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Free Insulation and Boilers

Incl free £700 insulation

There are a lot of freebies on offer from energy providers if your home qualifies, from new boilers to loft and cavity wall insulation.

This guide shows how to grab these crocks of gold, including current offers, who can get them and how to apply.

What can you get?

Free stuff – we're talking £1,000s' worth – is a sexier phrase than "Energy Company Obligations (ECO) scheme" but they're the same thing. Many big energy providers are giving away boilers, plus loft and cavity wall insulation, to people who get tax credits and have an income of £15,860 or less, or are receiving certain benefits such as pension credit.

But British Gas is giving away free loft and cavity wall insulation to anyone with a suitable home - you don't need to meet the benefit criteria. In addition, there's the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.

It offers up to £5,600 cashback towards energy saving measures such as floor insulation, double or secondary glazing, fan-assisted storage heaters and more. You'll need a Green Deal assessment or an Energy Performance Certificate that's less than two years old to apply - see the Green Deal Mythbusting guide for full details.

Quick questions:

Are these deals linked to the Green Deal initiative?

Why do energy providers do this?

What options are there in Northern Ireland?

I rent my property - can I get the freebies?

I live in a flat, am I still eligible?

Free boilers

Energy providers' freebies used to focus on free loft and cavity wall insulation. Boilers are also up for grabs from some providers.

What can you get?

A new boiler typically costs £2,300, according to the Energy Saving Trust, so this is a fabulous freebie. If your boiler isn't inefficient, just broken, you may be offered a repair, rather than a new boiler.

The offer includes fitting, though there may be an extra cost if an engineer needs to carry out extra work, for example, it needs moving or you need extra radiators. You should be told about this beforehand.

Who can get it?

You're likely to qualify if:

  • You get tax credits and have a household income of less than £16,010, or...

  • You receive income-based benefits, such as pension credit or income support, and you’ve either children, a disabled person in the household, or are over 60.

You won't be able to get a free boiler if you live in a housing association property or are a council tenant. Instead, this will be arranged through their own schemes.

The criteria's complex, so a quick way to check if you qualify is to call the Energy Saving Advice Service and answer a few basic questions on 0300 123 1234 (England), 0800 512 012 (Wales) or 0808 808 22 82 (Scotland). Also see providers' criteria in How to get it.

What kind of boiler do you need to have?

You need to have a broken or inefficient boiler. If you've a new-ish, working A or B rated boiler, you probably won't qualify.

This is decided on a case-by-case basis through a free inspection. It's based on a number of factors, including the boiler's efficiency, age and condition.

The energy companies will usually just replace gas boilers, not oil. If you don't have a boiler already, you can't get a new system installed.

How much can you save?

The Energy Saving Trust says boilers account for about 55% of what people spend each year on energy bills, so an efficient boiler makes a big difference. Depending on your boiler's age, a shiny new efficient one could save you up to £300/year.

It's likely new boilers are top of many homebuyers' wishlists, so this could boost your house price too.

How long will it take?

The energy companies say it typically takes four to 12 weeks from when you first apply to get the boiler installed. Fitting the boiler usually takes from a few days to a week, though it varies depending on property.

How do I get a free boiler?

Just call a provider for a free assessment. You're free to pick any energy company offering the deal - you don't need to be a customer.

All deals are ongoing, with no limit on the number of free installations. If you apply, we'd love to hear your Free boiler experiences.

Quick question

What is offered by each provider?

Free loft and cavity wall insulation

Cavity wall and loft insulation can slice about £300 off energy bills each year, and energy firms are offering them free to certain groups.

What can you get?

Some of the big six providers are giving away free loft and cavity wall insulation.

  • Cavity wall insulation. Most homes built since 1920 have a gap between internal and external walls. Filling the cavity with insulating mineral wool and foam means cold air's kept out, and warm air stays in.

  • Loft insulation. Up to a quarter of your home's heat escapes through the roof, but you can solve this by laying mineral wool under the rafters.

Who can get this?

British Gas is currently the only energy provider with no restrictions on your income or the number of benefits you're receiving for free insulation.

The others require you to get child tax credit and have an income of £15,860 or under, or to be receiving certain benefits such as pension credit. See providers' eligibility criteria below.

You won't be able to get free insulation - worth around £700 - if you live in a housing association property or are a council tenant. The idea is they will arrange to do this for you though their own schemes.

