I am sure you have all come across the three letters BER or EPC more than once in the last few months and probably are familiar with what they stand for: the Energy Performance Certificate (in the UK) or Building Energy Rating (in Ireland). If you are currently looking to buy or rent a house you might have noticed that letters like D2, E1, B3 accompany each ad, be it in the paper or on the Internet. Since the 9th January of this year, the BER or EPC of any property being sold or rented must be shown when advertising it. So what is the BER/EPC and what do the letters stand for?
A Building Energy Rating or Energy Performance Certificate indicates how energy efficient a property is. This is rated on a scale of A to G, with an A-rated home being the most energy efficient and G the worst. Basically, the better the label the lower the energy bills you can expect. The aspects that will determine the rating are energy use for space heating, water heating, ventilation and lighting. So how can you improve the BER/EPC of your own home?
First and foremost you should look at the insulation of your home. The better insulated it is the less heat can escape which means less energy you will use to heat it in the first place. As warm air tends to rise, the roof is the place to look at first. Attics of older homes are often not very well insulated with existing insulation having sunk over the years or gaps having appeared within. Putting an additional 300mm of mineral wool into your attic is a job you can often do yourself. It is important to ensure the insulation material is evenly distributed and is covering the entire surface down into the eaves.
Another item that will improve the energy performance instantly is looking at your fireplace. Open fires, although lovely to look at, are very bad in relation to energy performance. Fitting a stove into the existing fireplace opening will seal this off and avoid any warm air escaping through the chimney. Be careful to get your chimney cleaned when getting a flue placed to ensure it will perform properly. The choice of stoves, from traditional to contemporary, is excellent. You can choose if you want to go for a wood burning stove only or a so called multifuel stove that burns timber, turf and coal. A good stove will give off a lot of heat while the large glazed front will give you the feeling of an open fire.
These two simple changes will greatly improve your BER/EPC. If your house is very poorly insulated then you will have to look at the walls next. Sometimes the cavity in the walls can be filled with additional insulation but this is not always possible. Fitting a layer of insulation on the inside is an alternative which is quite disruptive. Another option is external insulation which can be expensive but is extremely efficient as it wraps the entire house in a warm envelope and also gives you a new appearance as it receives a fresh coat of render. Better windows, the addition of thermostatic controls to your heating system, an energy efficient boiler and the installation of a heat recovery ventilation system are all additional steps towards a better energy rating. Sources of renewable energy like solar panels or heat pumps are also accounted for. The final item which will instantly improve the energy performance and save you money is changing your light bulbs to energy efficient lamps.
You can seek advise on what measures are worth looking into for your home from a registered assessor who will also issue a BER/EPC certificate. A list of these as well as information on available grants can be found on the websites of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) http://www.seai.ie/Your_Building/BER/ or the Energy Saving Trust in the UK http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Insulation/Energy-performance-certificates
For new houses, the building regulations which outline the requirements for insulation, air tightness and provision of renewable energy sources is becoming more stringent from year to year. These ensure that new houses should achieve a high label in the BER/EPC. Being aware of the BER/EPC you will look out for properties with an A or B rating. Surely, the purchase or rental choice will be influenced by the building's estimated efficiency from now on and the price won't be the only determining factor anymore!