Save Money and the Planet with Energy Efficiency in Your Home
Ahead of the colder months, summer and early autumn can be a good time to consider improvements to the energy efficiency of your property – especially as utility bills remain stubbornly high. But to what extent does it make sense to invest in the latest eco-friendly heating systems if you plan to sell in the short to medium term? Will such an investment positively influence the rating you receive on your mandatory Energy Performance Certificate in your Home Report?
These are points this piece will consider and it follows my recent (June 2023) blog about measures you as a homeowner can take to improve the value of your home.
Obviously, ways to reduce your gas and electricity usage in the home are important for many households in Scotland. What’s more, there has been widespread publicity about the Scottish Government’s ‘Heat in Buildings’ strategy. With a vision to ensure that by 2045 Scotland is achieving a transition to (carbon) net zero, the government is looking to make homes and buildings in Scotland ‘cleaner, greener and easier to heat’.
As a result, the Government may introduce a ban on the installation of gas central heating boilers in domestic homes after 2024. This would help curb greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions. However, the time frame for the introduction of this ban – in a bid to encourage a nationwide transition to more environmentally friendly heating systems – is still very much in question.
Consequently, while we are all still (hopefully) basking in summer sunshine, it’s both topical and relevant to focus on energy efficiencies in the home.
Energy efficiency measures
Is your home well insulated? It can pay to know, for it’s estimated that up to 35% of heat energy in your home is lost through your walls, roof space and small cracks in the walls and door joints. That’s over £1 in every £3 you spend on your heating literally vanishing into thin air!
Therefore, if it’s feasible within your home, it can pay dividends to ensure your roof space, walls and even under the floors are all well insulated. Admittedly, this is easier to achieve in more modern houses. Older traditional homes built of stone can be much harder and more expensive to effectively insulate. But it’s possible to make a difference if you are willing to make the financial investment.
You are looking at several hundred to several thousand pounds of cost for cavity wall insulation depending on the size and type of your property. Cavity wall insulation can increase the warmth of internal rooms and help to reduce your heating bills and CO2 emissions. For some homeowners there can be financial assistance through the likes of the Free Insulation Scheme and Warmer Homes Scotland initiative.
If your windows are old or in need of repair, it can pay to install new windows that will make your home warmer and potentially quieter. However, any replacement windows should be in keeping with the age and style of the property. It’s worth checking with your local authority planning department if you need permission for any improvements.
In recent years, there has been considerable publicity about grants for homeowners to install more energy-efficient (and more carbon friendly) home heating systems. This can include air source heat pumps, ground-source heat pumps, solar water heating, biomass boilers and electric combi-boilers. All have their advantages and disadvantages and come with greatly varying installation costs that can vary from £3,000 or £4,000 to £20,000+ depending on the property.
In recent years there has been considerable publicity about both air-source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps. According to Home Energy Scotland there is government grant support of up to £7,500 (depending on property and location) to help install a heat pump with up to £7,500 also available through an interest-free loan.
However, every property differs in its requirements, and while these are more environmentally friendly options than traditional gas boilers, the likes of air source pumps do require electricity to function. Consequently, with utility bills currently high, there is a need to weigh up the benefits of investing in such a system if you are planning to move home in the short-medium term.
Another potential option is to install solar panels on the exterior of your home. It’s reported that there are now over 140,000 households in Scotland with solar installed to support domestic electricity use. Usually, panels would be installed on the roof so there can be issues for flats and potentially for homes in conservation areas with stricter planning controls.
However, should a pre-installation survey consider your property suitable for solar power, there are grants to help offset the installation of panels that have an approximate lifespan of 25+ years. It’s claimed that the average home in Scotland with solar panels can cut its electricity bills by over 50%. Unsurprisingly, it’s reported to be an increasingly popular option as a domestic, environmentally friendly heating source.
Of course, there is a cost. According to website, theecoexperts.co.uk a 1-2 bedroom house would require 6 panels installed at an approximate cost of £4716. This would reportedly save the homeowner around £299 in energy bills per year and after 15.8 years allow the homeowner to break even on the original investment. By comparison, the approximate cost of solar panels to be installed on a 4+ bedroom house is in excess of £11,000 and with anticipated savings on your utility bills of £698 per annum.
Your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
Whether you plan to buy or sell your property, carefully consider the merits and potential disadvantages of any energy system within a property. As an independent, RICS certified chartered surveyor with over 25 years’ experience in evaluating all types of homes, at the Home Report Company, we believe it’s very important to understand the energy efficiency of a property and the potential costs and benefits of a particular system.
Of course, the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), a mandatory part of the Home Report for all domestic properties sold in Scotland after 1 December 2008, is a very helpful and quick way to understand a property’s energy efficiency.
In essence, an EPC report is a certificate that states the energy efficiency of a building based on the standardised way in which a building is used. CO2 ratings are shown in bands from A-G. A is very efficient and G is very inefficient. The performance of the measured building is bench-marked against current Building Standards with recommended cost-effective improvements.
The cost-effective improvements recommended within your EPC will reduce the carbon emissions generated, save energy, and should make your property more attractive to prospective buyers. Your property can potentially be made more energy efficient by improving the heating system, insulation, or even air conditioning but seek professional advice to ensure your course of action is the right one for your property – and your pocket!
Andrew MacKenzie is a qualified Chartered Surveyor with over 20 years’ experience within the Scottish Property market. He specialises in all types of residential valuations including Home Reports, Private Valuation reports and Development Appraisals.
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