A quick way to check if you qualify is to call the Energy Saving Trust and answer a few basic questions on 0300 123 1234 (England), 0800 512 012 (Wales) or 0808 808 22 82 (Scotland).

Is your property suitable?

Not all properties are suitable for cavity wall or loft insulation. Most providers conduct a free survey.

You usually won't qualify if...

  • You live in a flat and can't co-ordinate with all other tenants.

  • Your home is timber or metal-framed, or made from natural stone or concrete.

  • If you've damp problems. The Energy Saving Trust says you should sort these out first.

You may need to pay extra for scaffolding to get the insulation fitted. These costs aren't included in some offers.

How much can you save?

The Energy Saving Trust reckons cavity insulation typically costs £400 to install (including building work), and can save an average three-bedroom home up to £160/year on its bills. Loft insulation costs about £300 and can save £150/year.

How do I get free insulation?

Just call a provider for a free assessment. You're free to pick any provider - you don't need to be a customer.

If you qualify for it, our top pick is...

  • British Gas. It's the only provider giving insulation away free to those with a qualifying home. Call it on all 0800 072 8629 or see its eligibility criteria. (Two key points are that council and housing association homes have their own schemes, so aren’t included, and if you live in a flat the whole block will need to get it.)

If your home doesn't meet the British Gas requirements, these providers give free insulation but only to those who meet the benefits criteria. All offers are ongoing, with no limit on the number of free installations.

Quick questions:

Will my house be suitable for cavity wall insulation?

Is there any help if I've got solid walls?

I don't qualify for free insulation, how can I get it cheaply?

Other ways to cut your energy bill

Also ensure you're on the cheapest energy tariff and do the energy-saving basics:

picture of money jar
  1. Consider fixing to beat price hikes

    Despite recent cuts to gas prices from all the big six, energy prices are up overall. Locking in with a cheap fix is one way to avoid future price hikes, and cut costs now - especially if you're on a standard tariff.

    Our Cheap Energy Club checks you're on the cheapest deal and handles the switch for you. Plus to encourage you, there's up to £30 extra if you switch via Cheap Energy Club.

    It's the same gas, the same electricity, the same safety. All that changes are the customer service and the price you pay. For more on this, plus top fixes, see our Cheap Gas & Elec guide.

  2. Thrifty heat-saving tips

    If you wander round the house in boxers or bra 'n' knickers with radiators on full and windows wide open... STOP IT.

    Sensible changes can save you large, from draught excluders to notching down the thermostat. Here are a few thrifty ways to keep your home toasty.

    Make your own sausage dog draft excluder

    Line curtains with cheap fleece

    Keep doors closed

    Put shelves above radiators

    Don't leave the heating on low all day

    Put reflective panels behind radiators

    For more tips, join the Old Style forum board's Prepare for winter thread. Also see the Great Energy-Saving Hunt and our Energy Mythbusting guide. If you use heating oil to heat your home, you can save too. Follow the simple steps in Cheap Heating Oil.

  3. Don't assume dual fuel is always cheapest

    Logically, dual fuel (gas and electricity from the same supplier) should be cheaper and it often is, yet not always.

    During your comparison, also check the cost of the cheapest dual fuel supplier against separate cheap gas and cheap electricity suppliers.

  4. Switch to monthly direct debit

    Fixed monthly direct debit payments, where you pay a fixed estimate each month, save you 5-10%, as companies are sure you won't default and they earn interest on any overpayments. These should be refunded at the end of the year.

  5. Do a meter reading every time

    Every time you receive a bill, do a meter reading. Don't rely on your energy provider's estimate, these are often way out. If they're under-billing, you'll have a big whack to pay when they get an actual reading. If they're over-billing, then they've unfairly got your cash.

    If your direct debit is way off-kilter, call up and request it's changed. You have a range of rights to ensure it's correct. See the full Energy Direct Debits guide for template letters.

  6. Switch to your company's internet tariff

    It'll usually save you up to 10% over the standard tariff, and all it really means is you get your bills emailed.

  7. Avoid prepayment meters if you can

    While a push from the Government means it's getting better, those on prepayment meters are still pretty hard done by compared with those who pay by direct debit. If possible, switch to a billed meter. You may have to pay for one, but the savings are usually worth it.

    Often, firms won't let you, due to credit score or income difficulties. For full info on how to ditch a prepayment meter for a credit meter - or if you can't, how to save on a prepay meter - see the full Cheap Prepaid Gas & Elec guide.