There’s a lot of talk about Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), but what’s the reality? We caught up with an inspiring couple who have it sussed.

The background

EPCs rate how energy efficient a property is, from A to G. Poor EPCs generally mean higher bills and if it’s lower than E, the property can’t even be rented. But with the residential sector contributing 21% to the UK’s total carbon emissions, the biggest reason to work on improving our EPCs is to reduce our impact on the environment. 

For homeowners or landlords who are up for making eco improvements, the task is still pretty daunting. The cost, the work involved and the realistic benefits are all unknowns, but we’ve found a couple who’ve walked the walk and are keen to share their story.

The homeowners who’ve made it work

Enter James and Tatiana Tanner. They’re full time professional landlords and active members of both the National Regional Landlord Association and the Centre for Alternative Technology (an awesome eco-centre which gives advice on all areas of sustainable living). 

About eight years ago, they bought themselves a five bed, three bath, Edwardian house in Muswell Hill, London. Concerned for the future of the planet and keen to learn, they got stuck into an inspiring eco retrofit that reduced emissions and slashed bills but kept the property’s period charm and didn’t break the bank. 

They managed to get their EPC from G to B (only two points away from an A) and cut their heating bill by £1,600 annually. We caught up with them to find out more.

James and Tatiana's home

What made you decide to do the work?

We’re very, very concerned about global warming. We have two sons (who were little when we started the work, and not so little now!), and we started to think about how horrific the planet would look by the time they were our age. We decided to do everything we could - both professionally and personally - to help to solve the climate crisis, because it’ll affect them directly.

What was the biggest challenge in your eco retrofit? 

We had to use internal wall insulation (because the house is in a conservation area) and getting our contractor to be open to learning new ways of doing things was tough - like following the installation guidelines set out by the manufacturer and listening to the qualified eco-technician! But we got there in the end.

Which bit cost the most? 

Our refurb wasn’t cheap because of the style of property - a 100 year old terraced Edwardian house! But we just took our time and managed to do everything needed to make it a low carbon emitter. It’s really important for others to know that low-cost or free changes can also make a huge impact, no change is too little.

Which change had the biggest impact? 

Internal wall insulation had the biggest impact. We insulated all walls that faced the outside as well as applying underfloor and loft insulation.

What advice would you give to people wanting to do the same?

Throughout the retrofit, we learnt that the most simple changes sometimes have the biggest impact. Here’s an example - most boilers turn themselves on intermittently to make sure you get immediate hot water, it’s really wasteful! On modern boilers, you’ll find an ‘eco’ setting which means the water is only heated when the tap or shower is turned on. 

For bigger changes, find a qualified professional with a good chunk of experience to put together a whole property eco refurbishment plan (as part of this get them to list all the eco improvements that can be done which are free or low cost, too!). Make sure you understand the proposed changes and get some site references.

Do you think more could be done to support others in making these changes? 

Yes. We think there needs to be more homeowner awareness campaigns. The public needs to understand why it’s important to make these changes and the global warming problem we’re facing. Then the public needs to be educated on the free and low cost eco measures they can take at home! Whether homeowners or landlords, everyone making these small changes would have a huge impact.

Here’s how the government and lenders could help:

  • The Government should give 100% tax breaks on ecorefurb works done by landlords and live in homeowners
  • Lenders should arrange mortgages for ecorefurb works
  • All mortgage interest for ecorefurb works should be fully tax deductible for landlords and live in homeowners
  • Lenders should offer lower mortgage rates to people who manage to improve their EPC to C or B - the higher the EPC the lower the interest rate!

Do you have any plans for more renovations in the future? 

We want to build a Passivhaus home - a zero-carbon, fully sustainable house with a garden, producing even more energy from renewables than we use. We’ll eat sustainably by growing our own organic fruit and vegetables instead of shopping and we’ll collect and reuse the rainwater to water our veggie patch!

(Passivhaus is the leading international low energy design standard.)

And finally, what does home mean to you? 

A place that is warm, quiet, very comfy and totally sustainable.

Home sweet (eco) home