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Energy performance certificates are unreliable and need reform, says Which?

<span>EPCs were introduced as a means of measuring a home’s energy performance.</span><span>Photograph: monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images/iStockphoto</span>
EPCs were introduced as a means of measuring a home’s energy performance.Photograph: monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The consumer group Which? has called for an overhaul of the energy performance certificates (EPC) system after an investigation found assessments riddled with inaccuracies and unhelpful advice that could cost homeowners thousands of pounds.

The investigation, which included Which? securing EPC assessments for 12 homeowners, found in one case an assessor had failed to mention a property’s solar panels or wood burning stove in their final assessment, while the cost of upgrades recommended to another owner would not have been recouped for 29 years.

EPCs were introduced in 2007 as a way of assessing a home’s energy performance, with properties banded from A, the most energy efficient properties, to G, the least efficient.


Related: Are energy performance certificates worth the paper they’re written on?

About 60% of homes in England, and 55% in Wales, have an EPC certificate, with a recent survey by the property website Rightmove finding that 14.5% of respondents said the EPC rating was a big factor in determining their next home purchase.

The Guardian reported earlier this month that there were growing concerns around the accuracy of EPC reports, as well as finding that many contained outdated information.

As part of its investigation, Which? booked EPC assessments for 12 of its homeowning members across England, Wales and Scotland between February and March this year.

Of the 12 homeowners assessed, only one said they were satisfied with their EPC, while three said they were likely to recommend getting a certificate to others.

In one case, the homeowner had the EPC assessment done but never received a certificate. They were eventually refunded but never received any information on their home’s energy performance.

Of the remaining 11 that did receive reports, eight reported inaccuracies with the descriptions of their homes, including the windows, roofs and heating systems.

This included a couple in Aberdeenshire who noticed there was no mention of their solar panels, thermal panels or woodburning stove in their report, while a suspended floor was described as having no insulation despite the pair discussing the insulation with the assessor.

The EPC rating of a property can have a significant impact on the sale price of a property, with more efficient homes selling for a higher price.

Accurate EPC ratings are also important as the score can define whether a homeowner is eligible for government grants for energy upgrades, or green financial products such as loans or mortgages.

In another Which? case, a homeowner was told she would need to pay £26,700 for upgrades that would take her property from band D to band C. However, these would only save her about £920 a year, meaning it would take 29 years to recover the cost.

The property owner said: “The recommended changes are extremely expensive, generally for small savings each year, and would require massive disruption.”

Which? called for sweeping reforms to the EPC system including an audit by government of the training requirements for EPC assessors to ensure they have the skills needed. There are several different accreditation schemes, with courses online or in person.

It has also said the design and content of the certificates needed to be changed to provide clearer advice and information, as well as providing links to any financial support that may be available for upgrades.

Rocio Concha, the Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “The next government must make EPC a more reliable and useful tool for householders. This should include reviewing the auditing and training requirements for domestic energy assessors and ensuring EPCs provide relevant information and clear, actionable advice for consumers.”