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How to get started with the green deal: my experience

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 25 June 2013 at 11:37 am

The Green Deal is the government's scheme to encourage people to increase the energy efficiency of their homes, by taking away the barrier of upfront cost. While the government is keen to meet carbon emissions targets, the benefits for the rest of us are also warmer homes, and lower energy bills.

Step one is to get a green deal assessment. This involves a green deal assessor (GDA) coming to your property. They will take detailed measurements as well as talking to you about your energy use. For our three bedroom house this took over two hours.

How do I find a green deal advisor?

You can search online at www.greendealorb.co.uk/consumersearch. You will be presented with a list of Green Deal Assessor Organisations (GDAO) which will range from very large companies (some of the big six energy companies for example) to one-man bands. To make the list as small as possible, put in your postcode. Doing so brings up those that operate in your area - some of them may also actually be local.

For my postcode area (and a few others I just tried) around 45 companies come up out of the total of 276 companies offering home assessments. Choosing between them is almost impossible, as there's no information on the green deal ORB website that helps you differentiate between them. You can click through to their websites, but quite a few don't even have a link from the home page to their green deal services. 

(On my search, half of the 10 companies on the first page had a direct link, three had no mention at all, one had a link to a blog trying to recruit assessors, and one a holding page saying new service coming soon. None was based anywhere near Devon. 

The most obvious point of differentiation is price - I paid £120 for my assessment from Ampere. British Gas set its rate for an assessment at £99 and quite a few other GDAOs have followed suit. Others are charging more. The green deal advisor (GDA) will get considerably less than the rate that you pay the GDAO. 

Other things you may want to look at when choosing include what the core business of the organisation is; whether advisors are employed or contracted; and whether they are independent, or will be expected to sell to you too. We have expanded on this subject in this blog: how to choose a green deal assessor.

I chose Ampere partly because it was the only GDAO based in Devon. The decider was that of the three I contacted, it was the first to assign me an advisor around six weeks after my initial enquiry.

What happens during the green deal assessment?

The advisor will make a detailed inspection of your property, noting down the type of heating you've got, how much (if any) insulation, what kind of windows and doors, and measuring the size of the rooms. They will want to see your energy bills for the past year. They will also ask you a lot of questions about how you use energy. This will include how many hours a day you watch TV, and how many showers and baths your household use a week.

Using this data, they will produce an energy performance certificate (EPC) and occupancy assessment. My advisor was using old fashioned pen and paper, and uploaded the data after he had left, and sent the reports to me. Others use iPads, and generate the reports while they are with you, which would be preferable as it gives you more opportunity to ask questions. They are also expected to give you basic tips as they go round. Mine didn't, as we'd already done most of the basics. 

The green deal advice report

The EPC measures fuel cost per square meter of floor area, based on standard assumptions of occupancy rates, assumed heat and electricity use and average fuel costs. If you already have an up to date EPC, you won't need to have another one done. The occupancy report is tailored to how you actually live in the property, and your real energy usage. It will make recommendations of measures you can take to save energy in your home. 

The recommended measures come in a table with indicative costs, typical savings over 3 years, and symbols to tell you if it's available with green deal finance. A green tick indicated that it should meet the golden rule. An orange tick means that it can be part financed with the green deal, and you will have to pay the balance upfront. While the recommended measures will tend to be the same on both reports, the estimated savings will vary if your actual energy usage is different from the average.

The measures recommended for my house were floor insulation and a roof-mounted wind turbine, which I found rather bizarre. Roof-mounted wind turbines have been thoroughly discredited, so I am surprised that they are on the approved measure list. Floor insulation for our draughty living room is something I've been considering, and am going to get quotes for. However, it's not clear if the quote is for all the downstairs rooms, or just for the living room. 

What surprised me most, is what's not on the report. My house is chalet bungalow style, and so some of the upstairs rooms are in the roof and not cavity wall insulated. The advisor designated them as 'room in roof' expressly so that he could log the lack of insulation, but no measures to internally insulate them have been recommended. This is disappointing, as the roof rooms are acknowledged as inefficient in the EPC report below. I had hoped that they might qualify for ECO funding under the hard to treat designation. But it seems not.

What next?

After you've got your EPC and green deal advice report, and had time to digest it, you can contact any green deal providers that cover your area and ask them to quote for the job. Depending on which GDAO you used for your assessment, your advisor may ask you before they start the assessment if, once it is finished, they can take off their advisor hat and put on a sales hat. If you say yes, they will try and sell you the recommended measures. Our advice would be to shop around, and to get more than one green deal provider to quote. It seems that not all the providers cover all the measures yet.

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If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

8 comments - read them below or add one

octon

octonComment left on: 11 July 2015 at 12:06 am

Hi - 

I had a similar experiance to OldBarn, I have had Solar PV and an ASHP installed - to apply for RHI I needed the Green Deal Assesment. Having got the report I read it in earnest and found it to be inaccurate to say the least as well as completely nonsensicle. 

The recommendation was to install an ASHP, this was a given since that was the reason for running the report, the EPC seemed to be spot on where as the GDAR stated our electricity usage at £6200 (actual is

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 4 July 2013 at 2:07 pm

Hi OldBarn

Our Green Deal Expert has posted a detailed response to your comment here.

