BER. I never heard of it till I moved to Ireland. So I had to study it for myself so I could be helpful to my clients and provide them with reliable and factual information. Here’s what I learned!
First of all B E R stands for Building Energy Rating. It comes in the form of a certificate which rates your property’s energy performance on a scale between A and G. A-rated houses are most energy efficient while G-rated homes are the least energy efficient. G rated homes usually require a lot of energy to heat and they tend to have the highest energy bills.
A BER assessment is a good indicator of how much you will spend to heat the property and also how much carbon you will produce when heating the home to a comfortable level. Fun fact: the rating scale looks similar to energy rating labels for household appliances.
How is BER calculated?
A BER is calculated based on the amount of energy the property needs to:
- Space heat and/ or hot water heat within the dwelling
- Ventilation within the dwelling
- Lighting within the dwelling
What the calculation is based on
The BER energy rating is based on the structure itself and nothing else it entails what the building is composed of and the various installed systems within the building. It is not an operational rating and it is not based on the energy consumption of the people that live there. This is handy as it allows prospective buyers or tenants to objectively compare the energy performance of different dwellings on a direct comparison basis.
A BER assessor collects all the information needed to complete a BER during an assessment appointment. The BER assessor inspects each room in the house, even the attic and garage, if these elements exist. They record the data in a survey type form. The information they collect includes but may not be limited to:
- The structure’s construction material
- Age of original house and any extensions
- Floor dimensions, room height, door and window measurements
- The structure’s orientation as it pertains to North, South, East & West
- Insulation levels within the walls, roof and floor
- Details regarding the buildings heating systems and associated controls
- Hot water systems and water cylinders
- Ventilation elements, including vents, fans and draft lobbies
- Showers and baths in the building
- Lighting elements
- Any renewable systems
Part of the assessors tasks will include taking photos of certain elements of the property to support data in the BER. The BER assessor will also ask a lot of questions pertaining to the age of the building and any extensions added. The BER assessor needs to know if any retrofits have been carried out on the building, if the answer is yes, the assessor will require all the relevant documentation to support this work. It’s always a good idea to discuss these details with your assessor ahead of time, to ensure all the required information is made available for your BER assessor.
Once the BER assessment is complete at your home, the BER assessor inputs all the data they collected into a special software program that was developed especially for assessing BER. The software was developed especially for Ireland and it factors into account Irish climate, construction types, heating systems and occupancy patterns. The software is able to calculate the annual energy use as it relates to heating, lighting and ventilation of the property.
What affects a BER
A dwellings BER rating can be affected by a number of things:
Age of construction- If all the information required cannot be gathered due to limitations in accessing elements of the building, knowing the year the property was built allows for assumptions in relation to the amount of insulation potentially present or the efficiency of a heating system, etc.,
Floor area- Directly accessible rooms and other spaces, like built in closets & cupboards, are included in the calculation of the floor area for the BER. Unheated spaces which are divided from the dwelling are generally not included in the floor area calculation.
Thermal Insulation- This material can be found in the wall, attic and floor of a building. On average, a house loses between 20-30% of its heat through the walls and upwards of 30% can be lost through an attic that is poorly insulated. Properties containing low insulation values will usually have more heat loss, making it less energy efficient, less comfortable, more costly to heat. This results in a lower BER rating.
Doors and Windows- Dwellings can lose about 10% of their heat through windows and doors. This of course depends on frame types and glazing. For instance unsealed doors and single glaze windows will generally have more heat loss than a sealed door and triple glaze window. Unsealed doors and lower glazing will thus result in a lower BER rating. There are default values associated with these elements of doors and windows and these default values can be explained to the home owner by the BER assessor. The values were created for them in part and parcel with the software system where collected BER data is input.
Heating Systems and Controls- It is pretty much common knowledge that old-school gas/ oil boilers with no operation controls are less energy efficient than newer heating solutions such as a heat pumps. The newer equipment with operating controls can almost always increase the energy efficiency of a property. if home owners have manuals or installation certificates available, these can copied, provided to the BER assessor and used as supporting data in the BER.
Light Fixtures- Only FIXED lights are detailed in the BER report and not mobile lights. The quantity and type of light fixtures in the subject property are recorded during the site inspection. The more energy efficient light bulbs installed in the light fixtures in your home, the lower the calculated energy usage will be, improving your BER assessment.
Renewables- Renewables can include photovoltaics (PV), heat pumps, solar water heating, biomass, wind energy, solar space heating. If any of these elements are operating in the home, it will likely have a positive impact on the BER assessment.
So if you are thinking of selling and realise it may be time to get a BER assessor in where can you go to find one? Google my friends, Google. In just a few short key strokes I found dozens! BER assessments usually cost a few hundred euro so I would get a quote upfront to find the best price.
Before the BER assessment talk to the assessor. Provide all the documentation you have for each of the elements of the property. If any work has been carried out on the property, update the assessor on that as well AND provide whatever documentation you can to support your claim.
Once the BER assessment is complete, if you have questions, now is the time to ask them! I would collect a business card from him or her in case any questions come to mind later as well.
In my quest to learn about BER, I believe I would go ahead and make any improvements I was thinking to make to the subject property PRIOR to the BER assessment. Some affordable improvements might include topping up insulation values. I would also change over all of my light bulbs over time prior to the assessment appointment.
I’m far from a pro on all of this BER stuff but I hope this blog explains it in more relatable terms and perhaps you can take away a little knowledge with you! Cheers!