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"Carbon neutral" home receives 'F' ratings

Submitted by: MikeC (Admin) on 28-Apr-08 04:57:31 PM

It has been said that an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) would largely be ignored by both home-sellers and buyers alike. Not so for Mr Glen Graham, whose proclaimed "carbon neutral" home - featured on the Energy Savings Trust (EST) website - recently attracted an F rating for both efficiency and emissions.

Last month, Mr Graham wrote on an old blog-post (reprinted below) about how, after having paid £500 for a Home Information Pack (HIP), he removed his home from the property market until its poor EPC ratings were investigated by EPC provider, Energy Reports and Surveys Limited (ERS), the EPC division of LMS.

The rising influence of the EPC - Good and bad news

As far as I am aware, this is the first public report of a property actually being withdrawn from sale, purely as a result of its EPC rating.

In an email to this site, Mr Graham explained why:

Because the brand new (£3,000) heating/hot water system is an absolute selling point for any environmentally aware would-be buyers, so we were losing one of our major selling points.

Whilst I'm sure most buyers don't look too closely at energy reports anyway, a very bad one would attract their attention and would be a point they would use when making a lower bid (I know I would!).

Which, on one level, ought to inspire industry confidence as it signals the early rising impact of the EPC in shaping the expectations of home-sellers and buyers; made more acute in today's tough housing market. 

But Mr Graham's experience highlights several "expectational" deficiencies, including: 

  • service and complaints resolution;
  • the Energy Assessors' understanding of what Mr Graham claims was "basic stuff like thermostats and timers";
  • and, the limitations of the RdSAP in calculating against 'high spec' properties.

RdSAP to full SAP

Commenting on the poor EPC ratings, Russell Osborne, Managing Director of Northgate Land & Property - the accreditation body overseeing the Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA) appointed to audit Mr Graham's home - said the property might be one that would benefit from a full SAP survey.

Northgate has offered to look at Mr Graham's case but may now be too late: According to his latest email to this site, last week, Mr Graham has now decided to "stay put" because despite several attempts to speak with someone at ERS Ltd, no one suitably qualified has got back to him. And now the property he wanted to buy has been sold to another buyer.

"Despite a promise for their 'Technical Manager' to call me," Mr Graham wrote, "more than 3 weeks have gone by without another peep out of the company concerned."

"We took the house off the market pending resolution, but far too much time has now gone by and we've decided to stay put (the house we were particularly after has gone now anyway unsurprisingly)."

No one was available to comment at ERS in time for publication.

Astonished at "lack of very basic knowledge"

Mr Graham's greatest dissatisfaction, though, was with the DEA conducting the survey. 

In the first of several emails exchanged with this site, he wrote: "I've felt obliged to flag it up to your site because I was genuinely astounded at the lack of very basic knowledge. I think the word astounded honestly describes how I felt - we expected (and pay) for a professional service - this was like going to court and finding out that your solicitor only has a GCSE in Law!"

"This was not just as regards my own [heating] system, but about some very basic principles which apply to all common domestic systems."

Mr Graham's original comment on this site is reprinted below (unedited):

I recently decided to sell my home. Coughed up the required £500 for the HIP pack. We have a 2 month old state of the art wood burning central heating system - it is so carbon neutral that my home is actually featured on the Energy Saving Trust website!

We contribute NIL Carbon from our heating and hot water now (it's all from replanted forests within 10 miles of our home) and we pay under £50 a year (yes, you read that right - we have a licence to extract as much waste timber as we wish).

The assessor who came out did not understand anything about the central heating! He thought the time switch (circulates the water through the radiators at set times) actually lit the fire!

He lists Timer, thermostats and TRVs on the system as poor and inefficient! He actually rates the hot water & central heating (remember 0 - yes zero carbon contributed) as "Highly polluting"!!

I have been in circles contacting the firm. I am astounded at the lack of knowledge - I mean, we are talking basic stuff like thermostats and timers having to be explained by me to him!

I still find it hard to believe, and we've had to take our house off the market as the energy rating is so utterly incorrect and misleading.

I can't find one person in the company who understand basic stuff even (I've spoken to 5 so far!).

Truly an astounding amount to be charging for so little knowledge. My 10 year old understood more about it than the "surveyor"!!

