Life as a Non-Domestic Energy Assessor with Steve Windmill
Steve Windmill joined the Elmhurst team in 2016, having previously worked for the National Energy Service (NES), and has been a recognisable face and voice on the phone for commercial energy assessors ever since. He’s known in the office for his cheeky sense of humour and affable nature, but today we found out about his life as a Non-Domestic Assessor.
Nice sitting down with you, Steve. First of all, what areas of energy assessment are you qualified/ accredited in?
I’m a DEA, NDEA and I’m also trained to carry out Section 63 assessments.
How did you get into energy assessment?
Like a lot of people it was by accident. I’m not sure anyone sits there at school thinking ‘I want to become an energy assessor!’ I’m IT trained by trade, but in 2001 I fancied doing something different. I started as a temp at National Energy Services doing data entry for the Warm Front scheme, which was set up for those on benefits, and I really got into it. After a while they asked if I wanted to do energy assessments for real – and I jumped at the chance.
Later on I became a commercial energy assessor, where I’d say my strengths lie.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
For me it’s not the environmental aspect of the job that appeals to me. I like energy efficiency because you can see the benefits of it, especially for those with little money who you know will benefit from a warmer property and lower fuel bills. It really makes a difference and that’s nice to see.
What’s the worst part of the job?
If I can’t get access to a property because somebody’s forgotten the keys. That's always annoying.
What does a typical day look like as a NDEA?
Now I spend most of my time on the support desk as a technical advisor but when I was 'out in the field' I would always book my appointments three days in advance, so I’d have work confirmed for the week. Before I visited a property I would do a bit of research online – Google Streetview is a great one- because sometimes what they’re describing to you on the phone is very different to what you’re looking at online.
Once I have spoken with the client on the phone and completed my research, I would travel to the property and conduct the assessment. When I got back home, I would spend the evening inputting the data. Something to point out is that I'd try and group appointments by location because you don't want to spend all your time travelling between each location.
How much do you charge per assessment?
This is a tricky one because it can range from anywhere from £100 to the thousands of pounds, depending on the size and complexity of the property.
Typically I charged about £175 for a property with 50m2 floor space. But I’ve compelted jobs where I’ve charged £8,000 and as you can imagine they were much more complex!
Have you got any tips for those just starting out?
Before you go to a property, get some pre-information. I always ask about the building materials, approximate age and the heating systems. You’re building a picture. I send them a questionnaire with these sorts of questions to determine the price.
I would say you need a post code as an absolute minimum and make sure you know about access to a property, whether it’s round the back and if anyone has keys etc.
It’s also good to meet up with people in the same line of work and area as you, and ask them what it’s like. You can find contact details on the register and just ask ‘I’m starting up and in the same kind of area. Is there any advice you can give me?’ Generally people respond well to that.
Is there anything that surprised you about the job?
What was a nice surprise, and I’m talking more about my time as a DEA now, was getting to learn a lot about different cultures and religions. Each day you’re going into people’s homes and so you get to see life from a different perspective. In a lot of asian households I was asked to join them for food, so I’ve managed to sample a lot of Indian sweets in my time.
What does the future look like for the commercial sector?
The MEES legislation has been very positive for the industry because now you’ve got commercial landlords crying out for qualified assessors. I’ve had people on the phone saying they’ve never had so much work. The involvement of the banks has also been good because when people are applying for loans or remortgaging, the banks are insisting they improve their EPC score. And that makes sense because they’re lending on an asset.
Any funny stories?
Plenty! But of course it’s hard to think of them when you’re on the spot. I remember conducting one survey where a couple asked me if it was alright if they smoked. I said sure – only it soon became apparent it wasn’t cigarettes they were smoking. After a while I had to ask them to stop because it was having an effect on the survey! But it was nice of them to ask…