Free Insulation and Boiler Grants

Including 'free' £1,000+ cavity wall & roof insulation

free insulation and boiler grants

There are freebies on offer from energy providers if your home qualifies, from new loft and cavity wall insulation to boiler grants.

In this guide

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. Generally, freebies are only for people who get certain benefits and have an income of £16,190 or less. Many big energy providers are giving away:

Quick questions:

  • Big providers have obligations to pump money into making homes more efficient, especially for tough-to-reach groups. If they miss targets, they get big fines.

    It sometimes doesn't matter which company you're signed up to, either. This isn't just about suppliers helping their own customers – these big beasts just need to put money into the system.

  • Some offers below aren't available if you live in Northern Ireland. But you may be able to get free insulation and other freebies through other schemes. For more, see Energy Saving Trust's advice on grants and support for Northern Ireland.

  • It depends on which scheme you're applying to, so do check. But normally you'll be allowed, with the landlord's permission.

    If you live in flats, you should still be able to install free home improvements, but you may have to get it installed for the whole block, which means getting agreement from all your neighbours.

Boiler grants

A new boiler typically costs £2,300, according to the Energy Saving Trust, but some householders can get a grant that can slash this to just an initial £240 outlay, and, in a few cases, even free.

Who can get it?

It's likely you will qualify if:

  • You own your own home (or, in some cases, rent from a private landlord)...

  • Someone living at the property qualifies for certain benefits, such as pension credit, universal credit, child benefit, carer's allowance and disability living allowance. See the full list of qualifying benefits.

What's on offer and how do I get a boiler grant?

Three big six providers currently offer grants toward new boilers:

  • E.on – available to existing and non-E.on customers on certain benefits. If your boiler is broken or faulty, E.on will install a new energy efficient boiler, though you'll need to pay a £240 contribution. If the boiler installation requires extra work, such as additional or new pipes, there may be additional costs, however E.on will let you know beforehand. You can see the full eligibility criteria and apply online.

  • EDF – available only to existing customers on certain benefits. If your boiler is broken, EDF will install a new energy efficient one, though you'll need to pay a £240 contribution. See its full eligibility online or apply by calling 0330 200 5119.

  • Npower – available to existing and non-Npower customers on certain benefits. If your boiler is broken or faulty, Npower will install a free or subsidised energy efficient boiler. You can check your eligibility online.

Ofgem also recommends the Simple Energy Advice website and Home Energy Scotland as good sources of information. If you apply, we'd love to hear your subsidised boiler experiences.

How much can you save?

Aside from the cost of the boiler itself, the Energy Saving Trust says heating accounts for about 55% of what people spend each year on energy bills, so an efficient boiler will make a big difference. Depending on your boiler's age, a shiny new efficient one could save you up to £300/year.

Quick questions:

  • You need to have a broken or inefficient boiler that is at least five years old. 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.

  • 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.

  • The offer usually includes fitting, though there may be an extra cost if an engineer needs to carry out extra work – for example, if you need new or additional pipe work. You should be told about this beforehand.

  • If you rent privately, you can still get a boiler grant – though you should speak to your landlord first to obtain their permission.

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

Free loft and cavity wall insulation

Cavity wall and loft insulation is worth up to £1,100 and can slice up to £480/year off energy bills. Energy firms are offering it for free, as long as you own your home and meet their eligibility criteria – but make sure it's right for your home first.

  • Cavity wall insulation. Most homes built between 1920 and 1990 have a gap between internal and external walls. Filling the cavity with insulating material means cold air's kept out, and warm air stays in – but it's not suitable for all.

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

Cavity wall insulation ISN'T right for everyone

Installed properly and in appropriate properties, cavity wall insulation can improve energy efficiency and cut home heating bills. Yet there has been a catalogue of horror stories of major damp and mould problems emerging after installation – with claims it's cost some £1,000s to fix, and even impacted their health.

