If energy bills are on your mind (and let’s face it, when are they not these days?!), you might be wondering what you can do to keep those spiralling costs down.
As a landlord, particularly if you have multiple properties, it can seem like a headache trying to work out if your tenants’ homes are as warm, inviting and importantly, energy-efficient as they can be. Not only could you save a few pounds, but it could be the difference between securing a long term tenancy or not. Here are some tips to get started.
Get your property assessed for energy performance
The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) offers general information on the energy used by a property and how much that energy typically costs. The rating varies from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) and is valid for 10 years.
Buyers and renters can then utilise this information to calculate how much their energy bills will cost in their new house or flat. Something to bear in mind, that this estimated cost is based on the average energy prices at the time of the inspection, meaning the information on the EPC could be up to a decade out of date.
How to apply for EPC?
By law, landlords must give their tenants a valid EPC. To apply for an EPC, you’ll need to arrange an assessment for your property. The cost of the assessment could vary depending on the size of your property and the chosen assessor.
To find a nearby accredited assessor, you can have a look at the Government’s register.
As a landlord, what are my legal obligations?
Legally, your property must score a rating of “E” or higher on the EPC scale. It doesn’t matter if the property was on the rental market or if it was already occupied when you became the landlord.
If your property scores an “F” or “G” band, it’s legally down to you to improve its energy efficiency rating, and if you don’t comply, you can be fined up to £5,000.
The good news is that the energy efficiency improvements are capped at £3,500, including VAT, meaning you as a landlord should never be asked to pay more than £3,500 to improve the energy rating. If you can show that the improvements will cost more than this amount, you can register for an exemption.
How can I keep the cost down?
There are always things you can do as a landlord to make your property greener (and easier on the bank balance!):
1. Make the change to LED bulbs and other efficient lighting tech
Switching to energy-efficient lighting is the fastest way to cut your energy bills. According to the Energy Saving Trust, lighting accounts for 15% of a typical household’s electricity bill in the UK. By switching to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LEDs, you can save up to £40 a year.
LEDs use less energy and cost a lot less in the long run. Over the past few years, the price of LEDs has come down substantially, making them more affordable and the new technology makes them last longer, saving you money as you don’t need to replace them as often.
On average, LED light bulbs will not have to be changed for at least 20 years, explaining why more and more landlords are making the switch.
You can also consider using dimmer switches and timers to dim the lights or turn them completely off, when not in use, in areas such as the communal areas, corridors and lifts to save energy. Smart devices are also becoming increasingly common, like in-home displays, controls and even apps so you can turn out the lights even when you’re not at home (or without getting up off the sofa!).
2. Install energy-efficient appliances
Energy-efficient white goods such as cookers, dishwashers, boilers, washing machines and dryers will definitely reduce your rental property’s power consumption. Newer white goods are often significantly more energy-efficient than ones that have been around a few years. Bear in mind that some appliances will always be more power-hungry than others, so consider installing a washing machine without a tumble dry function if there’s room outside for a washing line!
3. Keep an eye on your boiler
Over time, central heating systems can become less efficient and cost you more money. A new condensing boiler has an efficiency of around 90%, however, a non-condensing boiler will only offer about 75%, this difference could mean a saving of around £150 per year in a semi-detached house.
On average, boilers need replacing every 10-15 years depending on the make of the boiler and how well it has been maintained and serviced.
If you’re looking to upgrade to a new boiler, you can get an instant online quote with WarmZilla.
4. Improve your draught-proofing
Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to save energy and money. You can either get a professional to do the job or, if you feel comfortable, carry out simple DIY tasks to draught-proof your property. All you’ll need to do is block up unwanted gaps that let cold air in and warm air out. Trapping warm air in means you’ll use less energy to heat your property.
The most common areas to find draught are windows, doors, chimneys, floorboards and skirting boards, loft hatches, pipeworks, old extractor fans and cracks in the walls. Consider draught excluders, sealing around the edge of windows, or even a new front door to keep the wind out.
5. Invest in energy-efficient windows
Replacing your windows with energy-efficient, double-glazed windows will reduce your energy bills (by up to £75), your carbon footprint and the amount of heat lost to the atmosphere. It will also keep your property warmer in the winter months which will benefit you and your tenant. Modern UPVC windows allow heat to be retained inside the property, while also allowing for proper ventilation.
6. Upgrade your loft insulation
Better loft installation certainly reduces heat loss through the roof, so needless to say, you will see significant savings on energy bills.
If done right, loft insulation should pay for itself many times over in its 40-year lifetime which makes it an excellent return on investment. It’s not an easy job to DIY though, and working up in the loft requires caution!
7. Install programmable thermostats and heating controls
According to the Energy Saving Trust, you can save £70 and 300kg of carbon dioxide a year by installing and correctly using a programmer, room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves – this is based on a typical three-bedroom semi-detached home, heated by gas (as of June 2021). Even better, room thermostats enable your tenants to just use the heat they need in the rooms they want.
8. Change the showerhead
You can now save money without compromising on hot, powerful showers in your rental property with water-efficient showerheads.
Eco showerheads can dispense less water which means they reduce water consumption by up to 50%, depending on the type of shower you have. To put this into perspective, you can see instant savings on the water bill.
It’s also advisable to fix water drips, as the water that escapes from a dripping shower adds up over time – you’re literally letting your money go down the drain!
9. Invest in solar panels
Although solar panels are expensive, installing solar panels can allow you to generate your own renewable electricity, reducing bills and your carbon footprint.
You can also receive some cash for the extra energy you generate and don’t use by selling it back to your electricity supplier. This is called an ‘export tariff’ – where you get paid 5.24p per unit for putting excess energy back into the grid.
10. Keep tabs on your utility bills
One of the big mistakes landlords and tenants make is not keeping tabs on the energy being used. All the big gas and electricity companies now have a range of smartphone apps and energy monitoring tools, as well as in-home smart meters.
Keeping a close eye on usage means that if you notice a spike around a certain activity, appliance or even time of day, you’ll know what you need to do to bring the expenses down as quickly as possible.
Are these tips right for me?
Most of these tips will be handy if you’re a landlord with periodic or rolling contracts and have tenants for short periods of time or tenants who are likely to move around. What you don’t want as a landlord is your property sitting empty for long spells, and getting your energy usage as efficient as it can be is definitely worthwhile if you want to snap up tenants quickly!
While it can seem like a hassle to chase up suppliers, check out how efficient your appliances are or do a bit of digging around with the loft insulation, fixing your energy efficiency will undoubtedly pay for itself long-term. Additionally, more efficient properties mean happier tenants, and that’s good news if you don’t want your property standing empty and bringing in no rent for a long period of time.