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Current Home Energy Ratings System Merely Delays The Inevitable

Energy rating labels on new homes could be dramatically improved according to environmental experts and pressure groups, who say that the current EPC rating system actually increases CO2 emissions rather than reduces them. 

The current system of ratings from A to G and BREEAM are based around the cost of energy used in the home rather than how much carbon dioxide it produces, which has meant that some eco-friendly homes have been given poor ratings because they use renewable energy such as solar panels, which can be expensive to install but don’t necessarily cost the homeowner any extra money in the long run.

The EPC rates buildings from A to G but experts are saying the current system is “not fit for purpose” 

A report by Spec’s (a 3D mapping startup) stated the average discrepancy in property area coming in at 8.6% (or 87 square feet). One in four EPCs records the size of a property so inaccurately that it varies by more than 10% from the true size of the property. 

What’s more, experts argue that the current rating system is not based on actual CO2 emissions, but rather on how much energy is used to heat and light a building. 

It’s been argued that if we use non-renewable energy sources to power our homes, we are likely to increase global warming and so energy efficiency should be evaluated in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) as well as cost. Others have suggested that sustainable buildings don’t need to be more expensive than conventional ones. If we choose where and what type of materials to build with carefully then green architecture can help us save energy for less money than conventional methods would allow for.

The main issue with EPCs

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houzen's Sustainability Report sample, much more specific and in-depth than the EPC report

The system incentivises the use of mains gas over electricity or LPG
If a house is gas-heated, it gets a lower rating than if it were electrically heated. This, in itself, may be ok. But there’s a problem with how we define those energy sources: low energy ratings are measured using mains gas, intermediate ratings are measured using electricity and high ratings are measured using LPG (liquid petroleum gas). 

In other words, current system incentivises electrical heating over other options because it says hey! You used less CO2 by using electricity instead of gas – great work! – while LPG users get no such encouragement. Indeed, they are actively punished for their choice of technology by receiving higher ratings than they deserve.

Flawed practices used by EPC assessors could mean that up to 2.5m homes are inaccurate due to old measuring systems.

EPC ratings have been available to potential homebuyers since 2003, but are based on ‘how much a property would cost to heat’. Research by Cambridge University has revealed that it is entirely possible for one building to be given a B rating, and its neighbour just yards away to be rated an A—even though they have identical features. 

However, when we look at carbon emissions instead of energy costs, new homes with vastly different efficiencies can have very similar ratings. An F rated home can even be more efficient than a C rated property if it is fitted with solar panels. This gives consumers who aren’t aware of these discrepancies no real idea about how green their choice of new-build actually is.

What can be done?

Technology plays a huge part in changing the way we will measure energy ratings in the future. Integration of technology, such as digital twinning and 3D mapping, will be the first step to creating accurate measurements of a property. 

Another step could be to implement measures based purely on net energy usage rather than the cost incentives of the fuel source. Cost is important, but to really tackle climate change, it is important to look at the CO2 output of the home. 

Furthermore, incentivising property owners to improve their rating system could also be key. If a homeowner, for example, could get a higher value on their home insurance if they had an energy-efficient home, they would be more likely to invest in their property.

The first step to the future can be taken now: houzen has created a tool that analyses sustainability (wellbeing of the property as well as environmental impact), and a formula to accurately measure CO2. It’s open to anyone and available at https://deals.houzen.co.uk/ai-valuation 

 

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