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.
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.
Most grants tend to be for specific utility suppliers, which can mean even after the grant it isn't necessarily the cheapest place. They're usually offered to encourage people to do or buy something they wouldn't normally consider.
For more help to save on home devices, including tips from DIY nuts, look for ideas or ask your own question on the In My Home forum board.
The top energy grants, discounts & freebies
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.
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 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.
If you use heating oil to warm your home, instead of gas, we've compiled five simple steps to cut your costs too. For full help see our Cheap Heating Oil guide.
The big energy suppliers are giving wads of freebies to those receiving certain benefits, from new boilers to insulation. It's because of efficiency obligations to people in certain groups.
The cost of a new boiler varies, but a typical gas boiler replacement costs around £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 between £130 and £300 a year.
Cavity wall insulation can slice between £100 and £250 off energy bills every year. If you get a loft (with no insulation) fitted with 270mm of new insulation, this'll save another £140-£250 a year.
You could qualify for freebies 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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If you were born on or before 5 July 1952, you can grab a tax-free Winter Fuel Payment of up to £300 from the Government.
You usually get the money before Christmas, and it doesn't affect any other benefits you get, but exactly how much you'll receive depends on your circumstances.
Who's eligible? You can get it automatically if you're on the state pension or another social security benefit, such as pension credit, or jobseeker's allowance. If you only get housing benefit, council tax reduction or child benefit and haven't received a Winter Fuel Payment before, you'll have to claim it.
If any of the following circumstances applies to you between 15-21 September 2014, here's what you can get for winter 2014/15.
Winter Fuel Payments - how much can you get?
|Circumstance||Born on/before 5 Jul 1952||Aged 80+ in qualifying week|
|You qualify and get one a benefit listed above||£200||£300|
|You live with someone aged 80+ who qualifies||£100||£150|
|You qualify, live in a care home, but don't get a benefit that's listed above||£100||£150|
How to get paid. If you're due an automatic payment, you'll get a letter in September telling you how much you'll get and when. If you're eligible but won't get paid automatically, you can apply by post or on the phone. The Government's website tells you how to claim. The same organisation that pays your benefit pays you the grant.
Cold weather payment if temperatures hit zero
The Cold Weather Payment is a separate grant paid by the Government to older people and those on certain benefits, to help cover costs when temperatures hit zero. It applies if the average temperature is 0°C or below for seven days in a row between 1 Nov 2014 and 31 Mar 2015.
You'll get £25 for every seven consecutive days of cold weather, payable into the same account your benefits are paid into, within 14 working days of the cold spell. It varies by area but you'll be able to check if a payment is due after 1 Nov.
Who's eligible? All those who get Pension Credit qualify. In addition, you're eligible if you get Income Support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-based Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit (you're excluded if you're employed or self-employed) AND you either have a child who is disabled or under five living with you, or you get a disability or pensioner premium.
How do I apply? You should automatically get your rebate 14 working days after the seven-days of freezing weather. Check with your Jobcentre or pension centre if you don't receive it when applicable.
How will I get the cash? It's paid straight into your account (the one your benefits are already paid into).
Some can get £140 towards energy bills
The Warm Home Discount requires the big suppliers, by law, to help vulnerable customers pay for energy. The scheme for the winter just gone has now closed. However those who're eligible can get a £140 rebate on electricity bills for winter 2014 to 2015, though it's not automatic for some.
You can see which tariffs the discount is available with on MSE's Free Cheap Energy Club comparison. The Warm Home Discount availability pops up in your comparison results.
Who's eligible? The core group it helps are those who get Pension Credit, but this winter households with a prepay electricity meter will be able to apply too. You're eligible if either of the following applies on 12 July 2014:
- You're 75 or over and get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit (and you get 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 do I apply? If you're in the core group, you should automatically get your rebate but you'll receive a letter confirming this. If an automatic rebate can't be made, the letter will explain how to apply. Letters will be sent out in the autumn this year. If you're eligible, you should receive a letter by 24 December at the latest.
How will I get the cash? The money isn't paid to you, it's a one-off discount on your electricity bill, usually between October and March.
Which suppliers participate in the scheme? Atlantic, British Gas, Co-operative Energy, EDF Energy, E.ON, Equipower (Ebico), Equigas (Ebico), First Utility, Manweb (Scottish Power), M&S Energy, Npower, Sainsbury's Energy, Scottish Gas (British Gas), Scottish Hydro, ScottishPower, Southern Electric, SSE, SWALEC, Utility Warehouse.
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. The trusts give grants entitled further assistance payments to cover things like 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. Links: British Gas Energy Trust / EDF Energy Trust / Npower Energy Fund
With British Gas and EDF, you DON'T need to be a customer to apply, but you do with Npower.
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.
Some means-tested benefits recipients can get BT's special basic tariff for £15.30/quarter (rather than per month). The BT Basic package includes an allowance of £4.50 worth of calls per quarter to landlines. Free weekend calls to 0845 and 0870 numbers, for up to 60 minutes a call, are also included.
After going over the £4.50 allowance it's 11.3p a minute per call, plus 3.3p for each call on top, for normal calls. You can call to check your bill amount 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 water saving freebies
There are also a range of freebies you can get from your water supplier to help you save on your water bill.
If you're a customer of Thames Water, you can receive a free showerhead worth £17 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 says using one of these shower heads could help you save up to £40 a year off your energy bills, if you're on a water meter.
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.
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.
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. A water-stressed area is one which has been officially classed as being at risk of water shortages.
Anglian Water also provides free meter installations. Customers who transfer to a meter save, on average, £100/year on their previous bill.
The top home help schemes and 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.
Home repair and maintenance help
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.
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. Low income families can apply and the maximum award varies, though it's usually a couple of hundred pounds.
However, 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.
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 and you'll usually be given a free smoke alarm if you don't already have one.
The scheme's open to anyone but it'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.
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 grab rail instalments) with a grant of up to £350. You need to be referred by a occupational therapist, so speak to your doctor to see if you qualify.
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 (though anyone over 50 can apply) 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.
Local council or housing association grants
Other grants for your home (including for landlords) are available from your local council, such as the Home Repair Assistance Grant, or Housing Association (if you are a tenant of one). Anyone can apply but 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.