Buying a home is a big decision in anyone's life. Indeed, when arriving in Portugal, this is one of the first steps to settle in this sunny country. However, despite the Mediterranean climate, the houses also need adequate insulation and many people complain that it is even colder in their Portuguese house than in their snowy homeland. These almost contradictory statements have a reason - poor insulation.

In this regard, to buy a house that meets your expectations, whether ready to use or to remodel, the easiest way to know what you are buying is to consult the energy certificate - remember that two houses of the same price may not be worth exactly the same.

Law requirements

In fact, buyers not only have the right to request the energy certificate of the house they are going to buy, but the seller has the duty to provide it, regardless of the counterparty's request. Since 2014, a mandatory law established that any property in Portugal that is being sold or rented needs an Energy Certificate.

According to ADENE (Energy Agency), the energy certificate is a document that “attests to the energy efficiency of a property through a graded classification system of A-F, this allows us to distinguish the properties that are more energy efficiency”. To obtain a certificate, you can get in touch with any certified house evaluator.

Even though the certificate is only mandatory when you are trying to sell or rent, it can be useful in more situations. Actually, if you're thinking of making some improvements to your property, it's a good chance to know exactly what your property needs. In fact, you can request this certificate whenever you want and, as the issuance of the certificate implies an analysis by technicians, you will be able to know what kind of works your home might need (if needed).

Are houses well insulated in Portugal?

According to DECO, between 2014 and 2020, 1.4 million certificates were issued and of all energy certificates issued, only 30 percent contained houses that are category B or higher. “This shows the reality of a country where most properties do not meet any type of energy requirement,” João Fernandes, legal adviser at DECO, told The Portugal News.

“It was only in 1990 that a set of legal requirements for construction came into force with the aim of making buildings more efficient – until that year there was no type of standard, that’s why most properties in Portugal lack insulation”, the legal adviser said.

However, even with current legal requirements, meeting the minimum conditions is still not enough for a house to be considered energy efficient – it is always up to the builder to make a house with adequate insulation, as this implies a greater investment.

Good investment from a bad one

When we talk about investments, we are not just talking about money. There are other equally important factors – such as the environment, comfort and health. Therefore, at the time of purchase it is necessary to look for a house with an energy certificate equal to or greater than B, as having a lower energy level is synonymous of later works in order to improve the comfort of the house. “Just like when you go to buy a car, for instance, you ask what the specifics of the car are. Two houses of the same value can be very different in terms of energy - the truth is that if you buy a more efficient house, you are making sure that the maintenance of that house will have lower costs”, he explained.

Furthermore, “an efficient house is worth more than a less efficient house. I have already talked to many expats, who look for this support, and most are keen in knowing how to renovate their homes, which often do not offer thermal comfort”, João Fernandes said.

An older building without insulation will allow outside air to get inside the house, which will make it colder in the winter and warmer in the summer, leading to high energy costs for air conditioning, fireplaces, fans, etc. Also, “the more we spend, the more we pollute, but unfortunately people still care much more about their pockets than the environment,” he said.

“It’s not normal to feel cold at home”

In Portugal it is culturally accepted to be cold at home. However, João Fernandes from DECO disagrees with this point of view and warns of the consequences, even in terms of health.

“It's not normal to come home and wear one more jacket than the one we were wearing on the street. Being cold at home should not be normal, as it reduces the ability to concentrate and can aggravate or cause illness”, he said, adding that: “the best heating for your home is not needing one. The more isolated the property, the less you will need air conditioning or a fireplace. In addition, adequate insulation is a guarantee that we will spend less each month paying bills and that we will have a more comfortable and eco-friendly home”

Requesting support

Since November 2020, DECO launched an energy advisory office to address energy poverty. In this office, which is part of the European program - Solutions to Tackle Energy Poverty (STEP), DECO is dedicated in helping consumers reducing energy waste.

Furthermore, if you would like to request DECO’s support, they would be very happy to help you. You just need to email energia@deco.pt or call 213 710 224.