Summary warnings

There are several warnings and wake-up calls in Mr Graham's tale:

  • It's not enough to just know your basic NOS
  • RdSAP needs upgrading (rumoured to be in discussions) - Particularly as DEAs will increasingly encounter homes rated against the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH) in the future.
  • Get adequate DEA Terms and Conditions sorted, because...
  • How long before a similar case is legally challenged? When a circa £70 EPC risks a homeowners' financial future and/or possible career, anomalies become financially-viable to contest.  You have been warned.

Related: EPC v Passivhaus: The Clash of Standards

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Posts: 2
Sticky situation.....
Reply #1 on : Tue April 29, 2008, 19:43:16
Thats a difficult situation for any DEA to find themselves in but equally not a good place to be as a home owner.

If as the home owner reports the DEA was unfamiliar with elements of the heating system then they must surely be found negligent in their duty to accurately report what was in place.

rdSAP is a blunt tool and has a great deal of room for improvement but I dont feel its so blunt as to deliver an F rating on a reportedly carbon neutral home?

And whilst this property has been taken off the market can this be fully attributed to the rating it received? The market is in an unusual place at the moment and it surely can't be too hard to get a second opinion or EPC to that. In fact come to think of it if this home owner was looking at this with a view to compensation this is a route thay would be explored fully.

I am sure we will be kept informed as this develops as it has implications for us all.
Posts: 2
Re: "Carbon neutral" home receives 'F' ratings
Reply #2 on : Tue April 29, 2008, 20:32:47
There are several reports of "unjustified" rating anomolies out there attributable to the RdSAP calculation, as we know. And there are reports of DEAs who seemingly have a lack of knowledge of all things basic too.

As I think this story shows, when you have a mixture of both it begins to undermine the perceived confidence in the report - Even if the calculation is correct, if the client feels the DEA really hasn't got a clue, they'll doubt the audit and rating.

Cue scenarios similar to above and all that potentially flows from it. As I alluded to, now there is fierce competition for buyers in the market - and soaring energy costs - the EPCs value as a sales tool will be heightened = money.

And then there is something I began to think about whilst writing: When the RdSAP meets the Code for Sustainable Homes (CSH); Are we going to see highly rated (CSH) homes downgraded by the RdSAP when they come onto the market the 2nd time?

I don't profess to know of the finer intricacies of the CSH but I suppose it might be too much to suppose that both methodologies might be somehow interconnected such that one doesn't drag down the other?
Posts: 2
Re: "Carbon neutral" home receives 'F' ratings
Reply #3 on : Tue April 29, 2008, 21:48:01
A thought has just ocurred to me on this issue and that is how big is this property and how high are the cielings?

Another reasonable question is did it recieve an F rating for it energy performance and a much better rating for its environmental impact rating which could have been the case for a carbon neutral system?

It would be interesting to find out the answers to these questions, but I imagine we won't.
Posts: 2
Re: "Carbon neutral" home receives 'F' ratings
Reply #4 on : Tue April 29, 2008, 21:54:56
I've seen the EPC as Mr Graham gave me access: the home was rated 'F' for both Energy Performance and Environmental Impact.

Don't know about the ceiling height etc...

Posts: 3
Reply #5 on : Wed April 30, 2008, 17:35:23
ERS the Co concerned are all about pile em high and sell the not so cheaply.

I would advise that people do more investigation on the DEA being hired and avoid a mass producer like ERS

Posts: 3
In the same boat as Mr Graham
Reply #6 on : Wed September 10, 2008, 12:26:36
Message for Mr. Graham. We are in the same boat as yourself. we have installed Geo Thermal Heating, Heat Ventilation Recovery unit, Water harvesting System, Supreme Insulation and the EPC didn't recognise any of it!! I have logged a complaint with Trading Standards: under the Supply of Goods & Services Act 1982. And contacting further agencies and Governing bodies to try and come to a sensible resolution. Mr. Graham,I would very much like to see a copy of your EPC, and it is high time the public really started to complain about this report, which is only fit for our new puppy to pee on.

Posts: 3
EPC vagaries.
Reply #7 on : Sat September 11, 2010, 10:50:03
I gave up complaining about my EPC and instead I have posted it for all the world to see. On complaining about a rating of 1, I was told the true value was -1 and that it had to be entered as +1 instead. My post on my blog is not all negative, I did point out that the address is correct.

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