Free insulation and boiler grants

Free insulation for the least energy-efficient homes

The ECO scheme could save you over £300 a year on your bills

There are freebies on offer from energy providers and local authorities, from new loft and cavity wall insulation to replacement boilers. If you live in a home with a low energy performance rating, you might be eligible through the ECO or ECO+ schemes. 

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What can you get?

Since 2013, more than two million homes have benefitted from free or subsidised energy efficiency home improvements under the Government's Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme – which requires most energy suppliers to offer measures that help low income, fuel-poor and vulnerable households to heat their homes.

What's more, the Government has announced plans to extend the scheme in 2023 to support 100,000s of households that currently don't benefit, under what's known as the ECO+ scheme. Under the schemes, many big energy providers and local authorities are giving away:

Under these schemes, £1,000s of energy efficiency home improvements are available to households in England, Wales and Scotland (there are similar schemes in Northern Ireland).

The core ECO scheme is only available to those who receive certain benefits, but the new, expanded ECO+ scheme – which will run alongside the core scheme – will allow anyone living in a home with a low-rated 'energy performance certificate' (EPC) AND in certain council tax bands to apply.

  • Why do energy suppliers and local authorities offer insulation and other measures?

    Large and medium-sized energy 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 its own customers – these suppliers just need to put money into the system.

    In addition, the Government has made a commitment to tackling fuel poverty and improving the energy efficiency of our homes, to help people reduce their energy bills and reach its 'net zero' greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050.

Free loft and cavity wall insulation

While there are several different types of insulation available under the ECO scheme, for the vast majority of homes, loft or cavity wall insulation will be the key measures available. According to the Government, these are "two of the most cost-effective energy efficiency measures to install to reduce energy bills".

For full details on how to get free insulation, first check you're eligible and then see how to apply.

What exactly is loft and cavity wall insulation?

  • 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.

How much can I save with insulation?

The Energy Saving Trust reckons cavity wall insulation costs up to £1,800 to install (including building work), and can save between £180 and £690 a year on your energy bills, depending on your home. Loft insulation costs up to £890 and can save between £330 and £590 a year.

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 have been numerous horror stories of damp and mould problems emerging after installation. If you're considering cavity wall insulation, it's vital to first check that it's suitable for your home.

  • What's the problem?

    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'.

  • How can I check if cavity wall insulation is right for my home?

    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.

    The areas in the UK most at risk of 'wind-driven rain' are roughly most of Wales and Northern Ireland, and if you were to draw a line down the middle of the UK, most places to the west of that line.

    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 homes will have insulation already).

    If you do want to go 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.

  • What can I do if I have problems with my insulation?

    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 two months – 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 (CEDR).

    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 £100 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.

  • Why has cavity wall insulation been installed inappropriately?

    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.

What other types of insulation are available under the scheme?

As well as loft and cavity wall, there's several other different types of insulation available under the ECO scheme, including:

  • Solid wall insulation (external and internal)
  • Pitched roof insulation
  • Flat roof insulation
  • Underfloor insulation
  • Solid floor insulation
  • Park home insulation
  • Room-in-roof insulation

When you apply, your energy supplier or local authority will send out a professional to assess what measures might be most suitable for your home.

Boilers, free heating controls and other energy-efficiency improvements

There are some other energy efficiency improvements available under the ECO scheme. You can check you're eligible and see how to apply below, but for all of these extra measures, there are additional criteria or stricter limits on what's available:

  • Boilers. A small number of people can get boiler repairs, upgrades and replacements through the ECO scheme. If you're in the 'low-income' group you could be eligible for a new condensing boiler, but there's a limited number of repairs and replacements available each year under the scheme – and it depends on the what type of boiler you currently have and its condition.

  • Heating controls. 'Low income' households that have an insulation measure installed under the scheme may then be eligible to get heating controls installed, such as thermostatic radiator valves, thermostats and boiler programmers – but only if you're a homeowner. Renters and those in social housing won't usually qualify for these measures.

  • Electric storage heaters. If you own your home, you could get your existing electric storage heaters replaced or repaired.

  • Other measures. Some homes may also be eligible for improved window glazing (from single to double, or upgrading existing double glazing), draught proofing and better quality external doors.
  • What kind of boiler do you need to have to get a replacement, repair or upgrade?

    If you've an inefficient non-condensing boiler of any age, whether working or broken, you may be able to get it replaced with a new energy-efficient boiler. 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.

    If you've an efficient (condensing) boiler which has broken down and no longer under warranty, it could be eligible for repair or replacement. The older it is, the more likely it is to be replaced rather than repaired. But there's only a limited number of repairs and replacements available each year under the scheme.

