There's £100s of millions of free cash available to help increase your home's energy efficiency, or just to do it up. The key is knowing where to look.
Lots of UK grants go unclaimed. Many but not all, are for the elderly, disabled or those on lower incomes. This guide will take you through what's available, and how to apply for the free cash.
Top energy grants
What is a grant?
A grant is money, or a voucher, that contributes towards the cost of you buying something. Although it may not cover the full cost of the item, meaning you'll have to cough up the rest yourself, it's almost always completely free.
Grants are usually offered to encourage people to do or buy something they wouldn't normally consider. Most grants tend to be for specific suppliers, which can mean even after the grant it isn't necessarily the cheapest place.
The top energy grants
Energy is one of the main grant-giving areas because substantial Government funding's available to reduce our impact on the environment. After all, in the long run slashing our fuel use is cheaper than building new power stations.
Utility companies are bound by energy efficiency targets and need to throw money at the public to meet these. These short-term hot grants go in the free weekly email.
The end result of these grants is an increase in your home's value, warmth and economy. Of course, just as big savings are available by cutting costs, or insuring your boiler against breakdown. Check out our Compare Gas & Electricity and Boiler Cover guides.
The big energy providers are giving wads of freebies to people on benefits, from new boilers to insulation. It's because of efficiency obligations to people in certain groups.
New boilers alone typically cost £2,300, so this is a fantastic freebie. Boilers are one of the biggest contributors to your energy bills – the more efficient your boiler, the more heat it produces from each gas unit. Depending on its age, a shiny new efficient one could save you up to £300/year.
Cavity wall and loft insulation can slice up to £300 off energy bills per year.
You could qualify if you get tax credits or income-based benefits, such as pension credit or income support. To speedily uncover these crocks of gold, including a rundown of current offers, see the Free Boilers and Insulation guide.
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Check what you're eligible for
The Government, energy suppliers and local authorities all provide grants to help you implement energy saving measures. The best place to start is the Government's Energy Saving Trust (EST). It has an advice and information helpline on 0300 123 1234 (more info for Scotland and Northern Ireland).
Everyone should try this. Here's some inspiration...
"I have been lucky enough to qualify for a brand new boiler. I didn't think I'd meet the criteria but I did, so check and see if you qualify too."
The Warm Home Discount requires the big suppliers, by law, to help vulnerable customers pay for energy. You get a £135 rebate on electricity bills for winter 2013 to 2014, but this is not automatic for some.
Who's eligible? The core group it helps are those who get Pension Credit, particularly if all the following apply on the qualifying date (20 July 2013):
- You're 75 or over and get only the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (and you get Savings Credit).
- You're under 75 or over and get only the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (but you get no Savings Credit).
- Your name, or your partner’s name, was on your electricity bill.
There's also a broader group that energy suppliers consider for the rebate, but this varies from supplier to supplier. It's worth calling yours to check.
How to apply. If you're in the core group, you should automatically get your rebate but you should receive a letter confirming this. If an automatic rebate can't be made you may need to provide some extra info to get your rebate. You should be sent a letter explaining how to apply and a deadline. Letters will be sent between September 2013 and January 2014.
If you're outside the core group, call your supplier to see if it deems you eligible for the rebate.
The suppliers participating in the scheme The electricity suppliers involved in this scheme are: Atlantic, British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower (Ebico), Equigas (Ebico), First Utility, M&S Energy, npower, Sainsbury’s Energy, Scottish Gas - see British Gas, Scottish Hydro, ScottishPower Southern Electric, SSE, SWALEC, Utility Warehouse.
Who can apply? Those on pension credit or those that are vulnerable. What's the maximum award? £135. What does it cover? Electricity bills.
Free cash to help pay for utility arrears
As well as grants to make your home more energy efficient, some utility companies also offer help if you have large arrears on your gas, electricity or water bills. Please let us know if you have success with any of these schemes.
Three providers offer an Energy Trust scheme for their account holders in hardship, to help cover energy arrears and sometimes other essential household items. Essential items are covered by Further Assistance Payments and can include white goods, boiler repairs or funeral costs.
Those who live in a home supplied by the provider, but are not account holders, can apply for the Further Assistance Payments only.
