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.
Here's a great success story to give you an idea of what's possible:
After a Bank Charges financial hardship win I got the MSE bug. I wrote letters, sent emails, filled in forms and as a result...
My pensioner Mum is getting a Warm Front grant for a new heating system, worth £3,350.
My girlfriend's kids and my nephew have two shiny new Home Access laptops between them, worth £800.
My sister got a Warm Front grant for insulating her flat, worth £300.
My mum is getting an energy monitor and standby plug from British Gas, worth £120.
Oh, and I got myself an energy saving plug AND a free pizza!
Most grants tend to be for specific suppliers, which can mean even after the grant it isn't necessarily the cheapest place. Always check if you can get it cheaper somewhere else. See the Online Shopping guide, and look for ideas or ask your own question on the In My Home forum.
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The top energy grants
Energy is one of the main grant-giving areas as substantial Government funding's available to reduce our impact on the environment. After all, in the long run reducing our fuel use is cheaper than building new power stations.
Utility companies are bound by energy efficiency targets and sometimes need to throw money at the public to meet these, (those 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 - an average saving of up to £200 per year can be made. 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.
Search 100s of energy grants and discounts
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."
Who can apply? Anyone What's the maximum award? Varies What does it cover? All types of energy efficiency. Loft and cavity wall insulation are most common.
The Warm Home Discount requires the big suppliers, by law, to help vulnerable customers pay for energy. It replaces the voluntary social tariffs offered by suppliers. You get a £130 rebate on electricity bills each winter, but this is not automatic for some.
The core group it helps are those who get Pension Credit, particularly if all the following apply on the qualifying date:
you got only the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (no Savings Credit)
your name, or your partner’s name, was on your electricity bill
your electricity account was with one of the energy suppliers participating in this scheme (see below - they include the big six).
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 you will need to provide some extra info by to get your rebate.
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, Eon, Equipower, Equigas, Manweb, M&S Energy, Npower, Sainsbury's Energy, Scottish Gas, Scottish Hydro, Scottish Power, Southern Electric, Scottish & Southern Energy, Swalec and Utility Warehouse.
Who can apply? Those on pension credit or those that are vulnerable. What's the maximum award? £120. What does it cover? Electricity bills.
Cavity wall and loft insulation can slice about £300 off energy bills per year. As part of their energy efficiency obligations, energy firms offer serious freebies.
However the targets that force suppliers to offer these are nearly met and schemes are being pulled, so go quick. There are currently a load of freebies available which mean everyone. Anyone, regardless of who your energy supplier is, can get free loft AND cavity wall insulation provided your home's suitable (you get a free survey to find out). Full details in the Free Insulation guide.
One of the main schemes in England is called Warm Front, which gives up to £3,500 to homeowners or those who rent from a private landlord and receive certain benefits.
The scheme is aimed at those on income-related benefits living in poorly insulated or heated homes.
Find out if you're eligible on the Warm Front website or call free on 0300 123 1234 and press 1.
This scheme's only available in England. In Scotland the scheme is called the Energy Assistance Package, in Northern Ireland it's Warm Homes, and in Wales it's the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme.
What do you get?
Grants are available up to the value of £3,500 (£6,000 where oil central heating or alternative technologies are recommended). They cover:
- loft insulation
- cavity wall insulation
- hot water tank insulation gas
- electric, liquid petroleum gas or oil heating, eg, a new boiler
- glass-fronted fire - the Warm Front scheme can convert your solid-fuel open fire to a glass-fronted fire
One extra tip though:
"I have had several lots of work done with grants, including Warm Front. I can tell you that on each occasion it took about a year from contacting them to getting the work actually done."
Who can apply? Homeowners or private tenants (as long as over 60 or on certain benefits). What's the maximum award? £6,000. What does it cover? Insulation and heating improvements.
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 / Eon Caring Energy Fund (only arrears help)
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 a means-tested benefit, and either have three or more children 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 which caps your bills at the average charge for your area.
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.
Some means-tested benefits recipients (eg, income support, iESA, iJSA and pension credit) can get BT's special basic tariff for £14.85/quarter (rather than per month).
The package includes £4.50 worth of calls to landlines and free weekend calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers up to 60 minutes, although it can be costly after (10.7p a minute, plus 3.1p for each phone call, for normal calls).
The tariff lets you make and receive calls and stops certain calls being made, eg, mobile or premium rate numbers. You can also call to check your bill amount at any time, or check online, all helping to keep costs down and budget for your bills.
Also see the Cheap Home Phones guide.
Who can apply? Anyone with utility arrears, usually a customer of the provider. What's the maximum award? Varies. What does it cover? Repayment of arrears and some household items.
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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. There are 25,000 shower heads 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 tell 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 via SaveWaterSaveMoney. The freebies vary per provider.
The freebies include flush bags, water widgets, shower timers and water audit leaflets. To get them, click on your water provider, select the products you're interested in and click 'order'. You won't be asked for any card details, simply your address.
Terms and conditions may vary per company but they're all limited to one pack per household, and you have to be a customer of the water company to get the freebie. Delivery times vary per offer, but it's usually within 28 days. The offers are ongoing, or while stocks last.
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 water efficiency check, during which an approved plumber will visit your house, check for any leaks and fit free water efficiency products such as a dual flush for your toilet, 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.
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 and subsidised products to help reduce your water usage.
Free products include two 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.
Subsidised products include a water-saving showerhead and a water widget.
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're to 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 300 not-for-profit HIAs around the country that can help in varying ways.
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?
From April 2013 each local authority is responsible for providing help to its residents struggling with an emergency, such as 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.
The scheme's aimed at the elderly and families with young children.
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. 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
In England and Wales, Age UK runs a free home support scheme for those over 60 with less than £20,000 in savings to help them feel safer in their homes. This can include installing security equipment, changing locks on doors and windows, and fitting smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Who can apply? Over-60s with less than £20,000 in savings. 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.