Our advice for saving energy in the home

If Channel 4 were to commission a television programme from me it would be called “Help – My House is Leaking Energy”. Sadly, I don’t hear them knocking, and anyway I am not sure I can make energy efficiency quite as visually arresting as the recent series Sarah has fronted on the structural calamities facing unwary home owners.

That does not mean that energy efficiency is not as important as cracks, subsidence damp and mould. It is just a bit less dramatic! In fact, if I am truly honest it is rather boring. The loft insulation aisle in my local Homebase stores is, I readily admit, not as exciting as the section with the snazzy new bathroom suites. (Although, hats off to Homebase who are selling Knauf Ecose loft insulation made from recycled plastic bottles.)

But, while not sexy or exciting, energy efficiency is crucially important and if I can hold your attention for a bit longer I will explain why.

We all know about Climate Change. Personally, while I am not a Climate Change sceptic I also know how remote a concept it can be. It is very difficult to relate small personal actions to saving an endangered species on the other side of the world, or getting to grips with the concept of a warming planet when we have just experienced two very cold winters.

What we may not all be so clear about is the issue of fuel supply. We are all so used to flicking a switch or turning up the heating controls that we do not give any thought to what would happen if the electricity was turned off or the gas simply wasn’t there. But the truth is that as a nation, we are no longer self-sufficient in energy. We are now a net importer of gas and we burn gas to make our electricity. That is why there is now an emphasis on renewable energy with feed-in tariffs for solar PV panels and a move to off-shore wind and, controversially, a return to nuclear power.

But all of this investment in new energy sources cannot meet our insatiable demand for energy. If the lights and are not to go off and the boiler is to keep burning we must, simply, use less. And we are kidding ourselves if we think that energy prices won’t go up. The days of cheap energy are over! Gas piped across two continents is not cheap to buy! So, to help us use less energy and save money we need to start to wrap up our houses – we need to stop our homes leaking energy!

I expect that most people reading this will agree that this is hardly controversial. But this is where things don’t quite compute.

As we know, when you sell a house, by law, you must get an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for that house. But how many people see the EPC on the house they are selling, never mind the house they wish to buy? Most people believe that the EPC is simply the A-G graph. This is only the summary - the EPC itself runs to several pages.

Agents are required to put the A-G graph on their sales particulars, but those agents I have asked tell me that they don’t offer the EPC to potential purchasers as a matter of course because the ‘public does not ask for them’. But surely, people would ask for information which might help to save energy and money, if they knew that information was available! And it is – it is buried in the EPC!

So, if you are selling your home, don’t just go through the motions with the EPC. When you order one, I beg of you not to just go for the lowest price but actually choose an energy assessor who you can trust to do a proper job. DEAs registered with National Energy Services which operates the NHER Accreditation Scheme can also provide a Domestic Energy Property Report. This will give you even more information- and most will not charge you any more for this. So why not be radical? Get the EPC and read it and even think about undertaking some of the improvement works. You may find that grants and subsidies are available via your utility company.

When you find a potential buyer, show them the EPC. If you have made any energy saving improvements you will not need a new EPC – you can tell your buyer about the improvements you have made and provide evidence to this effect during the conveyancing process.

And when you are buying, make the agents do some work and ask them for the EPC. Watch them scurry round the office trying to find the right one!

The EPC is only the starting point. It highlights the easy measures – those which you can do yourself or which can be undertaken with the minimum amount of upheaval for you. But they are a start.

I still don’t hear Channel 4 beating a path to my door to commission that programme from me, but if you have read this, perhaps they won’t need to. Simply reading the EPC would be a good start.

With thanks to Hilary Grayson, National Energy Services - follow Hilary on twitter @HilaryNES