Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are riddled with inaccuracies and contain unhelpful advice from energy assessors who suggest costly improvements with long pay back periods. That’s the verdict by Which? and it’s hard to argue with.

The consumer group wants the next government to reform EPCs after it conducted a snapshot investigation at 12 random properties and discovered that one homeowner had a survey done but never received their certificate. Of the remaining 11, only one was ‘very satisfied’ with their EPC and only three were likely to recommend getting an EPC. Eight told Which? their rating did not appear to be accurate as descriptions of key aspects of their home such as the windows, roof and heating system were wrong. Several felt that recommendations were unaffordable.

Which? says many EPCs don’t provide an accurate assessment of a home’s energy efficiency, blaming the metrics for confusing consumers. It’s a fair assessment and in my experience the issues with domestic EPCs fall into three main categories: training, auditing and misunderstanding.

Although the short domestic training course is delivered over a few days, the amount of information and knowledge a candidate needs is significant and requires a great deal of home study. Frankly, the qualification itself is no longer fit for purpose. EPCs were introduced to collect energy efficiency data on existing dwellings at minimum cost to consumers and in the least disruptive way possible. While things have moved on, the qualification’s assessment criteria haven’t been updated since 2012 to take account of the Green Deal – a UK government policy that gave out loans for home improvements through savings on energy bills.

A re-evaluation of Domestic Energy Assessors’ (DEAs) competence could iron out some of the creases. While many would leave the profession as a result, others would be surprised at how far they have fallen behind. However, better training would mean a better standard of Assessor, improved quality of EPCs and therefore less pressure on Quality Assurance Auditing.

I believe the level of fees charged by DEAs is far too low for a professional service where property transactions and funding schemes can’t be completed without an EPC. It’s perhaps a residual reflection of attitudes in the property industry when they were first introduced: that they are worthless and an annoyance. Yet so much has changed. The Green Deal was abandoned within three years of it being launched, various grant schemes that required an EPC as part of the process have come and gone, while Minimum EPC Regulations introduced in 2018 introduced a standard of energy performance and restricted landlords from letting if the EPC rating is below par.

I would argue that Domestic Energy Assessors haven’t moved with the times, don’t value their services and continue to offer low fees. How many DEAs invest in themselves through continual professional development? I don’t mean re-reading the same technical bulletin year after year; too many run to their accreditation scheme for advice without making any effort to build up their own knowledge and understanding. This presents opportunities for those less scrupulous to take advantage of them with fraudulent assessments to gain grant funding.

Consumers don’t always understand EPC methodology – perhaps some DEAs don’t either, which is concerning. There’s no doubt that this imperfect methodology needs an overhaul so that it can be fit for purpose going forward.

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