You need to complete a full income and expenditure budget sheet along with proof of your income, give details on how your arrears have built up, eg, due to illness or redundancy, and say how the grant will help you. It can take several weeks to process your claim but it can give £1,000+ in support. Links: British Gas Energy Trust / EDF Energy Trust / Npower Energy Fund
For other providers or general advice, Homeheat is a not-for-profit phone line that gives advice on grants (both for energy arrears and insulation), benefits, reduced tariffs, special payment options and energy saving tips to people struggling to pay their bills and keep warm. You can call 0800 33 66 99 or check the Homeheat website for info.
Also see the Cheap Gas & Electricity guide.
The Water UK website has info on all the water company schemes. Help from all providers includes WaterSure (see below), referrals to hardship funds and help in applying for direct payment from benefits (Water Direct).
If you're on a meter and on certain benefits, and either have three or more children living in the house under the age of 19 or someone in the household with a medical condition needing lots of water, you could get help from the WaterSure scheme.
This scheme caps your bills at the average household bill for your company.
Some providers also offer other special tariffs and/or New Start/Restart (the name depends on where you live), a scheme that can match payments or write off some of your debt if you enter an arrears payment plan.
Also see the Cut Water Bills guide.
Who can apply? Anyone with utility arrears, usually a customer of the provider. What's the maximum award? Varies. What does it cover? Assistance for repayment of arrears.
Some means-tested benefits recipients can get BT's special basic tariff for £14.85/quarter (rather than per month). The BT Basic package includes a free allowance of £4.50 worth of calls per quarter to landlines. Free weekend calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers up to 60 minutes are also included.
After going over the £4.50 allowance it's 11p a minute per call, plus 3.2p for each call on top, for normal calls. The tariff lets you make and receive calls and can help stop certain calls like premium rate numbers. You can also call to check your bill amount at any time, or check online.
You're eligible for BT Basic if you're on any of the following benefits: Income support, Income-based JSA, ESA (income related), the Guaranteed Credit element of Pensions Credit; and finally if you get Universal Credit but you're on zero earnings. For more info visit www.bt.com/btbasic
Also see the Cheap Home Phones guide.
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The top energy saving freebies
Water saving device for Thames Water customers
If you're a customer of Thames Water, you can receive a free showerhead worth around £15 via SaveWaterSaveMoney.
The showerheads are available on a first-come, first-served basis while stocks last. Other freebies are also up for grabs, including flush bags and water widgets.
SaveWaterSaveMoney tells us using one of these shower heads could help you save up to £15 a year off your energy bills and a further £15 off your water bill if you're on a meter. MSE Wendy has an aerating shower head at home which saves about 20% of water compared to her previous shower head.
Once ordered, the products should be with you within 28 days. One of each item per household only. Read the Cut Water Bills guide for more tips on slashing costs.
Who can apply? Thames Water customers only. What's the maximum award? This is worth min £15. What does it cover? Free showerhead and other water saving freebies.
Free water saving gadgets
You can get free water saving products from your water company - the freebies vary per provider.
Freebies include flush bags, water widgets, shower timers and water audit leaflets. To see what you can get, see the full Cut Water Bills guide.
Who can apply? Customers of UK water companies. What's the maximum award? Varies. What does it cover? Free water saving products.
Extra products for Anglian Water customers
Customers of Anglian Water can check to see if they're eligible for a free water efficiency home visit.
This involves an approved plumber visiting your house, checking for any leaks and fitting free water efficiency products such as a dual flush for your toilet, or tap fittings for your shower and sink and a hosepipe gun.
To qualify you need to be in a water-stressed area and take a quick survey about your water use at home.
Anglian Water also provides free meter installations. Customers who transfer to a meter save, on average, £100/year on their previous bill.
Who can apply? Anglian water customers who live in a water-stressed area. What's the maximum award? Reduced water bill should be around £40 a year. What does it cover? Water efficiency products.
Water-efficient products for Affinity Water customers
If you are a customer of Affinity Water (formerly Veolia Water) you can order free or discounted products to help reduce your water usage.
Free products include toilet save-a-flush devices, a shower aerator and two tap aerators (reduces the amount of water by mixing it with air), saving over 18 litres of water a day in an average home.
Who can apply? Affinity Water customers. What's the maximum award? Reduced water bill could be around £40 a year. What does it cover? Water efficiency products.
The top home grants
Grants for the home come in two flavours. They're either for home safety improvements - whether it be smoke alarms or security - or they help the vulnerable or those on low incomes who'd struggle to make the improvements themselves.
