The energy-efficient home: good not only for the planet

There are obvious advantages to creating an energy-efficient home – lower heating bills, a warmer house and the satisfaction of doing something positive for the environment.

However, there are also compelling financial reasons to improve the energy label of your home: It may increase the resale value.

Since January 1, 2010, the law has required homeowners to mention the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating on all residential real estate advertisements in Luxembourg, whether for sale or rent. In case of a sale, notaries must have the certificate in hand to complete the transaction. Even before these mandatory disclosure rules came into force, construction companies advertised their EPC scores – if they were high enough - to promote their buildings as energy‐efficient.

Energy performance scores also have been widely adopted on residential websites; some use it as a search criterion. The website immotop.lu says that of its 13,576 residential real estate advertisements in Luxembourg to date, 9,254 have specified an energy rating (68%). In general, sellers are more compliant than landlords, with 74.5% of advertisements for sale specifying an energy category compared with just 42% of rental ads.

Of those mentioning an energy rating, 81% of residential advertisements cite a score between A and D (the scale goes down to F). This is gradually improving over time.

Energy efficiency ratings are starting to influence the preferences of buyers and renters. They increasingly want features that will help reduce their bills: double glazing, a new and efficient boiler, loft and cavity wall insulation.  Such features can help someone decide between two properties.

Older, less efficient homes are also facing new challenges: From the start of this year, all new residential constructions must have A ratings in energy performance and thermal insulation categories as part of the government’s drive for Nearly Zero‐Energy Buildings . These ratings are not easy to achieve, but they represent a truly energy-efficient home, with the associated lower maintenance and running costs.

Government grants are available to help improve the energy efficiency of buildings. For example, the Klimabank is offering reduced-rate and zero-rate climate loans. These offer pre-funding for renovation work, with the aim of encouraging sustainable renovation of housing stock more than 10 years old (http://www.luxembourg.public.lu/en/vivre/logement/demander-une-prime-pour-assainissement-energetique/index.html).

However, before spending a fortune on energy improvements, it is worth knowing what to prioritise. Some more cutting-edge options may not offer value for money, or could even put buyers off. For example, estate agents say solar panels are not popular, and wind turbines on a property can make buyers reluctant, not least because they can be noisy. Cavity and wall insulation, modern windows with locks, double glazing and efficient heating are more important.

The national Energy Performance Certificates database is about to be finalised, helping organise compliance in a more efficient way and providing better statistics on the national building stock. The trend is clear: Low energy buildings are likely to come under increasing scrutiny. If you own property you might want to act now before regulation forces your hand.

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