7 easy ways to improve your property’s EPC rating

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are documents required under UK Law whenever a house (or commercial building) is built, sold, or rented out. First introduced in 2007, about two-thirds of buildings in the UK now have one.

If you have never seen one, they rate a particular building, like your home, on a scale of A to G, with A being the most energy efficient (and cheapest to run) and G the least efficient (and most expensive to run).

These documents are available online for free, but you should have received one if you moved into your home after 2007. Each certificate includes other information, including recommendations on how to improve the building’s rating.

These can range from simple, cheap measures like changing light bulbs to more expensive measures like insulating walls or installing things like solar panels. They are only recommendations, but if you want to shave the cost of your energy bills, they are a good starting point to consider.

But, which ones, if any, get you the most “bang for your buck?” Let’s take a look.

EPC ratings illustration

Why should I try to improve my EPC rating?

Improving a property’s EPC rating is an essential step in reducing energy bills and combating climate change. The less energy we use in heating and powering our homes, the less it costs you to live in it. Plus, as a bonus, the less emissions we put into the atmosphere.

The UK’s housing stock needs an overhaul, especially considering that the average EPC rating for UK homes is only band D. Not bad, but they can do better with a little effort. This is partly due to the age of the housing stock in the UK but also a consequence of relatively slow changes to building regulations prior to the millennium.

Furthermore, research has also suggested that reaching C or above is impossible for around 1.7 million homes in bands D to G. This is, for a variety of reasons, too complex to explain here, but some of these are either in conservation areas, the buildings themselves, or listed historical buildings. However, most other housing stock can have at least some upgrades to make them more energy lean.

The government can only do so much, but with most homes in the UK privately owned, you don’t have to wait for government handouts to get the ball rolling. Plus, given the cost savings you could potentially reap, making improvements to your home, even small ones, will pay off in the long run.

But where should you start? Let’s take a look.

Woman holding a miniature house, insulated concept

1. Use energy-efficient lighting

One of the easiest things to do is to swap out your older light bulbs. In most cases, this will involve replacing your old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps or LED bulbs to score a few easy points on your EPC rating.

The best part? It doesn’t cost that much either –in the long run, you’ll save money. For example, for a typical 60-watt incandescent bulb, you’ll average around 1,200 hours of lighting before it needs to be replaced. A 6-watt LED bulb, on the other hand, will last upwards of 60,000 hours.

A 60-watt incandescent bulb costs £1 to £2, whereas an LED bulb costs a few bobs more per bulb. Considering how long an incandescent bulb lasts and how it uses far more electricity than an LED bulb, over 60,000 hours, you will save hundreds of pounds in electricity and bulb changes over the year.

Interestingly, however, if you replace older incandescent bulbs, you may notice a little uptick in your heating bills. Believe it or not, they contribute a little to heating your home! However, the benefits of replacing them far outweigh any benefit you get by keeping them.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) bring big savings, too. Each CFL costs £3 or so and has a 10,000-hour lifespan, meaning you’ll spend a total of £180 (including electricity costs) over the same lifespan of a single LED bulb. It’s a bit of a no-brainer if you ask us.

2. Get loft insulation

Loft insulation is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of improving your property’s EPC rating. Typically made from fibreglass or renewable wood fibre, loft insulation creates a barrier between your home and roof to minimise heat loss.

Heat rising from below is kept inside a little longer by creating this barrier in your loft. This reduces the need to keep the heating on longer than necessary.

The best part about loft insulation is that you can quite easily install it yourself, which many homeowners choose to do. Just make sure you wear gloves and a mask when you do so!

It is often laid between the rafters that support your roof or between the joists in your loft floor. The former is more expensive, but not substantially so, and is generally a better option for maximising heat retention.

3. Get cavity wall insulation

Like insulating your loft, wall insulation will have a big impact on your home’s energy efficiency. It is one of the most expensive improvements you can make, but the returns on investment are potentially huge over time.

Cavity insulation is the most common type of wall insulation, as most modern homes in the UK have a gap between the walls. It’s pretty cheap, too, averaging around £370–£500 for your average home. However, this is not always appropriate for your home, especially if it has a narrow cavity like most 1930-1950s properties.

If you have an EPC, it should detail if this is the case. Once installed, you’ll see a substantial benefit to your home’s energy efficiency if appropriate.

If you have solid stone or brick walls (or, dare we say, prefabricated walls), you can consider internal or external wall insulation, but these are costly and complicated works. It is best to consult an expert before going down this route.

