If you’re a homeowner or landlord of residential properties wanting to determine whether your property is up to scratch – either to put on the market or to boost energy efficiency by making some home improvements – you’ll first need to call in a Domestic Energy Assessor or a Retrofit Assessor.
Regulations for residential landlords require an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – a legal document for the sale and letting of a property – which needs to achieve a minimum rating before they can sign up a new tenant. A Retrofit Assessment is a bolt-on service for energy efficiency improvements; assessments done to PAS 2035 standards are only required where the works are subject to grant funding.
So, before you call in an expert, perhaps it’s time to outline just what happens during an inspection for an EPC, so you’ll know what to expect. (Look out for our next blog relating to Retrofit Assessments and Coordination.) Put simply, the survey – typically about an hour long – is all about collecting property data so we can produce the EPC by going through every room in the house. We’ll examine your property’s age and type, the construction of walls, floors, windows, roof, the type of lighting, and type of space heating, taking photographs and measurements to create a floor plan as we go.
It’s a non-invasive inspection and assessors don’t typically lift any floorboards or carpets; we can only include energy-efficiency measures that we can see or that can be proven. We evaluate your home’s current efficiency, so can’t include improvements that aren’t already in place. Any material changes that have been made to the dwelling such as extensions, loft conversions and retrofitted insulation will be included in the assessment. The Energy Assessor will need to know details for the changes, such as the date when they were carried out so that the correct specification can be used. We get this information from the homeowner or it’s obtained from researching planning files or building regulations documents. If it is not available or inconclusive, the assessment will assume the same age as the original dwelling which could therefore have a detrimental impact on the EPC rating.
Once we’ve got all the data, it’s entered into government-approved Reduced data Standard Assessment Procedure (RdSAP) software which calculates the energy performance of the property and produces the EPC, which provides some generic energy efficiency improvement measures. Since the EPC is a legal document required for the sale or letting of a dwelling, it must be registered on the government’s EPC Register – a publicly accessible website. Depending on the purpose of the instruction or need for the EPC, there might be additional services required, for example, if the EPC is part of a homeowner’s journey to improve comfort and energy saving, the Energy Assessor could have further involvement. Much of this will depend on their experience and competence in providing the additional consultancy service. This experience can lead naturally to becoming a Retrofit Assessor or Retrofit Coordinator – two nationally recognised qualifications (for which additional training is required) specifically relating to the assessment and advice for improving the energy efficiency of residential properties.
As energy saving rapidly moves up the political agenda – amid the government’s push for heat pumps to replace boilers in pursuit of its net zero carbon by 2050 target – and with energy prices rising inexorably – growing numbers of householders and landlords are thinking about how they can save money. And all this attention means there’s going to be an increasing demand for assessors to help lay these green foundations. It’s a satisfying and flexible career as many Domestic Energy Assessors are self-employed and work on a freelance basis. We can find ourselves working in a small, terraced house in the city, a detached house in the suburbs or a huge barn conversion in the sticks.
While it can be useful to have previous experience in relevant professions such as surveying, engineering or architecture to do the job, you don’t need any previous experience or qualifications to get started – instead, good people skills, an eye for detail and an interest in buildings and the environment are all key if you’re looking to re-train to become a Domestic Energy Assessor. If that appeals, there are a number of three to five-day courses – either online or in-person – where the course modules include property types and characteristics, the different types of construction, building regulations and types of heating and hot water systems. Courses cost somewhere between £1,000 and £1,500 and can be delivered in the classroom, on-line or as a hybrid approach. A portfolio will need to be completed and submitted for marking following the training course, to include a series of soft skills documents as well as evidence of surveys and assessments undertaken on several houses of different types and ages. It’s quite possible to gain the qualification within two months of the training course.
Once qualified and before being able to operate as a Domestic Energy Assessor, you must join an approved accreditation scheme, namely Elmhurst, ECMK, Quidos, Stroma or Sterling. They ensure you’re a fit and proper person (you will need a DBS check) and oversee your commitment to maintaining professional indemnity, updating your skills and knowledge regularly, adhering to their quality assurance scheme, and abiding by their advice and guidance. Once approved, you get access to the software that produces and registers EPCs. You’ll also need to cover additional costs for further training to achieve an annual continual professional development target of 10 hours per year.
According to the National Careers Service website, there currently aren’t any apprenticeship vacancies in England for domestic energy assessors, which is a real shame as it’s a future-proof career with prospects that would appeal to plenty of young people. The Retrofit Academy Community Interest Company points to the lack of youngsters being trained up to deliver retrofit and has set up the UK Retrofit Training Academy, with the aim of creating a ‘skills vision’ for retrofit home improvements as well as helping colleges and universities to deliver retrofit training. Its mission is to develop 200,000 competent retrofitters by 2030. It’s a really commendable aim and one which could be mirrored in the assessment sector where there will be a commensurate need for reliable and skilled surveyors to conduct the many thousands of retrofit surveys set to take place across the UK.
Murton & Co have developed and delivered vocational training courses and we continue to deliver CPD sessions on energy efficiency in residential and commercial property. As a Chartered Surveying practice, it is incumbent upon us to actively encourage and support training of our staff. If you are interested in becoming a Domestic Energy Assessor and looking for a worthwhile career in the property industry, do get in touch by either calling 01524 548313 or send an email to email@example.com