Green Homes Grant
Get up to £5,000 in Government vouchers for insulation and double glazing
Homeowners in England can get vouchers worth up to £5,000 to make their homes more energy efficient under a new Government scheme known as the Green Homes Grant, which launched on Wednesday 30 September. This can help pay for insulation, double glazing and a host of other improvements, but it's not as simple as choosing any work available under the scheme. And the scheme is far from flawless – we've heard of several issues already. We've full details below.
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The Green Homes Grant helps pay for energy efficiency improvements to your home
The Green Homes Grant gives homeowners in England vouchers to help cover the cost of energy efficiency improvements to their home – such as low-carbon heating systems, insulation or double glazing to replace single glazing.
For most, the vouchers will be worth about two-thirds of the cost of the energy efficient improvements, up to a maximum of £5,000 per household.
Most will still have to pay something towards it
As an example, if you install cavity wall and floor insulation costing £4,000, you'd only pay about £1,320, with the Government contributing the remaining £2,680.
However, if you're on a low income or certain benefits, you can get vouchers of up to £10,000 to cover the entire cost of installing the measures.
Important: You can't just pick and choose which improvements you want, there are restrictions. See the list of primary improvements you need to go for before you can get funding for anything else below.
You've only six months to have the measures installed
To get involved, you'll need to go quick, as the Government has said you need to have completed the work by 31 March 2021, so there's only a six-month window to sort this.
What's more, the Government has now said vouchers won't start to be issued until early November, giving you even less time to get the work done (as you shouldn't start anything before you receive the voucher).
While this isn't something to rush into, if you are interested you need to factor in the time it takes to get quotes, apply to the scheme and get the work completed.
We don't know how long that will take, but with other similar schemes in the past – such as solar panels – it has taken a long time to get through the application process and get the work done. And we've already heard reports that people are finding installers in their area are booked up for months ahead, so don't hang about if it's something you want. We'll update this further when we find out how long it's actually taking people.
There is £2 billion in funding available, and while this sounds like a lot, it could go quick if the scheme proves popular.
We've more info below on how to check your eligibility and how to apply.
Yet many are struggling to find installers
With such a short deadline to get everything sorted, it's important to get a move on if you want to get involved with the scheme. But many have found that it's not easy.
Since the scheme's launch we've been deluged with complaints that homeowners are unable to find registered installers in their area who can carry out the work before the scheme's end-of-March deadline.
On Monday 19 October, Martin asked his one million Twitter followers if they had applied for, or were considering applying for, a green homes grant. The figures suggest that about 84% of those who have either applied or tried to have been unable to find a suitable installer.
While Twitter polls are not an accurate statistical representation of UK demographics, the results are strongly indicative of a systemic problem. For more, see our Green Homes Grant 'a flop' with as few as one in six homeowners who apply able to find installers MSE News story.
The boosted £10,000 vouchers, where households won't need to pay anything towards improvement costs, are for those receiving at least one income-based or disability benefit. Only owner-occupied homes or park homes will be eligible (meaning landlords won't be able to get them).
The qualifying benefits are:
- Attendance allowance
- Carer's allowance
- Child tax credit
- Disability living allowance
- Housing benefit
- Income-based/contribution-based employment and support allowance
- Income-based/contribution-based jobseeker's allowance
- Income support
- Industrial injuries disablement benefit
- Pension 'guarantee' credit
- Personal independence payment
- Severe disablement allowance
- Universal credit
- Working tax credit
Chancellor Rishi Sunak first announced the Green Homes Grant in July, with about £2 billion set aside to upgrade the energy efficiency of homes in England, support low-carbon heating technology and help reduce the number of people who cannot afford to heat their homes.
It's also hoped that the scheme will help boost the economy during the coronavirus pandemic by creating jobs.
The Treasury has said it hopes the scheme will help pay for improvements in over 600,000 homes across England.
Green improvements such as insulation and low-carbon heating systems can help cut your energy bills – the Government says families could be able to save as much as £600/year.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, the improvements on offer can save someone in an average semi-detached house anywhere between £4/yr and £690/yr, depending on the type of improvement.
The Green Homes Grant scheme is one every English homeowner should check out. It may provide serious free cash that should both improve the energy efficiency of your home and your home's value. However, that's far from saying everyone can benefit, and the scheme isn't flawless.
There are three major issues I keep hearing about. The most obvious, and in some ways least worrying, is that many people want 'secondary improvements' without getting 'primary ones'. Well, while that may not feel fair, it's not a flaw, it's a deliberate design. Grants are primarily targeted at encouraging people to improve insulation and low-carbon heating measures, so you have to get one of those or you can't do owt else.
The other two issues are closely related and more concerning.
1) A decent number are struggling to find approved local installers. One person in the south-east of England emailed my TV show to say their nearest installer shown on the Government system was 250 miles away in Blackpool - though if the site shows your nearest installer is 250 miles away, that’s likely the head office of an installer near you.
2) Some of those who do find an installer are then being told they won't be able to complete the work within the six-month deadline, rendering the scheme useless.
