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Could improving your home’s energy efficiency help you beat rising bills?

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

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With energy bills soaring and predicted to rise again in October this year, now is a great time to look at what you could do to try to get your costs down.

Lots of us will already be doing all sorts of things around the house to keep our bills down. But, this is only half the battle for some who live in older properties that simply aren’t as efficient to run as newer homes.

Research carried out by The Office for National Statistics at the end of 2021 found that new homes are more energy efficient thanks to modern building techniques. However, the average energy efficiency rating of a home in England and Wales is still only band D. Band A is the most efficient and Band G is the least efficient, so an average rating of Band D could be worse. But, it could also be much better.

This rating perhaps comes as no surprise considering most properties in the UK aren’t new enough to benefit from building techniques that aid energy efficiency. Almost 24 million homes in England and Wales were built before 2008, and 4.17 million of those were built before 1900. Meanwhile, only 2.27 million homes were built between 2008 and 2021.

Given the energy efficiency scale runs from A to G, an average rating of D means there’s plenty of room for plenty of people to improve their home’s energy efficiency.

Taking steps to make your home more efficient could reduce your bills by hundreds, if not thousands of pounds. And, if you follow our tips, it may not cost you a penny, either!

Improving your home’s energy efficiency

There are a number of things you can do to make your home more efficient and bring your bills down. These range from relatively small changes you could probably do yourself, (like swapping all your lightbulbs for energy-saving or LED bulbs), to big projects you’ll need professional help with, (like switching to low-carbon heating or upgrading your insulation).

What financial help is available to pay for energy efficiency improvements?

For some of the bigger changes you may be able to make, there are grants and loans available to help towards the cost, if not pay for them entirely.

The Green Deal

The Green Deal has been set up to help you improve your property’s energy efficiency. Government funding is no longer available for this scheme, but you can still use it privately to make changes to your home. Some of the things you could do under the Green Deal include:

  • installing or upgrading solid wall, cavity wall or loft insulation
  • draught-proofing
  • installing or upgrading double glazing
  • changing to a heat pump heating system
  • installing solar panels

You can find out more about which energy-saving measures you could benefit from by using the government’s Energy Efficiency Calculator, or by speaking to a Green Deal assessor or provider to get a Green Deal advice report for your property (you may have to pay for this). Once you have a Green Deal advice report, a Green Deal provider can arrange for work to be done for you, or you can find your own installers to fit the improvements.

Although there is no Green Deal funding available from the government, Green Deal providers can still help you to find the best way for you to pay for the improvements you want to make. This could be helping you check your eligibility for grants, seeing if you could combine the Green Deal with other schemes to pay for some or all of the work, or help you organise a Green Deal Finance Plan. You also have the option to pay for improvements using your own money.

Some Green Deal providers offer all the services – assessment, installation and finance – for a Green Deal package. While this means having less people to deal with, it’s still always worth shopping around in case the all-in-one approach isn’t the most cost-effective!

The ECO4 (Energy Company Obligation) Scheme

The ECO4 scheme is an obligation the government has placed on the largest energy providers to support households to install energy efficiency improvements like insulation and other heating improvements. It’s not a grant, so it’s not possible to claim back money for energy-saving measures you’ve already had installed yourself.

Although there are all sorts of things that could be done to improve energy efficiency, most companies taking part in ECO focus on insulation and sometimes on helping replace old, inefficient heating systems. This is because these measures are likely to have the biggest impact on your bills.

ECO is designed to provide help to those on low incomes, so you will usually need to receive certain benefits to qualify. If you’re eligible, you can request a free assessment to see what’s recommended for your home. Part of this will include letting you know if installation is free, too, or if you’d be required to pay some of the cost yourself. You’re under no obligation to go ahead, so if the cost is more than you can afford or want to pay, you can back out at that point.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS)

This brand-new scheme has been designed to help more homeowners transition from fossil fuel heating to low- carbon alternatives. This includes air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, and in some cases, biomass boilers.

Under the scheme, you could get a grant for:

  • £5,000 towards the cost and installation of an air source heat pump
  • £5,000 towards the cost and installation of a biomass boiler
  • £6,000 towards the cost and installation of a ground source heat pump

Heat pump prices vary greatly depending on the make and model you go for. So, a grant from the BUS could cover the entire cost of your switch to a lower carbon heating system, or pay for part of it. If the grant will only cover part of the cost, you’ll need the pay the rest yourself.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of this scheme, then the first thing to do is to find a Microgeneration Certification Scheme installer. They will be able to take a look at your property, check it meets the requirements for the option you want to take and see if you’re eligible for a grant. You may want to contact a few different installers so that you can compare quotes, as you would with any project. Your chosen installer will then apply for the grant on your behalf.

The Smart Export Guarantee Scheme

If your home already has solar panels or another way to generate renewable electricity installed, then you may be able to earn money through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). Under the SEG, you can get paid for every unit of electricity that you feed back to the grid through your renewable system.

To take part in this scheme, you will need to get a SEG tariff from an energy provider. This might be the provider who already supplies your electricity or gas, or it could be someone else. If you choose to use the same provider to supply your energy and buy the electricity you generate, you may get better per unit rates. So, it’s worth comparing your options.

Remember, you’ll only get paid for the electricity you feed back into the grid. If you use all the electricity you generate, then you won’t get paid for this. But, you should find that your bills are cheaper, as you’re generating your own energy and using less electricity from the grid.

Local schemes

If you don’t qualify for any of the national schemes we’ve talked about already, then you may still qualify for local schemes being run in your area. The Simple Energy Advice website allows you to enter your postcode to see what grants are available to you locally, so you can find out more and check your eligibility.

For example, in parts of Nottinghamshire, you may be able to get funding through the Warm Homes on Prescription scheme. This scheme provides funding for energy saving measures like heating systems and insulation for people who have health conditions made worse by the cold.

Or, in London, you may qualify for the Mayor of London’s Warmer Homes programme, which provides free heating, insulation and ventilation improvements for low income households (depending on your circumstances).

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

Young family looking at solar panels at sunset Young family looking at solar panels at sunset