Everything You Need to Know About UK Energy Surveys
Managing the energy efficiency of properties has become hugely important for many UK homeowners and businesses, especially in recent years.
With climate change and global warming dominating conversations in the headlines, not to mention soaring energy costs and increased efforts towards global sustainability and net-zero targets, many are looking for ways to effectively reduce their energy usage and carbon footprint. If that can be achieved in manageable and progressive ways, it makes sense to start now.
One of the most useful ways to identify areas for improvement and better energy preservation is by getting an energy survey.
What is an energy survey?
An energy survey, sometimes called an energy assessment or EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) assessment, is an inspection and analysis of a home or building’s energy efficiency.
Qualified energy survey engineers visit a property to assess all areas of its energy usage, evaluating aspects such as:
- Insulation levels in walls, floors, lofts, and roofs
- Efficiency and wastage of heating and hot water systems
- Lighting systems
- Appliances and other electrical equipment
- Ventilation and air tightness
- Mechanical problems
- Renewable energy potential e.g. solar panels
An energy survey aims to identify areas where energy performance could be improved, and provide tailored recommendations on upgrades that could be made to preserve more energy, reduce carbon emissions, and lower energy bills. It’s no wonder why these factors have influenced the UK’s rapid adoption of solar panels (a 73% capacity increase in 2022).
How is an energy survey different from a home buyer survey?
Energy surveys focus solely on the energy efficiency of the property. A home buyer survey or measured building survey covers the general physical condition of the building and identifies any urgent repairs required.
While energy performance may be commented on, it does not provide the depth of assessment and tailored recommendations given in an energy survey report. The two surveys can complement one another and provide in-depth guidance for new homeowners or prospective buyers.
What does an energy survey involve?
The energy efficiency survey process generally includes the following steps as a guide:
- Regular walkthroughs of the property to visually inspect the building fabric and structural condition, taking notes and photographs
- Testing insulation levels in walls, floors and lofts using thermal cameras or other measurement equipment
- Assessing windows for energy efficiency, including their glazing type, frames, seals and more
- Checking heating and hot water systems for leakages, efficiency, thermostat settings, timers, radiator sizes and condition
- Inspecting all fixed lighting and appliances, noting age, efficiency ratings, average daily usage, and stability
- Conducting ventilation assessments to identify potential sources of draughts, damp, condensation and mildew
- Air tightness test to measure air leakage rates
- Solar surveys to assess suitability for solar panels or other renewable energy solutions
The surveyor may also ask about occupancy patterns and daily energy use to factor into their recommendations.
It’s important to remember that the above is just for guidance purposes only – it’s likely that each energy assessment will follow a unique process depending on the provider. However, the above should give you plenty of food for thought when understanding what the process typically involves.
What is included in an energy report?
After completing the on-site survey, the surveyor will produce a detailed report outlining their findings and recommendations.
The extent and level of detail will largely depend on the complexity and size of the property, as well as whether there are any incumbent factors that could influence energy usage and conservation, such as whether it’s a leasehold building and energy solutions are overseen by a commercial landlord or property management firm.
A typical energy report will contain:
- A summary of the property’s energy performance, including an EPC rating
- Results of property insulation tests with recommendations on improvements needed, such as upgrading to include stronger and more resilient plasterboard
- Overview of heating and hot water systems with suggested upgrades if needed, including possible incentives available, such as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme
- Review of lighting and appliances and their expected energy usage, including replacement recommendations
- Options to improve ventilation and eliminate dampness or condensation in the property, which can manifest as a health and safety issue
- Renewable energy options like solar panels, batteries, and air source heat pumps
- Indicative costs for recommended energy efficiency measures
- Predicted energy savings from implementing recommendations
The report provides a clear and achievable roadmap to improving energy efficiency in a domestic or commercial property. It allows you to identify priority areas to target first for maximum savings and immediate impact.
When would you need an energy survey?
There are a few situations when an energy survey can be particularly useful for homeowners and businesses that own or lease commercial premises:
Buying a new home
An energy survey gives you insights into the property’s efficiency before you commit to buying it. You can use the recommendations to negotiate on price or factor future upgrade costs into your budget.
Renovating or extending
Similarly, such a survey can advise on methods to enhance efficiency before renovation plans begin, and incorporating the recommendations into restorative work can avoid the need to do this down the line.
Draughty, cold homes can be uncomfortable. An energy survey can potentially spot the sources and reasons for this while identifying solutions to make your home inherently cosier.
Applying for green funds
Most government grants or loan schemes for energy efficiency require a recent energy survey report to assess eligibility.
Reducing energy bills
Implementing recommended survey measures could potentially cut your home energy costs by 20% or more.
Lowering environmental impact
Making your home more energy efficient reduces its overall emissions and carbon footprint. If you are conscious about your environmental impact, a survey is a good place to start getting more control over your usage.
Should I get an energy survey on my eco-friendly home?
If you’ve already made upgrades like insulation, glazing, heating controls or solar panels, you may wonder whether an energy survey is still worth the investment.
In most cases, investing in an energy efficiency survey can still be worthwhile. For instance, it may highlight areas for incremental improvement that you may have overlooked. What’s more, since the last survey was conducted, UK building standards may have changed, meaning that surveys can check your property against the latest criteria.
Over time, your energy usage habits and patterns may have changed, thus opening the door to potential other energy-saving solutions. With newer technology and solutions readily available, a survey may highlight another option better suited to your property. What’s more, grants and loans may be different or more affordable compared to when your last survey was conducted. In most cases, for financing any green home upgrades, you’ll likely need an updated energy certificate anyway.
Think of an energy survey as a periodic check-up to ensure your home’s energy systems are performing optimally and new upgrades are worth considering.
It’s clear that energy surveys can offer you a multitude of potential home improvement and carbon-saving benefits.
We all need to improve our energy usage to meet national and international net-zero goals. Fortunately, the options available to us can make this easier. Getting a survey conducted can be the push that many of us need to begin making properties more green with impactful improvements, and thus contribute more positively towards a cleaner future.