  • Will I have to pay anything towards a boiler replacement?

    Generally, if you qualify under the 'low income' criteria, any measures fitted will be free. If not, you may be expected to make a contribution – how much will depend on what's being installed and your circumstances.

    For boilers installed as part of the scheme, it'll usually include fitting, though there may be an extra cost if an engineer needs to carry out any additional work, such as installing new or additional pipe work. You should be told about this beforehand.

  • Can you still get it if you rent or you're a council tenant?

    If you rent privately, you can still get a boiler repair or replacement through the ECO scheme – though you'll need to speak to your landlord first to obtain their permission.

    If you live in a housing association property or you're a council tenant, you can get help under the ECO scheme through your local council.

Only those on certain benefits are eligible for now

Currently, the ECO scheme is only available to those on certain benefits, in homes with poor energy efficiency, and in low-income households. You'll likely qualify if: 

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

  • Your home has an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of D or below; AND

  • Someone living at the property qualifies for certain benefits, such as pension credit, universal credit, child benefit (subject to income limit), income support and housing benefit. See the full list of qualifying benefits; OR

  • You live in social housing, or are considered by your local council as being on low income (total household income under £31,000 a year) and vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home.

This is what's known as the 'low income' group.

From April 2023, 100,000s more households will qualify

From April 2023, the ECO+ scheme will launch, extending the scheme to 400,000 more households. You'll likely qualify if all of the following apply to you:

  • You own your own home.

  • Your home is in council tax band A to D in England, A to E in Scotland and A to C in Wales.

  • Your home has an EPC rating of D or below. Or, if you live in social housing, an EPC rating of E, F or G.

This will be known as the 'general group'.

Under ECO+, those in the 'general group' will only be able to get one type of insulation installed. For example, you could get cavity wall insulation OR loft insulation, but not both. And you MAY have to pay a proportion of the costs, but you'll be told this before any work is approved.

If you're in a low-income household, you can receive support through the ECO+ scheme as well as the core ECO scheme – the energy supplier you apply to should let you know which is right for you.

  • I rent – am I eligible?

    If you privately rent, you can apply, as long as you're eligible under the 'low income' group – but you'll need your landlord's permission. You'll also have to live in a property that has an EPC rating of E to G.

    Under the upcoming ECO+ scheme, if you privately rent and fall into the 'general group', you WON'T be eligible under the scheme.

  • If you live in flats, you may need your neighbours' agreement

    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.

    In fact, for solid wall and cavity wall insulation, if at least half of the properties in a block of flats qualify under the ECO or ECO+ scheme, others in the same block may be eligible also. This is what's known as 'in-fill' and it's a way for the Government to cheaply improve the energy efficiency of multiple properties at once.

    It doesn't matter whether the other flats are privately rented, owner-occupied or social housing.

  • What is an EPC?

    An energy performance certificate (EPC) tells you how energy efficient your home is and gives it a rating from A (very efficient) to G (inefficient). It'll tell you how much it might cost a typical household to heat and light, and give an estimate of its carbon dioxide emissions.

    An EPC also gives you recommendations on how to improve your energy efficiency. You need an EPC when you buy, sell or rent a property. EPCs are valid for 10 years from the date of issue.

    You can check your home's EPC rating on the Government's energy performance certificate register (England and Wales) or the Scottish energy performance register (Scotland).

  • What happens if my home doesn't have an EPC?

    If your home doesn't have an EPC, you can still apply for home improvements funding through one of the participating energy providers, and they'll send a surveyor to estimate your home's EPC rating, as well as work out what energy improvements you should make.

  • How do I know what council tax band I'm in?

    You can easily check your home's council tax band on the Government website. If your neighbours don't appear to have the same or similar rating to you, you may be able to challenge your council tax band and reduce your annual bill.

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

    If you don't qualify for the schemes above, contact your local council, as many have other funding available for energy-efficiency projects.

    Alternatively, 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.

How do I apply?

Unfortunately, applying isn't always simple, as some suppliers don't let you apply online. But generally, here's how it works:

  • Step 1: Contact a participating energy provider. Ofgem has a full list of participating suppliers and contact details. Some, such as EDF and Octopus, do have online application forms, but if not, you may need to give them a call. You don't have to be an existing customer of a firm to apply, so you can choose any, or try multiple firms.

  • Step 2: An installer will do a home survey to check which measures you can get. If you're eligible, and your energy firm approves your application, it will contact an installer on your behalf. The installer will then do a home survey to check which measures are appropriate. The installer has to be accredited by TrustMark.

  • Step 3: Have the measures installed. Once your home survey is completed, the installer will let you know which measures are needed to improve your home's EPC rating, and confirm when it can start the work.

