There can’t be many homeowners who didn’t visualise sparkling new double-glazed windows or smart solar panels on their roof when Rishi Sunak announced his £2billion Green Homes Grant last month.
With up to £10,000 available for energy efficient home improvements, many people started thinking about how to spend a large cheque from the Chancellor.
But the scheme’s details have finally been unveiled on the Government’s website – and, as always, the devil is in the small print.
Catch: You can’t get a discount on double-glazing unless you are also applying for an improvement on a specific list that includes loft or cavity wall insulation
The scheme is littered with catches. First, all except the poorest homeowners will have to stump up a share of the cost themselves. Rather than covering the total amount, vouchers will be worth around two-thirds of the cost of the improvements.
Second, there is a strict hierarchy of works. For example, you can’t get a discount on double-glazing unless you are also applying for an improvement on a specific list that includes loft or cavity wall insulation.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Here, we guide you through Rishi’s latest boost for homeowners.
What exactly is the Green Homes Grant?
The Government has come up with a scheme to make our homes more energy efficient. It is handing out up to £10,000 per household to install insulation and double-glazing. It says this should cut carbon emissions, save people money, create and protect jobs – and boost the recovery from the coronavirus lockdown.
Broadly speaking, you decide on what needs to be done and the Government will pay the majority of the cost. However, in practice it’s not that simple.
What changes can I make?
Get ready to learn all about ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ measures’, Under the scheme, the Government has divided energy-efficient home improvements into two categories: primary measures and secondary measures.
Primary measures are either insulation – for example, in a cavity wall, loft, or roof – or low carbon heating, such as ground source heat pumps, or solar thermal systems (or solar panels, in plain English).
Secondary measures, on the other hand, mean draught proofing, double-glazing or triple-glazing (where you are replacing single glazing), secondary glazing, upgrading to energy-efficient doors or heating controls and insulation, such as thermostats and smart heating controls.
Outlay: Solar panels are costly – a whole system can set you back as much as £6,200
Why are there two categories of work?
Here is the crucial point: you are only allowed to claim for one of the secondary measures if you are also installing one of the primary measures in your home.
That means you can’t get money off double-glazing unless you’re also carrying out insulation or heating works at the same time. And in the case of secondary measures, you are only allowed to claim up to the amount you are claiming for the primary measures.
So if you’re claiming £1,000 for your under-floor insulation (primary) you can only claim a maximum of £1,000 for your double-glazing (secondary).
Baffled? You won’t be the only one. It’s a lot to get your head around. Ultimately, the Government doesn’t want to hand out money willy-nilly – it wants to target its £2 billion of help at those who most need it.
The bad news is that the catches keep coming. For example, you are only able to upgrade to energy-efficient doors if you are replacing doors installed before 2002. To add to the confusion, hot water tank insulation is placed under secondary measures rather than under the primary ‘insulation’ measures.
And if you want to install low-carbon heating (a primary measure) you have to make sure you have – or are getting – adequate insulation too (the other primary measure).
Can I get my loft insulation replaced?
Sadly not. The scheme will not cover replacement insulation, but it will cover ‘top ups’ – for example, more insulation on top of what you already have.
What about old double-glazing?
This comes under the secondary measures but don’t think you can get rid of your tired old existing double-glazing under this scheme; it’s only for replacing single glazing.
Hierarchy of works: Primary measures are either insulation – for example, in a cavity wall, loft, or roof – or low carbon heating, such as ground source heat pumps
How much cash will this scheme give me?
For most homeowners, the vouchers will be worth about two-thirds of the cost of the improvements, up to a maximum of £5,000 per household.
In the Government’s own example, a homeowner installing cavity wall and floor insulation costing £4,000 would only pay about £1,320, with the Government contributing the remaining £2,680 through the voucher scheme. But those on low incomes or certain benefits should be able to get the whole cost covered, up to that headline-grabbing £10,000.
Those who can apply include all live-in homeowners, including long-leaseholders and shared ownership, landlords of private rented sector domestic properties and park home owners including traveller sites.
For some work, it is likely that permission from the freeholder might be needed, such as shared ownership homes.
However, new-build homes and commercial premises do not qualify.
So who gets the full £10,000?
Beware: The cost soon mounts up
Upgrading your home to help save the planet will bring you savings over time, but the initial outlay can be expensive.
The cost of replacing external windows and doors is at least £2,500 to £3,000 for a typical three-bedroom semi – and a lot more for period buildings. uPVC double-glazed windows will set you back around £100-£200 each and the same again for fitting.
Cavity wall insulation is around £725 for a detached house, going down to £475 for a semi-detached and £330 for a flat. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a typical air source heat pump installation costs around £6,000 to £8,000.
A single solar panel can cost around £350-£500 – while a whole system can set you back as much as £6,200.
To qualify for the full £10,000, you must be receiving at least one income-based or disability benefit, such as universal credit or disability allowance.
However, only owner-occupied homes or park homes will be eligible.
Even if you are only expected to take a small grant, it may still be worth getting the work done – the Government says you will reap the benefit by lower energy bills.
In their own example above, installing cavity wall and floor insulation could save you more than £200 a year on bills as well as reducing their home’s carbon footprint by cutting 700kg of CO2 a year from your home.
How do I know which work I need?
The Government says that advice on exactly what you need to do to make your home more energy efficient will be available from its Simple Energy Advice website.
While the website – which is still in beta testing mode – will contain information about suitable home improvements, there is no requirement to follow its advice and individual homes will not be assessed.
All work must be carried out by approved TrustMark and Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) registered tradespeople and the Government is advising them to apply for accreditation so they can take part.
Homeowners will be given a list of approved local tradespeople who could carry out the work.
How do I apply for the grants?
The exact details of how to apply are yet to be revealed. But it is understood that when the process is launched, you’ll need to fill out an online application, get a quote from an approved supplier and have the quote approved.
The scheme is set to go live next month and is likely to last until March.
What help can I get outside England?
Although this particular Green Homes Grant is for England only, there are various other energy efficiency schemes running across all four home nations such as Warmer Homes Scotland, the Nest scheme in Wales and Affordable Warmth Scheme in Northern Ireland.
Check your local council website to find out what schemes are available in your area.
In Scotland, Home Energy Scotland offers free advice on energy savings and helps people find funding for energy efficiency schemes, from interest-free loans, to grants, the Warm Homes Discount and Renewable Heat Incentive.
In Wales, the Nest scheme provides free home energy efficiency improvements for people on low incomes or certain medical conditions.
The Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme provides funding for energy efficiency schemes across Northern Ireland.
What other help is available?
The main scheme for vulnerable and low income households is the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
This is free or discounted work provided by the big energy companies to help reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. You have to meet strict criteria, which typically includes claiming benefits of some kind from the Government.
The scheme is paid for by the Government but delivered by the energy firms themselves, who will factor the discount into the price you are quoted or offer the work free. The scheme is offered across the UK.
For more information, see Simple Energy Advice’s website.