If you're considering cavity wall insulation, it's vital to first check that it's suitable for your home.

Quick questions

  • A 2016 report by the Building Research Establishment looking at cavity wall insulation in Wales – where many problems have been reported – concluded there is evidence it's been poorly installed, or installed in unsuitable properties in some cases.

    Problems seem to be concentrated on the west side of the country, including in south-west England, west Wales, north-west England and north-west Scotland. These areas are known to be particularly unsuitable for cavity wall insulation because of severe exposure to 'wind-driven rain'.

  • First check whether the area you're in is deemed high risk. The map below from the Building Research Establishment shows the areas that are most at risk of 'wind-driven rain' in blue and dark blue.

    According to the Energy Saving Trust, if you're in one of these problem areas, it's likely your home isn't suitable for cavity wall insulation.

    It's not just about location though – you should also check that your property itself is suitable. The Energy Saving Trust says it'll usually be suitable for cavity wall insulation if:

    • Its external walls are unfilled cavity walls.
    • The cavity is at least 50mm wide.
    • The masonry or brickwork of your property is in good condition.
    • It was built before 1990 (most newer houses will have insulation already).

    If you do want to get ahead with cavity wall insulation, make sure your installer is registered with the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA).

    Finally, if you're still unsure, get a second opinion from another installer. Don't proceed unless you're sure it's right for your home.

  • If you do experience problems with your home after cavity wall insulation is installed, you should first complain to the company that originally carried out the installation.

    However, if it was a while ago you may find it no longer exists. If that's the case – or if it does exist but isn't able to give you a satisfactory resolution within 41 working days – you can contact the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA).

    It will investigate your complaint free of charge – all cavity wall insulation fitted by registered installers is covered by a 25-year guarantee overseen by CIGA, so if it finds in your favour it can help cover the cost of any repairs or any other needed work up to a value of £20,000.

    If CIGA fails to help, or you disagree with its decision (and some have reported problems), you can escalate your case to an independent arbitrator run by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution.

    You've 12 months from the date CIGA issues its final decision to take it to the independent arbitrator. However, you'll need to pay £25 plus VAT to refer your case, and all decisions are final and legally binding.

    The Cavity Insulation Victims' Alliance (CIVALLI), a volunteer-led organisation set up by people who have had major problems with cavity wall insulation, may also be able to help. It provides plenty of information and guidance on what to do if you have had issues, and can help people fight their case.

  • Though there's been no official verdict on how and why some cavity wall insulation has been installed inappropriately, some have blamed Government energy efficiency targets and the money made available to installers by energy companies – who could be fined if they fail to meet those targets.

    This may have led some installers to push insulation where it may not have been suitable.

Who can get it?

It's likely you will qualify if:

  • You own your own home (or, in some cases, rent from a private landlord)...

  • Someone living at the property qualifies for certain benefits, such as pension credit, universal credit, child benefit, carer's allowance and disability living allowance. See the full list of qualifying benefits.

What's on offer and how do I apply?

  • E.on – available to existing and non-E.on customers on certain benefits. You can apply for either loft or cavity wall insulation, or both. See the full eligibility criteria and apply* online.

  • EDF – available to existing customers on certain benefits. You can apply for either loft or cavity wall insulation, or both. See its full eligibility criteria or call 0333 200 5119.

  • Npower – available to existing and non-Npower customers on certain benefits. You can apply for either loft or cavity wall insulation, or both. You can check your eligibility online.

How much can you save with insulation?

The Energy Saving Trust reckons cavity insulation typically costs up to £725 to install (including building work), and can save between £70 and £255 per year on your energy bills, depending on your home. Loft insulation costs up to £395 and can save between £120 and £225 a year.

Quick questions:

  • You usually won't qualify if...

    • You live in a flat and can't coordinate with all other tenants.

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

    • Your home has damp problems – the Energy Saving Trust says you should sort these out first.

