Applications for the government’s latest ‘green scheme’ in England can be made from late September 2020.
Here’s a summary of how the scheme works and how you might benefit, along with details of measures for those living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Government goes for green
Back in July, chancellor Rishi Sunak used his summer economic statement to unveil £3 billion worth of support to fund a ‘green recovery’ to the financial downturn triggered by coronavirus.
Around two-thirds of this sum, he said, will be used to fund so-called Green Homes Grants – essentially free cash in the form of vouchers that households can put towards the cost of energy-efficient improvements.
Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking about applying.
How much is the voucher worth?
For the majority of households, vouchers will be worth around two-thirds of the cost of the green improvement, up to a maximum of £5,000.
In the government’s own example, if you had cavity wall and floor insulation installed in your home at a cost of £4,000, the voucher would cover the first £2,680, while you would need to fund the remaining the £1,320.
However, households on low incomes can receive vouchers covering 100% of the cost of improvements – and up to double the cap, giving a limit of £10,000.
Households will be classed as low income if you are in receipt of one or more benefits – for example, Universal Credit, Housing benefit, Jobseekers allowance or Child Tax Credits.
Who can qualify for the Green Homes Grant?
You will need to be a homeowner, but not necessarily an owner-occupier. For example, private and social landlords can apply.
Park homes (detached bungalows on a private estate) qualify for the scheme, but new-build (not yet occupied) homes and commercial properties do not.
Grants are restricted to just England too, although help is available for some households across the rest of the UK – more details further down this guide.
What energy efficient measures can I use the voucher for?
As with anything free, the Green Homes Grant comes with caveats.
The main one here is that you will need to use a grant to have a ‘primary measure’ installed in your home before you can qualify for financial help on any other green improvement.
Primary measures include:
- solid wall, under-floor, cavity wall or roof insulation
- air source or ground source heat pump
- solar thermal system.
If you have at least one primary measure implemented, you can apply for funding towards a secondary measure.
Secondary measures include:
- double or triple glazing/secondary glazing, when replacing single glazing
- upgrading to energy efficient doors
- hot water tank/appliance tank thermostats/heating controls.
Note also that secondary measure grant contributions are capped to the cost of the primary one. For, example if you receive £1,000 for a primary measure, you can only receive up to £1,000 for a secondary measure.
Which energy efficient measures should I opt for?
The government has set up a free independent advice service, Simply Energy Advice which offers appropriate ‘green’ suggestions for your home once you have entered your address.
You can find more at the website or call and speak to a representative for free on 0800 444202. The call centre is open seven days a week (8am – 8pm Monday to Friday or 9am – 5pm at the weekends).
How and when can I apply for a Green Homes Grant?
Start by checking at the Simply Energy Advice website if you’re eligible for a voucher, as well as what kind of improvements are appropriate for your home.
Having made your choice, you will be presented with a list of accredited tradespeople in your area who you can contact to compare quotes.
When the work has been agreed, you will be sent the voucher which can be used to subsidise the cost.
Vouchers will be available from late September 2020.
Who should I get to carry out the work?
The choice won’t be entirely yours as, to qualify for the voucher, the company or individual that completes the work must be accredited by Trustmark, a government-endorsed quality scheme.
You can find a TrustMark-registered trader by entering your address and the service you are looking for at its website.
The government is encouraging tradespeople to sign up to TrustMark as it says the new scheme could support more than 100,000 jobs.
How much could improvements save on my energy bills?
This depends on the improvement and the size and type of your home. However, the government claims the scheme could see homeowners save up to £600 a year on the cost of gas and electricity.
Improved energy efficiency – such as the elimination of drafts – will also improve quality of life for occupants of the property.
What help is available in other parts of the UK?
In Wales, some vulnerable or low-income households can qualify for free energy-efficiency improvements. Details and free advice is available at the Nest scheme website.
In Scotland, homeowners or private tenants in receipt of certain benefits, may be entitled to a financial contribution towards insulation costs via the Warmer Homes Scheme.
The Scottish government also offers area-based schemes run by local authorities which provide localised financial support for energy-efficiency measures.
In Northern Ireland, grants of up to £1,000 are available towards the cost of replacing boilers more than 15 years old under the Boiler Replacement Scheme, while the Affordable Warmth Scheme provides grants of up to £7,500 for wider energy-efficient improvements.
Both schemes are reserved for lower-income households.
What if I don’t qualify for a Green Homes Grant?
There are other ways of being little greener with your home that cost nothing or next to nothing.
If you haven’t done so already, apply to your energy supplier for a free smart meter. As the devices display real time energy consumption, they can solicit a much stronger sense of awareness around the energy you are using – and potentially wasting.
Alternatively, a simple plug-in energy monitor could do the same trick.
You could also join the throng of consumers opting to switch to a more competitive energy tariff.
How to improve your home’s energy efficiency
Here’s Simple Energy Advice’s top 10 tips…
- Take advantage of natural light. Open curtains and blinds throughout your house.
- Switch to energy saving lightbulbs such as LEDs or CFLs, and remember to turn off lights in rooms you are not using.
- Don’t leave appliances on standby. Turn them off at the wall or use power strips that detect when an appliance is on standby and automatically cut off the power.
- Buy a smart thermostat. This will make sure you only have the heating on when someone is home.
- Make small changes to how you heat your home: turn down your thermostat a few degrees, reduce the number of rooms you heat in your home, or heat your home for fewer hours each day.
- Switch to a smart meter to help understand your energy use and how you can reduce it.
- Wash your clothes on a lower temperature setting. Switching to 30 degrees can help increase energy efficiency and help your clothes last longer.
- Make the most of warm weather by drying your clothes outside, or use an air dryer for the winter months. If you need to use the tumble dryer, make sure it is full before starting.
- Make sure your dishwater is completely full before running it. If possible, run it in the middle of the night, during off-peak hours
- Check if you could be eligible for a home energy grant.