of the biggest influencers of the EPC rating is cavity walls, so a simple way to get the highest score is to insulate your walls.

Update Thermostats

Old boilers are inefficient, but you can improve their performance by updating your heating controls. New thermostats and individual thermostatic radiator valves (TRV) increase the efficiency of your heating system. 

Using a smart meter also helps you improve how you use energy because it tells you how much you are using in real-time.

The Last Word on Energy Performance Certificates

Try not to look at the EPC as a stick to punish you for having a poorly insulated home. Remember that when you sell, you usually need to buy, so by applying the same standard, we all benefit, including the planet. 

Energy performance certificates are designed to drag the UK’s old, leaky and inefficient housing stock into the 21st century to reduce energy bills and help to save the planet. That has to be a good thing for you and your children’s futures.