    You also may not be able to get it if you live in a housing association property or are a council tenant. The idea is they can arrange to install it for you through their own schemes.

  • If you don't qualify for the schemes above, look for an installer on the National Insulation Association website. As a benchmark, the Energy Saving Trust reckons cavity insulation typically costs around £330 to £725 to install, and loft insulation £285 to £395.

    The DIY route could work out cheaper for loft insulation, at about £150. For more help, Homebuilding magazine has a handy step-by-step guide to insulating your loft.

Our top thrifty heat-saving tips

On top of the help available above, there are sensible changes you can make which can save you large, from homemade draught excluders to insulating your chimney. Here's some of the top thrifty ways to keep your home toasty and your bills low:

  • Make your own sausage dog draught excluder. Draught excluders stop heat escaping in gaps between the door and the floor. If you're a creative type, you can make your own sausage dog draught excluder from an old pair of woolly tights filled with some stuffing or old socks.

  • Try a chimney sheep to reduce draughts. If you've an open, uninsulated chimney, you could be losing money on wasted heat. Chimney Sheep is a wool draught excluder, starting at £16. It's made from felted sheep wool, so it's naturally breathable and allows moisture to pass through. Be fire aware though – make sure there's nothing blocking your chimney if you're planning to use it.

    Another option is a chimney balloon, which is an inflatable 'pillow' that can block your chimney. You can pick them up from DIY shops for around £15.

  • Line your curtains with cheap fleece. Chunky window-wear, especially lined and insulated, will keep the warmth in. If you're on a budget, line curtains yourself with cheap fleece blankets (from about £2 at places such as Ikea and Asda) – but remember to check it's fire retardant.

More top tips:

  • It's better to keep doors closed for the area you want heated. Radiators, electric panel heaters and convection heaters all work by creating a convection current in a room. As hot air rises, it circles around to the other side of the room, cools and sinks, and travels back along the floor to the heater to be reheated again.

    Keep windows closed too. According to not-for-profit energy company Ebico, 25% of heat is lost through open doors and windows.

  • Even if you're not handy with DIY and your shelving slopes like a ski resort, a well-placed ledge can help. Putting a shelf above a radiator helps prevent the heat rising, especially if you have high ceilings, keeping the warmth closer to the ground.

    However, don't put any shelving directly on top of a radiator, which will trap the heat rather than channelling it around the room.

  • Most heat is lost through external walls. Radiator reflector panels bounce heat back into the room rather than let it pass through external walls. The Energy Saving Trust says homes with uninsulated walls will get the most benefit.

  • For more tips, join the Old Style forum board's Prepare for winter thread and our Energy Mythbusting guide.

    If you use heating oil to heat your home, you can save, too – follow the simple steps in our Heating Oil Comparison guide.

Other ways to cut your energy bill

Here are five energy-saving basics to keep your costs down:

  • Switching your energy is the best way to cut your energy costs – especially if you're on a standard tariff. Even though standard prices are now capped, most could still save over £300/year switching from a big six standard tariff to the cheapest energy deal.

    Use our Cheap Energy Club to find your best deal. Plus to encourage you to switch, there's up to £25 cashback if you switch via Cheap Energy Club.

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

  • Smart thermostats can also help some save on their energy bills. These gadgets give you greater control over your home's heating, letting you adjust it on the move via a mobile app or online, and set more complicated heating schedules than your traditional thermostat.

    They can be pricey though, so see the Smart Thermostats guide to check if they're right for you.

  • 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.

    See Energy Direct Debits Help for more info.

  • 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 underbilling, you'll have a big whack to pay when they get an actual reading. If they're overbilling, then they've unfairly got your cash.

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

    You can also check with your supplier to see if you can get a free smart meter, which sends automatic meter readings to your supplier – so no more estimated bills. For more, see our Smart Meters guide.

  • 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 switch meters because of 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 & Electricity guide.

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