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The future of home energy advice

Posted by Linn Rafferty on 30 April 2010 at 9:16 am

Regulation of Home Energy Advisers (HEAs) is one of the recommendations of a recent strategy report from the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes has recommended. In addition, strategy document Warm homes, greener homes identified a need for well qualified, regulated HEAs to advise and encourage householders who want to improve the energy performance of their homes.  So why is this needed?
  • Unregulated energy advice provision
    Currently, because there is no regulation of home energy advice, a HEA might not be quite what you expect. There are a variety of HEA job offers out there, with employers ranging from the charity Groundwork to the energy suppliers. Even B&Q is getting in on the act, with a Government supported pilot running in its Sutton and New Malden stores. So at present, there is no standard definition of what a HEA should be, or do.

  • Are advice reports and EPCs the same?
    No, they are not, but there are many online providers of advice reports that look very much like an EPC. It's easy to confuse these advice reports with the official EPC available from DEAs and HIs. There are many providers, but the EST version is a good example: go through the screens of the Home Energy Check, and you receive in the end a report that looks similar to an EPC, but it isn't. How could it be? It relies on the data entered by the user, who generally isn't an energy efficiency expert, so the data requested has to be a much simpler version of the data used for an EPC. The combination of less data, and possibly unreliable data provided by a non-expert, reduces the accuracy of the output. So the report is very useful to raise awareness of what actions you might consider for your home, but it isn't a real EPC, nor is it any substitute for good advice from a professional adviser.

  • Home Energy Advice in the future:
    The Warm Homes, Greener Homes strategy proposes that by 2020, 7 million households will have had an eco-upgrade, following receipt of independent advice from a qualified, regulated, HEA. The upgrade would include measures such as solid wall insulation or heat pumps, alongside smart meters and more basic measures. All this will be recommended by the HEA after a full inspection of the home and discussion with the client, and will be tailored to the home and the client's needs. Before registering, HEAs will be required to pass a vocationally related qualification - that is, one that tests their competence to do the job, not just that they know the theory! Once registered with an Accreditation Scheme, they will work to a code of conduct and be monitored to ensure they continue to work independently and competently.

  • An online system to investigate different options:
    The Government wants to provide an online system for householders to evaluate the options for improving their home's energy efficiency. This service will enable anyone who has an EPC to go online, enter the certificate's unique reference, call up their record and use the software to investigate the effect of installing different recommended measures in their home. This will overcome the difficulty, with systems like the Home Energy Check, of having to enter lots of data. This system will use the data collected by the DEA, rather than less reliable data entered by the user.

The Warm Homes, Greener Homes strategy tells us to expect a consultation on the new Home Energy Advice service later in 2010, including the role of EPCs. The strategy confirms that where an EPC already exists, it is expected to provide the basis for the adviser's survey. So the Government accepts that a regulated Home Energy Advice service is the way forward, but due to the need for consultation, and any changes proposed by a possible new Government, it's unlikely to happen before 2011. It looks like homeowners will have to wait a little longer before they can become one of the 7 million households receiving an eco-upgrade.

Photo by rhurtubia.

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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