The Journey to EPC C – how landlords can upgrade their properties to meet sustainability standards

By Oliver Baker, CEO at Ambion Heating

In the Energy White Paper, published at the end of 2020, the government reiterated its commitment that all UK houses should be EPC Band C by 2035 and 2030 for social housing and fuel poor properties.  While this is not a new deadline – the Clean Growth Strategy set it as a target of ‘upgrading as many homes as possible’ in 2018 – it now comes with the added impetus of helping to meet the UK’s net zero emissions target by 2050, which was committed to law in 2019.

This is not a small task.  According to the Climate Change Committee, the UK’s homes are responsible for around 15 percent of emissions, and in a report published in December 2020, it wanted the government to show more ambition, bringing the EPC C target for social housing forward to 2028.

Its figures also show that, out of 29 million homes in the UK, 19 million have an EPC lower than C.  That said, social rented homes are performing better than other areas –  55.9% of social rent homes have an EPC rating of between A and C, compared with just 29.1% in the owner-occupied sector and 32.6% in the private rented sector.

However, this still means that there are a significant number of landlords who will need support to bring their properties in line with the ambitious sustainability standards.  To help support this, in its 2019 election manifesto, the Conservatives pledged a £3.8bn Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, which will be delivered over several waves.

So, what standards does a property need to meet to achieve EPC C rating?  

In short, the EPC rating is a measure of how energy efficient a property is.  It is based on a  Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) rating and must achieve a score of between 69 and 80.

Low-carbon heating – a ‘no regrets’ action

We know that one of the main sources of emissions is heating. Therefore, making the switch away from a fossil-fuel based heating system to a low-carbon alternative should be the first logical step – it really is a no-regrets decision.  Traditional gas-fired boilers will soon become obsolete technology, so landlords need to consider the most cost-effective way to future-proof their properties with a low-carbon heating system that provides both high-performance and high comfort.

One solution is computer-controlled infrared (CCIR) heating, which has been developed as a ‘next generation’ solution for low-carbon heating systems.  It works by using processors and sensors that give it the unique ability to adapt to the environment it is operating in and optimise heat settings accordingly. This enables users to benefit from high-performance and cost-effective heating, using fewer units of energy than a traditional heating system. 

Other benefits include:

  • It is easy and cost-effective to install – as it is simply wired into the mains, CCIR is not only simple to install, it also costs around 40% less than an air source heat pump (ASHP).  
  • It is built to last – unlike ASHPs, CCIR has no moving parts and requires no annual maintenance. 
  • It increases comfort and reduces homeowner energy bills – CCIR provides greater levels of comfort to the end user than traditional systems, as it warms the materials in the room rather than the air. It also reduces humidity, as well as improving the air quality within a building, reducing the amount of circulating dust.
  • It is future-proof – electric systems are the future of low-carbon heating, and CCIR’s unique software means it can easily be upgraded.

CCIR in action

We worked with Whiteley Homes Trust, which is a charity that provides specialist housing for up to 450 older people who are of limited means. As most of the cottages were built in 1914, they lack many of the efficiency measures, and residents were struggling to stay warm.

The Trust was using a range of heating systems within its 250 cottages – including a district gas heating system, panel and storage heaters.  As a result, residents were facing higher than necessary energy bills.

After an initial successful trial which saw a 25-40% reduction in running costs and a huge increase in comfort for the residents, the trust has had 65 CCIR units installed, with very favourable results.

The future is low carbon

More government policy still to come this year, including the Heat and Buildings Strategy and the wider Net Zero Strategy, which will bring further guidance around how the UK’s housing stock will be decarbonised.  However, landlords can act now by ensuring that their heating system is fit for a low-carbon future.