These are both symptoms of the fact there aren't enough registered installers on stream at launch. According to the Government, 900 firms are signed up to the scheme, many with national reach. It tells me that they are constantly working to add more. And that makes sense – ultimately the primary stated purpose of offering the Green Homes Grant was to create jobs.
Many may think: 'No problem, I'll just wait until more installers are on board, it'll be fine'. Except there is only £2 billion of funding available, and while that sounds a lot, it could go very quickly – so there is an urgency to doing this, but not enough installers. It's a vicious circle.
So I would call on the Government to urgently review the scheme. As a bare minimum sticking plaster, it should first release the £2 billion in tranches – this way it won't be a postcode lottery where only people in areas that initially have installers will be lucky enough to access the scheme.
And it should also announce that it'll extend the six-month time period, so that you have six months to apply and a further six months to get the work done.
- Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com
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It's available to almost anyone who owns their own home
You can get the vouchers if you own your home – including those on long leaseholds and shared ownership.
However, it's likely leaseholders and those with a share-of-freehold type lease will need to get permission from any other freeholders before making changes that affect the building.
If you're a flat owner, the Government has confirmed you can use its eligibility tool in the same way as other property owners.
What if I rent my home?
Landlords of private rented and social domestic housing are free to use the scheme.
So if you rent, you won't be able to access the scheme, though you can talk to your landlord to see if they'll make improvements to your home.
New builds that have not been occupied yet DON'T qualify
If you're moving into a new build that hasn't previously been lived in yet, you won't be eligible for the scheme.
Also, all non-domestic properties – for example, commercial premises – DON'T qualify for the green home vouchers.
There are restrictions on what you can get – you can't just pick and choose
While the scheme covers a range of home improvements, it's not as simple as picking any you're interested in and applying for a voucher for that.
To qualify for any financial support, you'll need to install what the Government calls "primary" improvements. These are:
- Insulation, including solid wall, cavity wall, underfloor, loft or roof insulation. Insulation for a park home is also included.
- Low-carbon heating, including air-source, ground-source and hybrid heat pumps, solar thermal systems and biomass boilers, which provide renewable ways of heating your home.
Then if, and only if, you're installing at least one of the primary improvements above, you'll also be able to use the vouchers to install "secondary" measures.
Crucially, you can only receive funding for secondary improvements up to the amount of funding you get for the primary measures. So for example, if you've received £1,000 towards cavity wall insulation, you can only receive a maximum of £1,000 towards any secondary measures.
This is still up to a maximum of £5,000 per household for most, across primary and secondary measures – so if you receive more than £2,500 in funding for your primary improvement, less funding will be available for your secondary measures.
Secondary improvements include:
- Double or triple glazing, or secondary glazing, but only if you currently have single glazing – it won't cover replacement double glazing.
- Energy efficient doors, where you're replacing single-glazed or solid doors installed before 2002.
- Heating controls and insulation, including appliance thermostats, hot water tank thermostats, hot water tank insulation, smart-heating controls, zone controls, delayed-start thermostats and thermostatic radiator valves.
See the full list of what's available on the Government's website.
The primary work has to be completed before you can get the funding for any secondary improvements
While there's no technical requirement that the primary measures need to be fully installed before the work can begin on the secondary ones, you won't be able to get the funding for any secondary measures before the primary work is completed.
If the primary work doesn't go ahead or is delayed beyond the deadline, there is a risk that you'll miss out on funding for any secondary measures you've already had installed, so you would be liable for the full cost yourself.
If you already have any of these installed in your home, you can't use them to replace the measures you already have in your home. However, you can use them to install "top-ups", for example, additional loft insulation so it reaches the recommended level.
The Government has said that if you're installing low-carbon heating, you'll also need to have adequate insulation in your home, though this can be installed at the same time as the heating.
The Government has also confirmed that you can use the voucher to cover certain connected costs to installing these improvements, such as exploratory surveys to check, for example, the suitability of your walls for insulation, or expenses such as labour costs, waste removal or scaffolding.
It also lists the excluded costs, such as furniture removal or storage to allow the work to take place, or asbestos removal.
You can download the full list (it's a PDF) of what is and isn't covered.
How to check you're eligible and apply
You won't need to have someone come to your home to do an assessment to apply, but there are key steps to follow before you get any funding...
- Step 1: Check what grants are available to you. Before applying for funding, you can check which measures (if any) you're eligible for – you can use the Simple Energy Advice eligibility checker.
However, the tool only gives an idea of what you could be eligible for, rather than a guarantee you'll get funding, so don't agree to any work until after you have applied and have been issued with a voucher.
- Step 2: Find local approved tradespeople and get at least three quotes for each piece of work – if you can. The Simple Energy Advice website has a directory of registered installers that lets you search for approved tradespeople in your area.
The Government suggests getting at least three quotes from different tradespeople (it'll only ask for one when you apply though). Any work MUST be carried out by TrustMark or Microgeneration Certification Scheme-registered tradespeople.
