Applications for the government’s Green Homes Grant, available to homeowners in England, can be made from today (30 September 2020) via the dedicated website.
Crucially, the work must be completed by 31 March 2021.
Tradespeople can also use the site to register their interest in undertaking work generated by uptake of the grant.
The government has also announced plans to upgrade the energy efficiency of privately-rented homes by 2028, and £50 million will be spent to improve the energy efficiency of social housing in England.
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
In July, chancellor Rishi Sunak used his summer economic statement to unveil £3 billion of support to fund a ‘green recovery’ following the economic downturn triggered by coronavirus.
He said £1.5 billion will be used to fund Green Homes Grants paid via vouchers that households can put towards the cost of energy-efficient improvements.
The government says work done on a home courtesy of the scheme could lead to annual energy bill savings of £600. It says up to 600,000 homes will benefit.
A Local Authority Delivery scheme will allocate £500 million of funding to local authorities to support low-income, ‘fuel-poor’ households. The aim is to lift 900,000 households out of fuel poverty*.
The remaining £1 billion will be spent on increasing the energy efficiency of public buildings, including schools and hospitals, through a Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund. The government’s policy is to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050.
Here’s what you should know if you’re thinking about applying for the Green Homes Grant…
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.
Households on low incomes, including those receiving certain benefits, 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 in receipt of one or more benefits including Universal Credit, Housing benefit, Jobseekers allowance and Child Tax Credits.
Grants will be offered to cover green home improvements ranging from insulation of walls, floors and roofs to the installation of double or triple glazing when replacing single glazing, and low-carbon heating such as heat pumps or solar thermal.
For tenants in privately-rented housing, improvements will be achieved by the government raising the energy performance standard of such properties, with landlords having to ensure homes meet Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band C requirements.
Costs will be capped at £10,000 and landlords can take advantage of the Green Homes Grant to fund the necessary improvements.
The government says this will impact three million homes, delivering average energy bill savings of £220.
The private rental sector measures are being phased in to limit the disruption to landlords and tenants, with improvements having to be implemented for new tenancies from 1 April 2025 and for all tenancies by 1 April 2028.
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.
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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.
The voucher must be used to install at least 1 primary measure. This can be an insulation measure and/or a low carbon heating measure.
- solid wall
- under floor
- cavity wall
- flat or pitched roof
- room in roof
- insulating a park home.
Low carbon heat measures:
- air source, ground source or hybrid heat pump
- solar thermal
- biomass boilers
If you install at least one primary measure, your voucher can be used to help cover the cost of any of the following secondary measures:
- draught proofing
- double/triple glazing (where replacing single glazed windows)
- secondary glazing (in addition to single glazing)
- external energy efficient doors (replacing single glazed or solid doors installed before 2002)
- heating controls
- hot water tank thermostats and insulation.
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.
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.
The work on public buildings could support a further 120,000 jobs, according to the government.
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.
* Fuel poverty in England is measured using the Low Income High Costs (LIHC) indicator. Under the LIHC indicator, a household is considered to be fuel poor if:
- it has required fuel costs that are above average (the national median level)
- were it to spend that amount, it would be left with a residual income below the official poverty line.
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