Help around the home
If you are elderly, disabled or on a low income, your local Home Improvement Agency (HIA) may help you to repair, improve, maintain or adapt your home. There are around 200 HIA services around the country that can help in varying ways.
Assistance can include providing a list of reliable local builders and contractors, checking if you can get financial help or helping to make your home more energy efficient. Search for your nearest HIA on the Foundations website (or Care and Repair Cymru in Wales).
Alternatively, independent charity Turn2Us has a grant search to help you check for any charities that might be able to help with things like furniture, decorating or bills and household expenses. The grants usually depend on an individual's circumstances, maybe any illnesses or their nationality, occupation, age or income.
Who can apply? The elderly, disabled or those on a low income. What's the maximum award? N/A What does it cover? Odd jobs around the house.
Need help in an emergency?
Since April 2013, under the Department of Work and Pensions' Social Fund reform, each local authority has been responsible for providing help to its residents struggling with an emergency.
This could be you or your families’ health being at risk, not being able to afford to buy food, needing help to stay in your own home and coming out of care, hospital or prison.
Sadly this is a postcode lottery, each council can choose whether to offer financial help or not or who is eligible. For example, some may give furniture or food grants while others may give cash.
Demand is likely to be high and there isn't a bottomless pot of money but if you think you qualify and really need the cash, ask your local council for more info.
Who can apply? Low income familes. What's the maximum award? Varies but usually a couple of hundred pounds. What does it cover? Help in an emergency.
Free fire safety check and alarm
Many local fire stations offer free home fire risk assessments, to check for potential fire risks and give fire safety advice. The check will help you plan what to do if a fire starts in your home. You'll usually be given a free smoke alarm if you don't already have one.
Who's eligible? The scheme's aimed at the elderly, families with young children or any homes which may carry a high fire risk.
The Chief Fire Officers Association has put together a list of what each brigade offers and you can find out more about the assessments on the Fire Service website. If your local brigade isn't listed, you could ring it to see what it offers.
Bear in mind it's usually serving fire officers that do the checks, so slots will be limited.
Who can apply? Anyone. What's the maximum award? N/A. What does it cover? Fire safety check and fire alarm.
Help adapting your home if you're disabled
A Disabled Facilities Grant is available from your local council to help towards the cost of adapting your home if you, or someone living in your property, is disabled.
You can get up to £30,000 in England, £36,000 in Wales and up to £25,000 in Northern Ireland. In Scotland the value depends on your council.
The grant is for work that is essential to help a disabled person live an independent life. Here's an example...
"I had a disabled facilities grant to remove my bath and put in a level access shower."
Contact the council's housing or environmental health department and ask it to send you an application form before you start work. If work begins before the council's approved your application, you won't normally get anything. Find more info on the grant on the Gov.uk website, as well as your local council's details.
In Wales, an additional scheme provided by Care and Repair is the Rapid Response Adaptations Programme, which helps with small-scale alterations to your home (such as ramps, alarms or hand rails) with a grant of up to £350. You need to be referred by a health professional, so speak to your doctor if you think you might qualify.
Who can apply for DFG? If there is someone with a disability in the house. What's the maximum award? £25,000 in Northern Ireland, £30,000 in England and £36,000 in Wales. What does it cover? Essential work to adapt your house.
Who can apply for RRAP? You live in Wales and have someone with a disability in the house. What's the maximum award? £350. What does it cover? Small jobs to adapt your house.
Feel safer in your home
Age UK runs a Local Handyperson service in 73 areas across England. This involves security-checked individuals visiting elderly people’s homes to do small repairs, grab rail instalments and security improvements to doors and windows.
Charges for handyperson services are set at local levels so call your local Age UK. Costs are around £5-£25 per hour dependent on the work being undertaken. For info call Age UK on 0800 169 87 87.
Who can apply? Usually over-50s. What's the maximum award? N/A. What does it cover? Odd jobs around the house.
Local council or housing association grants
There may also be other grants for your home (including for landlords) available from your local council, such as the Home Repair Assistance Grant, or Housing Association (if you are a tenant of one). As councils can offer different funding, search for details on its website or contact them to ask for more information.
To find your local council's details enter your postcode in the Gov.uk website. Be careful to check if there are any restrictions on council grants, as some need you to have lived in the property for a number of years or require you to repay part of the grant if you move within a certain timeframe.
Who can apply? Anyone. What's the maximum award? Varies. What does it cover? Varies depending on your local council's availability.