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OldBarn

OldBarnComment left on: 1 July 2013 at 2:02 pm

My experience of finding an assessor was equally frustrating. However, an assessment was done eventually. Our house has oil fired central heating and reasoanble energy efficiency (but hard to treat cavities). Our electricity bill is around £500 per year and the oil bill £2,500. The EPC said our heating and water heating demand was 18,500 kWh, which for oil equates to around £1,500 (6p per unit, 75% overall efficiency.) The GDAR said our annual heating bill was around £1,100. So a factor of three wrong.

When I pointed this out to the company (Evolve) which had done the work, they referred me to the assessor to whom they had subcontratced the work who blamed the software. I had to work hard to get Evolve to accept that my contract was with them and not the assessor, but still they would not, or could not give me an answer.

I was also left very confused by the two reports I was sent and asked the questions below, which went round the houses again and remain unanswered.

I am an energy professional and very interested in energy saving and the policies required to increase its uptake in the UK. As such I was prepared to spend time on this. But is the average householder?

The projected savings are different in the GDAR and EPC documents. A note says that they have been "adjusted downwards to reflect variations in buildings, products and installation techniques." The downward adjustment is as much as almost a factor of 2 in the case of wall insulation (but different for other measures). Why are these adjustments made and how are they calculated please? Which do I believe? The differences are particularly confusing in that the EPC specifically says: "You could finance this package of measures under the Green Deal. It could save you £114 a year in energy costs, based on typical energy use.  Some or all of this saving would be recouped through the charge on your energy bill."  Yet the GDAR report says the savings will be just £64 a year and that the charge will be £95 a year, which is 50% more than the savings. Does this not breach the Golden Rule?

What are the criteria for a measure to be eligible for finance? The one measure with a green tick appears to give a significantly lower rate of return than some with an orange tick.

The EPC says that only wall insulation can be financed by the Green Deal. However, the GDAR report provides a list of "Green Deal improvements recommended by your assessor" which shows estimated annual savings of £271 and "Typical annual savings - maximum Green Deal repayment in Year 1" of £339. (Presumably the "-" character is a hyphen not a minus sign.) Why this figure? It makes the Green Deal payments more than the savings.

In the table of Improvements recommended on the EPC, the cost of wall insulation is listed as £4,000 to £14,000 and the repayment is £95 a year. This is just 2.3% of the lower cost figure. How can this make sense when Green Deal finance is much more costly (around 7% I believe)?

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Linn Rafferty

Linn Rafferty from JTec Energy PerformanceComment left on: 25 June 2013 at 5:59 pm

Cathy,

it's a shame your advice visit left you with the impression that you shouldn't expect to receive much in the way of advice.  Although in the EPC, the recommendations are made by the software, this isn't supposed to be the case with Green Deal. 

Oh, and if you were left thinking that the costs shown on the GDAR were quotes, that's also a shame - they are not quotes, only an indication of costs, and you won't get a quote untill you contact a Provider.

Finally, 3copete is right about the liability for an incorrect EPC resting with the GDA, not the DEA that originally created it. As there's no real way to check the accuracy of that EPC, the GDAO I run advises our GDAs that they should always create their own EPC. 

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Solway Renewable Energy Ltd

Solway Renewable Energy LtdComment left on: 25 June 2013 at 1:22 pm

Great overview.  How do householders understand about some of the more unusual measures that are supposed to be available via Green Deal?  I'm thinking specifically about infrared heaters, mhvr etc.  

Did your home not qualify/need such products or does it depend on whether the Green Deal Assessor brings it up during the assessment.  It must be difficult for the GDAs to keep up with the 43 things available via GD and their suitability at each property.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 25 June 2013 at 1:02 pm

@Solway Renewable Energy My understanding is - and I may be wrong on this - that green deal advisers don't do much off the cuff advising. The recommendations are made by the software. And to be funded by the green deal they need to have a tick beside them: green for fully funded, orange for partial funding.

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3coPete

3coPeteComment left on: 25 June 2013 at 12:22 pm

Hi Cathy, a nice explanation of the Green Deal process which has Codes of Conduct in place to ensure unbiased and independent advice.  You therefore make a good point about the difficulty in contacting an assessor in the first place and thereafter distinguishing one from another.  Unlike the Landmark website resource which lists all DEAs there is no such equivalent for Green Deal Advisors.  Regarding the locality question, most of the larger GDAOs are ‘national’ in that they may have access to contracted GDAs in many a locality but there is far from a full spread.

You mention that if the EPC is up to date it can be used as a source document for the Occupancy Assessment (OA).  I understand that if an OA is produced from an inaccurate EPC then the GDA is responsible not he originating DEA.  This will mean that if a GDA is to make a thorough and accurate report in his name, he will most likely produce a new EPC.  

Unfortunately some measures like a wind turbine do seem rather bizarre and it’s hard to see the cost effectiveness of floor insulation in a solid floor.  It’s early days yet and hopefully this will develop into a worthwhile scheme.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 25 June 2013 at 11:36 am

Thanks for your comments 3coPete. Useful to know the liability on the EPC. Makes sense to do it again under those circumstances. 

My floors aren't solid - they are suspended. But it's a big and disruptive job pulling the boards up, installing and replacing them, so I think it's unlikely to cost as little as they estimate - especially as there's nice old parquet in the hall!

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