Each Home Counts Review: Could this be a step in the right direction for the efficiency of domestic property?
By Claire Owen
Published just before Christmas, it may have slipped under the radar for some people in the industry, but for those who have been eagerly awaiting its publication following the commissioning of the review in July 2015, it was certainly worth the wait. The independent review was created to address the following issues:
- Performance Gap – products/design to perform and provide savings as promised
- Consumer protection – installation measures must be recommended with real benefit to the consumer not because they provide the biggest margin to the installer or manufacturer. Standards – Are the installations passing the appropriate standards? What are the consequences if the standards are not met?
- The skills gap –There is a shortage of skills in the installation of energy-efficient and renewable products and systems. How can this be improved upon?
In the review, Dr. Peter Bonfield suggested that there have been “too many instances of poor quality energy efficiency installations being made by companies who do not have the skills, quality levels or core values required to operate responsibly in this market.” He advised that to encourage the implementation of energy-efficient projects in the domestic sphere, consumers must feel confident in the benefits that these measures have, and they must be able to trust in the quality of advice that they receive regarding energy saving measures and their installation.
After reviewing the report, two of the 27 recommendations that we believe to be particularly pivotal for installers in the industry are:
- Quality mark – A single quality mark for all energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.
- Certification – Installers, designers and assessors are now required to demonstrate that they have been certified by an approved certification body, and must meet the three key elements of the quality mark. They must:
- Install with due diligence so that the risk of a poor installation is minimised.
- Demonstrate good overall conduct with regards to how they behave.
- Operate and report, and provide excellent customer service.
The idea of a quality mark for energy-efficient installations is a good idea in principle, as there is currently no energy efficiency benchmark for radiators in the same way that there is for boilers, heat pumps as well as most other appliances and fixtures that are fitted into properties now. We of course would be more than happy to work with other manufacturers in the industry to develop a standard benchmark which raises the bar of the relevant installations involving energy-efficient technologies in homes.
It is hoped that this suggested framework will help to ensure that high-quality installations are carried out to robust standards by skilled installers, guaranteeing excellence throughout the entire installation process. This is so important when installing energy-efficient technologies in domestic property, as the industry remains widely unregulated. However, there has been somewhat of a question mark surrounding the review as it didn’t cover the potential repercussions regarding non-compliance. Advice is fine, but there needs to be sanction for not following the rules, including tough penalties for non-compliance, which will consequently set the tone going forward. Other important recommendations to arise from the review are as follows:
- A clear Consumer Charter is to be created, which sets out what a household can expect from organisations across the energy efficiency and renewable energy sector, covering the entire consumer journey.
- An established Information Hub and a Data Warehouse is to be created to provide impartial information and guidance to support more effective industry communications with customers and to aid consumer decision-making on installation measures.
- A consistent and fair redress process is to be put in place, with the capability to support vulnerable consumers and an agreed standard for complaint handling.
- All retrofit projects must take a holistic approach which adequately considers the home, its local environment, heritage, occupancy and householders’ improvement objectives when determining suitable measures.
- The industry must work together to ensure that the capacity and skills of smart meter installers deliver a safe and efficient roll-out, and that a route map is developed which sets out the steps that new technologies will need to go through to operate under this new Framework.
Jaga agrees that smart technology such as smart meters should be installed in homes to promote energy efficiency and help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets. Smart meters put consumers in control of their energy use, bring an end to estimated bills and help people save energy and money. By 2020, every home in Great Britain will have been offered a smart meter – again providing installers possessing this quality mark with the opportunity to engage with their customers on the importance of energy efficiency.
At Jaga, we welcome the emphasis that the review has placed on energy-efficient technologies. Smart meters are not the only technology which is advisable in both new builds and retrofitted properties. Energy-efficient heating solutions such as low mass, low water content (Low-H2O) radiators are also recommended, solutions which only contain a tenth of the water and weight of equivalent standard steel panel radiators, meaning a faster response and proven lower energy bills.
Ultimately, we really do hope that this eagerly anticipated review is embraced by those operating in the industry, as standards need to be raised in a somewhat unregulated industry. Whilst it is crucial for there to be the appropriate standards, it is equally as important to have the right levels of enforcement in place. The recommendations which have been provided will hopefully promote best practice in the installation of energy-efficient technologies and systems – and create a shift in the overall efficiency of domestic housing where other schemes such as RHI and ECO have failed.
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