Green Homes Grant SchemeGreen Homes Grant Scheme and all that!

This article gives an overview of the current state of this government Green Homes Grant Scheme.  Ahead of final details being published mid to late September.

So, it will be the early bird that catches the warmth on offer from the government through this scheme. Homeowners and landlords will be able to apply for vouchers worth up to £5,000 to insulate their properties.  Britain’s 29 million homes are among the draughtiest in Europe – from the end of the month. It is part of the plan to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050 which is a legally binding target. But this will be on a first come first served so do your homework now and make sure you benefit in the coming rush. Here is how.

How does The Green Homes Grant work?

More than 600,000 households could save up to £600 each year in energy bills and help support 100,000 green jobs through the coronavirus crisis, the Dept for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says. The £2 billion grant will pay up to £5000 to cover two-thirds of your upgrade costs, or £10,000 for the poorest families’ full works.

If you were planning to spend £5000 on sleek new windows you will be disappointed. “When the green homes grant scheme was first announced, homeowners were very keen. But as the restrictions became clearer, enthusiasm appears to have waned”, Angela Kerr, the director of HomeOwners Alliance, a lobby group, says. “Most people coming to our site were interested in getting their double glazing updated, but that isn’t an option.”

Scheme restrictions divide the energy efficiency measures into “primary” and “secondary” categories. To qualify for secondary funding – for example to upgrade single glazing – you must fit at least one primary measure of insulation or low-carbon heating, such as a heat pump.

Your secondary grant spend cannot be more than the primary measure.

“Primary measures such as loft insulation are a great idea and will be on many a to-do list as we approach winter” Kerr says. “but there is a lot more education needed on heat pumps before before people will be willing to invest.”

What insulation can I get?

Primary insulation measures include the loft, flat roof or room in the roof; cavity or solid walls; and suspended of solid floors. The grant will not pay to insulate a new extension or to replace existing insulation although you can top it up to increase layers in the loft to the recommended 270mm.

In an average three-bedroom house the grant could be enough to not only insulate the loft (£270) and cavity walls (£430), but also the ground floor (£950), data from the Energy Saving Trust suggests. Yet it would only cover part of the £10,200 bill for solid wall insulation – still lacking in 90% of pre 1919 homes. “Some of these measures are actually quite dangerous if done badly. They can lead to condensation, damp and mould,” says John Palmer of the Passivhaus Trust, which promotes low-energy design.

Sarah Price of Enhabit, an energy efficiency consultancy, agrees: “Rule number one is no insulation without ventilation.” She advises owners to get a damp and moisture survey before insulating solid walls. Some ventilation suppliers offer this for free, or ask a conservation builder or architect to advise on the risks.

Can I get a heat pump?

Heat pumps extract energy from the air or ground and use electricity to amplify it, in an inverse of the process that cools a fridge. They can power standard radiators but work best with underfloor heating.

Britain needs 19 million heat pumps installed by 2050, but fits only 20,000 a year, of which only 90 are in London, a report for the mayor of London says. A young family living near Andover in a five-bed detached house that was built in 2001 moved to an air source heat pump (ASHP) from an oil boiler in March this year. It is saving them 25% on fuel bills and the government help through the renewable heat incentive (RHI) is contributing £7000 to the conversion paid quarterly over seven years. These two benefits cover the cost of the conversion making the move cost neutral over the seven years.

It is possible to fund an ASHP or ground source heat pump with both the RHI and the new grant scheme although the criteria are different.

The grant also covers solar thermal hot water systems and biomass boilers, but not solar pv panels or new gas boilers.

What else can I get in a Green Homes Grant?

Secondary measures you can claim for are draught proofing; energy efficient replacement doors; heating controls; and thermostats or insulation for hot water tanks. You can also bolster single glazing with secondary panes or replace it with double or triple glazing. But not to upgrade old double glazing.

Am I eligible for a Grant?

Almost any homeowner, private or social landlord (but not their tenants) in England can apply. Take the survey on the government funded Simple Energy Advice (SEA) website. To check what improvements can be made and what they typically cost. Tenants can use the same tool to download a report on their rental to ask their landlord for upgrades.

 

What should I watch out for?

The energy performance (EPC) data used in the government’s eligibility tool is “patchy” at best, Palmer says. “EPC data is assumed based on the age of a property and doesn’t necessarily reflect what is there.”

“The most useful approach is to ask a retrofit co-ordinator to draw up a long-term plan to upgrade your home” Price says.  Advisers look at the whole property to check that you do not have moisture or ventilation problems.  And that mistakes won’t lock your home into emitting more carbon. Visit retrofitworks.co.uk.

Find Trustmark accredited tradespeople in your area with the SEA tool and gets quotes this way. Without the TrustMark registration the scheme does not work. Then apply for a voucher from the end of September. Commit to carry out the work, once your voucher is approved. Work must be completed by 31st March 2021.

Kerr says: “Owners considering works under the scheme should move quickly. Most good tradespeople, will be booked up.  Which pushes homeowners nearer to the deadline for the scheme”.

 

 

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