The Government has told us that there are about 1,000 firms signed up to the scheme so far – many of which operate nationwide. Yet we know many people are struggling to find one, with as few as one in six able to find an installer according to our recent poll.
The Government says that new firms are joining every day, so if you do struggle to find any at first, it's worth checking back later.
- Step 3: Apply for the vouchers and wait for approval before going ahead. You can now apply for a voucher on the Government website. When you apply, you'll need to have the following info to hand:
- The name and date of birth of the property owner(s).
- The name and date of birth of anyone living in the property who receives benefits.
- A quote for the work from a TrustMark-registered tradesperson.
- The tradeperson's TrustMark licence number.
If your application is successful, you'll be emailed the voucher. Make sure the work only starts once your voucher has been issued – any work done before it's issued can't be claimed for. If you've successfully applied for more than one improvement, you'll get a separate voucher for each.
- Step 4: Claim your voucher and pay your contribution for the improvements.
To redeem your voucher you'll need to confirm with the Government that:
- The installations were completed before your voucher expired.
- You've received the necessary documents from the installer, such as an invoice.
- You have paid your share of the costs to the installer.
- You meet the eligibility requirements.
As normal, once the work is complete, the installer should provide you with an invoice, detailing your contribution to the work. You pay this directly to the installer.
You'll then need the dated copy of the invoice provided by the installer to redeem the voucher. The grant will be paid directly to the installer on your behalf.
We've heard widespread reports that people are struggling to find installers in their area. If you've tried, let us know how you got on in our Green Homes Guide forum thread.
There are no rules stopping firms charging for quotes for any of the improvements, so if a particular firm does try to charge, you can always try and find another firm that won't.
Remember that while it's recommended to get three quotes, you only actually need one quote for each piece of work in order to apply.
While you have to apply for the primary measures first, and it's advised to apply for both at the same time, you can always go back and apply for the secondary measures separately at a later date.
When you apply for the primary measure, you'll be allocated a reference number that you'll need when applying for the secondary measure later.
You're free to use more than one installer if you're having multiple improvements installed. You'll only need to complete a single application form, but you will need to provide separate quotes for each measure.
You'll also be issued separate vouchers for each improvement.
The Government says that installers can still ask for a deposit under the scheme, though it shouldn't be larger than what they'd usually charge. It also can't be larger than your expected contribution to the cost of the measure under the quote they've given you.
If you're applying for the boosted £10,000 funding, you cannot be asked for a deposit unless the cost of the improvements is more than £10,000.
Some measures, such as external wall insulation, may need planning permission before they can go ahead, so it's best to find out what your council's rules are early on, as you've only six months to use the vouchers.
Always compare the costs against paying for it yourself
We don't yet know what pricing will be like under this scheme, but in similar green improvement schemes in the past we've seen people being charged much more than they would have if they'd installed these measures off their own backs.
The cost of installing these improvements under the scheme isn't regulated in any way, so it's always worth getting a quote outside of the scheme to see how it compares.
The Government has said it will be scrutinising applications, including the prices people are quoted in order to try to prevent over-charging. But it's important to always get at least three quotes before going ahead with any work under the scheme, to make sure you're not being ripped off.
Watch out for cold callers trying to get you to sign up to work under the Green Homes Grant scheme – we've already seen a few reports of this. Always make sure you go through the Government's official site, and make sure your installers are certified with TrustMark and the Microgeneration Certification Scheme.
What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
While this new grant only covers homes in England, if you live elsewhere in the UK there are other schemes that offer financial support towards making your home more energy efficient.
There's full info in the links below, but here's a quick rundown:
- In Scotland, the Warmer Homes Scotland Scheme offers financial help towards installing measures such as wall and loft insulation and draughtproofing if you're a homeowner or private tenant who's lived in your home for more than 12 months. You'll need to meet certain criteria and be receiving certain benefits – check your eligibility via the link above. In most cases, all costs will be met by the Scottish Government, though for more expensive improvements you may need to contribute – this can be paid for using an interest-free loan.
Under the Home Energy Scotland loan scheme, owner-occupiers and private sector landlords can get interest-free loans to make energy efficiency improvements, such as installing insulation, glazing and heating systems.
You can also check area-based schemes run by local authorities in Scotland to see if you can get support with energy efficiency measures where you live.
- In Wales, the Nest scheme offers free advice on improving home energy efficiency. It also provides free energy efficiency improvements, such as insulation and new boilers, for those who own or privately rent their homes and either receive a means-tested benefit or have a low income and a chronic respiratory, circulatory or mental health condition.
- In Northern Ireland, you could get a grant of up to £1,000 towards replacing an inefficient boiler that's more than 15 years old through the Boiler Replacement Scheme if your household income is less than £40,000.
If you own your home or rent it from a private landlord and have a total income of less than £20,000, you may be able to get grants of up to £7,500 to make improvements such as insulation, heating and window glazing through the Affordable Warmth Scheme.
It's worth noting that both of these schemes are currently only considering urgent cases due to the coronavirus situation.