What’s on offer
The Government has announced a home energy efficiency grant scheme. While there is not a lot of detail available about the scheme yet, what we do know is:
- Applications will open in September
- Homeowners/landlords will be able to apply for the scheme through the Government’s Simple Energy Advice website.
- After answering some basic questions about their home, applicants will be recommended eligible energy efficiency measures, along with local accredited suppliers.
- Applicants may have to contribute up to a third of the costs of the works. The government will contribute up to £5000 per household.
Some of our initial questions about the scheme are:
- Whether the funds householders receive will have to be spent by 31st March 2021. It has been indicated that £1bn of the £2bn will have to be spent by the end of the financial year.
- What the full range of measures available through the scheme will be. In particular whether this will include ventilation or funding to support repairs that might be needed before energy efficiency measures can safely be installed.
- What the requirements for accredited suppliers will be.
- What assurances householders will get as to the quality of the works undertaken.
- Whether the recent PAS2035 retrofit process quality standard and associated Retrofit Coordinators will be used in the scheme in any way.
What to consider
Whole house approach
The funding available is limited. It is likely that most people will only be able to use the scheme to pay for a single measure like floor or wall insulation, or a range of smaller measures like draught proofing and heating controls. Some may choose to use this funding to pay for additional measures alongside other work they already had planned that is not funded through the scheme – though how this might work in practice is currently unclear.
Even for those only installing one or two measures, it’s important that a ‘whole house approach’ is still taken to planning and specifying the work, to avoid the risk of unintended consequences. This means making sure you have a full understanding of the existing condition of the property, what the risks are associated with the proposed measures, and how different measures might interact.
For example if you are making your home more airtight (advanced draught-proofing) you will need to think about ventilation in order to minimise the risk of poor indoor air quality, condensation and mould. Or if you are insulating a bedroom wall consider how the insulation joins up with insulation in the loft. You might get a line of mould on the wall/ceiling junction as this will be the coldest point if this is not considered. You would also need to consider whether the existing wall is sound and any nearby rainwater goods are in good condition, in order to avoid the risk of damp in the wall.
A suitably experienced retrofit coordinator or designer can support you in your decision making and in design and specification of the work. This will help ensure you make the best use of the grant and don’t create new problems or risks in your home.
They might also help you think about creating a whole house plan for your property – so that you can treat the available funding as one phase of your planned full retrofit project. This should mean you avoid the risk that this is a ‘one off’ that though well-intended, actually prevents you from installing other good energy efficiency measures in the future, or in the worse case needs to be undone.
As mentioned earlier this funding may need to be spent before the end March 2021. It’s worth keeping in mind that short timescales and tight deadlines can be a real risk to the delivery of a good quality retrofit project. If contractors are under pressure to rush jobs to fit in before deadlines it might be harder to control the quality of the work. Given that the main period for work falls during the colder months of the year, this might also cause particular problems for things like external wall insulation, that can often only be installed in dry weather and when it’s not freezing cold.
Be aware that some jobs may need some design work to be undertaken to support the installation. It’s unclear at the moment whether the government grant can be spent on design work or whether it is restricted to capital works alone. This is important because as noted above good advice on design and specification can help you avoid costly unintended consequences – so whilst it might be an ‘addition’ to the basic cost of installing the works, it is often a very worthwhile investment.
There is a big question mark at the moment as to what being an accredited contractor will involve and what quality assurance the accreditation will offer householders.
While we have to wait to find out more, there is some basic advice we can give around choosing contractors. Firstly it’s important that you trust and can communicate well with the person you choose to work with. A positive relationship and good communication will go a long way, and trust can be more important than price!
A good insulation or airtightness job often needs careful attention to detail, which takes time. This often does not come cheap, so be cautious if you get quotes for work that are much lower than expected, especially in comparison to other quotes received for similar work. Conversely if a quote comes back high, it’s always worth speaking to the builder as to why. There may be a good reason for this, there also might not!
Support we can give
We are hosting an evening webinar A Guide to the new Green Homes Grant scheme to explore how this scheme can be best utilised on August 13th 2020. We have a been running a series of free lockdown webinars on home energy, view recordings here.
We are currently piloting People Powered Retrofit, an end-to-end whole house, energy efficiency service for able-to-pay householders in Greater Manchester. You can find out more about this here.