Battle of the Bands: the energy efficiency of private rental properties
At the end of July, DECC launched consultations on a new strategy for fuel poverty and consultations on the energy efficiency of private rental properties for domestic and non domestic buildings:
- ‘Cutting the cost of keeping warm: a new fuel poverty strategy for England’ is open for consultation until 7th October.
- ‘Private Rented Sector Energy Efficiency Regulations (Domestic)’ ends on 2nd September.
- ‘Private Rented Sector Energy Efficiency Regulations (Non-Domestic)’ also ends on 2nd September.
The Fuel poverty consultation notes an aim for:
“as many fuel poor homes as is reasonably practicable to achieve a minimum energy efficiency standard of Band ‘C’, by 2030.”
It also discusses interim milestones that as many fuel poor homes as is reasonably practical will be:
1. Band ‘E’ by 2020
2. Band ‘D’ by 2025
Whilst aiming to upgrade the existing building stock is very much the right journey to be on and setting minimum standards of energy efficiency for rental properties is one of the better roads to helping reduce fuel poverty, the suggested waypoint of a band ‘E’ target for 2020 represents a wrong turn, or cul-de-sac, that may add cost and lengthen the journey.
Band ‘E’ can often be achievable without upgrading the building fabric, which, although seeming like a good idea, as it can be done reasonably inexpensively, may not always be the best choice if a higher standard is then to be reached for later. The problem is, if you’ve already done all the simpler, cheaper things to upgrade to ‘E’, the opportunities to then cheaply improve that to a ‘D’ or ‘C’ rating are pretty much exhausted; so building fabric, or renewables may be all that is left on the table.
Those cheaper, easier measures may then turn out to be barriers or diversions that might need rethinking at the next stages. If a property upgraded to the 2025 standard would be most efficient and cheaper to run with a correctly sized boiler, a landlord is not going to want to rip out one put in 5 years before as part of the work to get to an ‘E’ rating (and you wouldn’t want an undersized one while waiting for that fabric upgrade).
Whilst upgrading a property thermally, other compatible upgrades may also make more financial sense to be done.
- If you upgrade the fabric first, boilers can then be correctly sized
- If you’re upgrading the fabric, then draught proofing around openings can be addressed
- Thermal bridging at junctions and around openings might be improved
- Window replacements or secondary glazing can be considered with minimal additional disruption.
- Air tightness can be considerably improved by the works and ventilation strategy should also be looked at
- If you’ve got scaffold up anyway, then roof works might be worth looking at and solar installations (Solar hot water or PV) may be worth considering
Improving the building fabric from the outset, although initially more costly, will generally get you a good way through a band ‘D’ rating anyway, possibly straight to a ‘C’. If the target were only an ‘E’ initially, people will be more inclined to just do the cheaper things to get to the first waypoint and then likely balk at going further.
In order to avoid a wrong turn, my suggestion would be that the suggested interim step for Band ‘E’ should be dropped and Band ‘D’ should be considered as the first target for 2018/2020, with a clear statement of intent that a further target of ‘C’ will be set for 2030, to encourage more to be done from the outset and to allow for good future planning.
Reducing heating demand and achieving adequate ventilation should always be the first step of any energy efficiency improvement strategy. Buildings need to be analysed to consider the right measures for each circumstance, but any stepped approach to their improvement needs to avoid unintended consequences.
For more advice about upgrading the energy efficiency of an existing property please contact our Technical Services Department who will be able to suggest the best products to meet your requirements.
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