    You'll need to agree to all measures it suggests in order to be eligible (if it suggests more than one).

If you don't qualify under the criteria above, you may be able to apply through your local council, under what's known as ECO Flex. The ECO Flex scheme enables local councils to help reduce fuel poverty in their communities, by giving funding to those who need it in their local area. You can qualify based on age, health, low income, or the area you live. But not all local authorities may be taking part, so contact your local council to find out if it can help you.

The Government is also looking to add new functionality to its existing energy advice page, including the option to self-assess eligibility, and self-refer for this and other Government support schemes. We'll update this guide when we know more.

  • Eligibility criteria for you to apply through your local authority

    To apply through your local council, you need to be living in a band D, E, F or G property and have a total gross household income of less than £31,000.

    Or you can be referred by the NHS as having a health condition, such as a cardiovascular condition, a respiratory disease, limited mobility or immunosuppression.

    Those living in a band E, F or G property may also be eligible through their local council if two of the following apply:

    • You're receiving a council tax rebate (excluding single person rebates and Band D properties).

    • You're receiving free school meals for low income.

    • You're referred by your energy supplier or Citizens Advice as you're struggling to pay your energy bills.

    • You're vulnerable to living in a cold home, as identified in the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance.

    • You've been in debt to your energy supplier for more than 13 weeks and have a debt repayment plan, or you're repaying your energy debt through a third party.

    • You're on a prepayment meter and have either self-disconnected or received supplier 'friendly credit' within the last 13 weeks.
  • Which suppliers can I apply to?

    Energy suppliers with more than 150,000 customers are required to offer improvements under the ECO scheme. However, the number of measures they'll install depends on their market share, so smaller suppliers will generally have limited availability.

    Suppliers that are part of the scheme include:

    • British Gas
    • Bulb 
    • Co-op Energy 
    • E.on and E.on Next 
    • Ecotricity
    • EDF Energy 
    • Octopus Energy 
    • Ovo (including SSE)
    • Scottish Power 
    • Shell Energy 
    • So Energy
    • Utility Warehouse
    • Utilita Energy

Other schemes that offer free insulation and similar energy efficiency measures

There are other energy-efficiency initiatives available to some:

  • Wales Warm Homes Nest scheme. The Welsh Government set up the Warm Homes Nest scheme in 2011 to help reduce fuel poverty. The scheme offers free energy-efficiency home improvements to homeowners and renters who receive certain benefits. But you must also have evidence of suffering with a chronic respiratory, circulatory or mental health condition to be eligible. You could get a new boiler, radiators, heating controls and insulation.

  • Warmer Homes Scotland. Home Energy Scotland's Warmer Homes Scotland initiative offers free energy-efficiency installations to homeowners and renters who have lived in their property for at least 12 months and are on certain benefits. The improvements may include a new central heating boiler, radiators, heating controls and insulation. 

The ECO scheme isn't available in Northern Ireland, but there are similar alternatives

While there's no ECO scheme for Northern Ireland, there are number of similar schemes aimed at helping those in need improve their home's energy efficiency, including:

  • Northern Ireland Boiler Replacement scheme. The Northern Ireland Government will give you up to £1,000 towards the cost of replacing an old (15 years or more) heating system with a condensing oil, gas or wood-pellet boiler, provided your household income is less than £40,000 a year.

  • Northern Ireland Affordable Warmth scheme. If your annual household income is less than £23,000, you could be eligible for improvements, from insulation to heating systems and controls, and even a full conversion from heating oil to gas central heating.

  • The Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Programme (NISEP). This is generally only open to low-income households in Northern Ireland. It provides funding for energy-efficiency measures, such as boiler upgrades, new LED lights, smart heating controls and draught proofing.

You can find out more details in our Cheap Northern Ireland energy guide.

Other ways to cut your energy bill

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

  • Sadly, there are no meaningfully cheaper deals than the energy price guarantee due to the ongoing energy crisis, so the best way to save right now is to use less energy. 

    Our Energy saving tips and Energy mythbusters guides have loads of tricks and hacks to keep your bill down.

    If you're struggling to pay your bill, firms have an obligation to help you. See our What to do if you're struggling guide, which takes you through the best ways to get help and advice with energy bills and debt.

  • 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 through 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 – is the cheapest way to pay for your energy. It can be about 10% cheaper than paying by cash, cheque or card when you receive a bill. 

    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 our full Energy direct debits guide for more help.

    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, prepaying for your energy is still generally more expensive for dual-fuel homes (those that use gas AND electricity), compared with those that pay by direct debit. If possible, switch to a billed meter.

    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, see the full Cheap prepaid gas & electricity guide.

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