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Energy efficiency: Are flats better than houses?

Although energy costs seem likely to go down in the short term, the UK still has the world’s sixth most expensive price for energy per kilowatt, according to Moneyweek. The prices consumers pay are almost double the European average.

With this in mind, buyers and tenants alike are looking for good energy efficiency, and landlords are realising that a “greener” property attracts more renters. Sellers too are having to reflect on this.

Research from Leaders Roman group found that 70% of people surveyed said they would like a more eco-friendly property, and two-thirds said it would be the deciding factor in choosing one property over a similar one.

You might think that a flat is bound to be easier and cheaper to heat than a house, but this is not necessarily the case – many factors have to be looked at.

EPCs are a big help

When looking for information, an EPC (Energy Efficiency Certificate) will give people a good idea of the average costs of running a property, and it can be compared to similar properties nearby.

A poorly-insulated flat may rate lower than a well-insulated detached house, and vice versa.

In the case of flats, the EPC assessor looks at whether the property is mid-terraced or end-terraced. A mid-terrace flat is generally more energy efficient because it benefits from the heat from surrounding properties.

If it’s mid-storey, it may well score better than a ground-floor or top-floor property – more than 30% of a home’s heat can escape through the roof if the insulation is inadequate, while naturally heat is lost through poorly-insulated ground floors.

All properties can be a good investment – with work

This does not mean these flats are a poor investment or a cold place to live in, as a lot can be done to warm them up without causing their carbon footprint to rise.

Modern flats are often what is known as “system build”, with well-insulated wall panels. They often have community heating schemes, which rate well.

Flats from around the 1950s onward may well have been built with cavity walls, which can be filled with insulating foam for a surprisingly low amount of money.

But flats which are older, brick-built properties, with solid walls which cannot be cavity filled, will be colder and require more work and money.

The least energy-efficient properties are likely to be older, detached stone or brick-built houses without insulation. This is because all four (or more) walls are exposed to the outside air, while heat is lost through the roof and through the ground.

However, with remedial work almost all properties can be raised to the desirable Band C or above.

New technologies can help

For all-electric flats with storage heaters, there are now new, much more energy-efficient models available.

For houses, installing roof insulation at 270mm depth can also make a big difference for not much cost.

Some measures such as installing double glazing, or changing all fixed lighting to low-energy bulbs, may not raise your rating as much as you might think, but buyers and tenants vastly prefer double-glazing as it cuts out cold draughts, so it’s a worthwhile measure to include.

For a landlord or seller, commissioning an EPC assessment and certificate is the simplest way to check the state of your property and find out about the measures that can be carried out to improve its energy efficiency.

Templates for improvements

And if you are an owner looking to see what’s best, you can order an EPC assessment and ask for it not to be lodged to the official Government register.

Instead, you can use it as a template to carry out improvements which will move the rating upwards.

Don’t hesitate to ask the assessor’s advice on the best thing to do – and the information, with estimated costs and saving on bills, will appear on the EPC whether or not it is officially lodged.

Here at Propcert, we will be happy to carry out an EPC assessment on your property. We offer all-in-one energy solutions including Electrical Installation Condition Reports, gas safety certificates and heating services.

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