5 tips on choosing a home energy advisor
Posted by Linn Rafferty on 8 March 2010 at 9:35 am
Every home is different so a visit from a Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA) or Home Energy Advisor is the best way to get energy efficiency advice. However, choosing the right advisor can be a challenge.
A DEA can provide the same energy audit that is legally required if you are selling or letting your home - a thorough, visual inspection of the features that contribute to its overall energy performance. All DEAs use the same method, and the results are provided to you on a standard certificate and recommendations report – the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
The certificate indicates the relative effectiveness of each recommendation, so, if you want to know which of two possible improvements would save the most money in your home, this is exactly what the energy assessor's energy audit report will tell you. If your motivation is to reduce your emissions, the report also shows you the likely emission reductions.
Unfortunately, the term home energy advisor currently has no real meaning: sometimes it indicates nothing more than a sales rep from an energy supplier. A regulated Home Energy Advice profession would be a great step forward, and this was one recommendation from a strategy report published recently by the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes.
The Government is considering establishing such a service, but it's unlikely to happen in the near future. For now, though, the only energy adviser that operates within a fixed structure, with a minimum qualification, mandatory criminal record checks, and an audited monitoring programme, is the DEA.
1. How much does it cost?
This service is relatively inexpensive, compared to the cost, say, of having your car serviced; expect to pay between £50 and £100, depending on the size and complexity of your home, and the level of service provided.
2. Are they trustworthy, polite and professional; will they turn up when they say, and treat your home with respect?
DEAs must register with an accreditation scheme, all of which have been approved by Government. Before being allowed to register, they have to undergo a Basic Disclosure (Criminal Record Bureau) check, and also to show that they have the skills required to treat you and your home professionally. You can have confidence in this aspect of their work, but if you have any complaints after the event, all DEAs are required to provide a customer complaints procedure to set standards.
3. Are they well trained and qualified to do the job?
Before accrediting with their chosen scheme, all DEAs have either had to pass a vocational qualification, or to prove they already have significant experience in home energy auditing to an equivalent standard. The vocational qualification tests not just their knowledge, but their ability to carry out the job. A few have accredited via the existing experience route, but most have taken the new qualifications. You might want to ask your DEA, how long they have been doing the job?
If the answer is less than a year, you may want further reassurance. For example, if they have worked full time since then, and have many inspections to their credit, they will have gained much more 'on the job' experience than if they have worked only intermittently.
On the other hand, if the answer is more than three years, they are clearly an old hand: but in this case, you might want to ask about their knowledge of RdSAP. This is the new inspection method created especially for the EPC, and which all new DEAs were trained to deliver.
4. Will they be able to explain their findings to you, answer your questions, and offer advice?
Most EPCs are produced for homes that are changing hands, and therefore the new occupier isn't present when the audit takes place. As a result, giving advice to clients isn't tested as part of the DEA qualification.
You could ask what extra advice qualifications they have, or what experience they have of advising clients. Qualifications to ask for include the ABBE Award in Home Energy Advice and the City and Guilds 6176 (Energy Awareness) qualification.
5. How do you find an energy assessor?
DEAs are required to register with one of the schemes approved by Government to accredit assessors. You can find a DEA by inputting your postcode into the government database.
You first need to specify that you are looking for an Energy Performance Certificate – do not choose one of the other two options, or you will not be searching the right list. Then click on 'find nearest energy assessor' and you will be given contact details for a number of DEAs. You can click on their name for further details, including their accreditation scheme details, and their website if they have one.
You can also contact the different schemes directly; some have 'find an assessor' systems on their websites. The Government has links to all the schemes on this website.
About the author: @linniR is a consultant, a freelance writer and a Domestic Energy Assessor accredited with the NHER scheme, and she enjoys all three. She tweets regularly on issues relating to energy efficiency and renewables and provides consultancy, especially in relation to training needs.
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
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