4. Add an insulating jacket to your hot water tank

If you get your hot water from a tank, you should consider adding an insulating jacket. You’ll want to aim for around 60mm to 80mm thick for best results. Doing so will save you around £50 per year and contribute a few points towards your EPC rating.

You can easily pick one up for around £25, meaning after just one year, you’ve already made a profit. After several years, the benefits of an insulating jacket become substantial.

Alternatively, you could consider switching to a condensing boiler and removing that old tank (more on this in the next section). If you must have a hot water cylinder, you could also consider getting a more modern version (but these can be costly).

5. Replace your boiler

OK, so saying this is easy might be a stretch, but if you can afford a new boiler, you should consider it. Your heating system greatly impacts your home’s EPC rating, and making it more efficient can add many points.

When you install a new boiler, your EPC rating could rise by as much as 40 points. The minimum EPC rating is 39, so getting a new boiler will help you reach the required standard even if you don’t do anything else.

For best results, as we mentioned earlier, consider getting a condensing boiler installed, but this is not always possible. There are also cutting-edge boiler replacements now, like zero-emission boilers, you might want to consider. However, the EPC software may not give you the EPC rating improvements just yet as it is a very new technology.

6. Invest in double glazing

Double-glazed windows are one of the best ways to immediately improve your home’s insulation and reduce your heating costs. While they’re not as cheap as changing your lightbulbs, they can still be installed quickly and easily.

Expect to pay between £300 to £800 per window, or £5,000 on average for a three-bedroom home. They also help improve your EPC rating, adding up to 10 points to your property’s overall score. This is less than loft insulation but is a significant step to improve your home’s EPC rating.

If you have the means, triple glazing is an even better option. Triple-glazed windows are very effective at stopping heat from escaping, but don’t fret too much if you opt for double glazing; it’s still a very practical choice.

Learn more about double glazing and triple glazing by reading our in-depth comparison of the two.

7. Get a smart meter

Smart meters are a controversial improvement measure, but they can help you use energy more wisely. For some in the industry, the importance of smart meters in reducing your energy bills cannot be overstated. While getting a smart meter won’t directly improve your EPC rating, it will give you a much clearer picture of how much energy you use.

When you know how much energy you use, you can immediately take steps to reduce it. Before smart meters, it was far more difficult for households to assess energy usage, leading to using more energy than needed. Also, once you have a smart meter and have applied the tips above, you’ll see the improvements in real-time.

Bonus measures

There are some other bonus things you can do to improve your home rating that may not always be reflected on the EPC.

The simplest, and one that will make your energy assessor very happy, is to make documentation available for them on-site. This will include information on double glazing installation dates, build dates of the home, insulation installation certificates, boiler make and model, and, if you have them, the handover documents for things like solar panels. Without them, the assessor may need to make assumptions, which will reduce the potential rating for your home!

Another option, if you have one, is to board up an open fireplace. These act as big heat vents if you don’t use them for open fires. The energy assessor has to note them (and how many), which impacts your home’s rating. If you don’t need it, close it up!

Yet another often overlooked cheap measure is draughtproofing. Most modern doors and windows have excellent draughtproofing, but you can add draughtproof strips to older windows to help reduce heat loss from your home. The energy assessor will look for this and factor it into the final EPC rating calculations.

If you have any portable electrical heaters, store them away before the energy assessor arrives. If present, these must be factored into the calculations and can significantly reduce your EPC rating. However, if you need to use them regularly, it usually means the heating system or insulation in your home is insufficient, so you should look into those measures, too.

You are welcome!

Summary

Improving your home’s EPC rating is the most effective way to reduce your energy bills. Just applying even a handful of the above tips will increase your EPC rating, so it’s definitely worth thinking about.

Not everyone will be able to afford some of the things listed here, but even if it’s just replacing the odd light bulb, it can still make a difference.

Written by:
Tom Gill
Tom joined The Eco Experts over a year ago and has since covered the carbon footprint of the Roman Empire, profiled the world’s largest solar farms, and investigated what a 100% renewable UK would look like. Tom has a particular interest in the global energy market and how it works, including the ongoing semiconductor shortage, the future of hydrogen, and Cornwall's growing lithium industry.
Reviewed by:
Christopher is an Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) specialist with extensive experience advising consumer and trade clients on energy efficiency and sustainability.
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