The green homes grant scheme caught my attention as soon as it was launched in September 2020. It looked worth investigating, but my attempt to use it soon came up against obstacles. It proved difficult to find either independent advice on the most important and appropriate improvements to my home, or an installer authorised to do whatever work was needed.
Hearing that there are now authorised installers and assessors in the area, I have just tried to re-engage with the scheme. It proved frustrating.
The grant covers up to two-thirds of the cost of energy efficiency improvements you make to your home, to a maximum of £5,000 (or 100% of the cost up to £10,000 if you qualify for the low income support scheme). So it’s financially attractive (although recent stories in the Guardian show there are long delays in giving out grants and money is being withdrawn).
The biggest weakness in the scheme, and why I consider it not fit for purpose, is that eligibility is not dependent on any sort of whole house assessment. Moreover, it enables, if not encourages, you to fit a new more energy efficient source of heating, at a cost of maybe £10,000, when your home insulation remains inadequate or even non-existent, which is like putting new taps on a bath without a plug.
However, if you know which of the eligible improvements your home needs, the scheme could work for you. It is currently set to run until 31st March 2022. Here’s how it went for me.
The grant scheme’s website suggests you seek advice on the improvements to make. However, when you follow the link to check your eligibility you are sent to the Simple Energy Advice (SEA) website to check out the sort of improvements that might be suitable, based partly on the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) registered for your property.
After several pages of questions and, in my case increasing confusion, you are presented with a “Now build your plan” page with suggested improvements and the likely costs. You select the improvements that take your fancy and are then taken to a “Make your plan” page enabling you to download the details to present to your installer(s).
Whether I’m just unlucky, or too picky, this process didn’t work for me. For example, you are asked what type of roof insulation you have, either pitched or flat roof, insulated or not insulated, or don’t know. I have both types of roof but as the pitched roof covers the majority of the home and is insulated I chose that option.
My EPC tells me that, at 100mm, my insulation is insufficient and that it should be increased to 270mm, but by selecting the insulated option, roof insulation doesn’t appear on my plan.
Similarly, with the wall insulation question, you are asked if you have cavity or solid walls, insulated or not insulated or don’t know. I have a couple of solid walls but the majority are cavity, but the EPC is silent on whether or not they are insulated and so I chose “don’t know”. This only put cavity wall insulation into my plan, with no mention of solid wall insulation, but it’s pointless having it in the plan as I don’t know if I need it.
My hopes for floor insulation were also soon dashed. Options for answers to “What sort of floor insulation do you have?” were: don’t know, solid floor, suspended floor or none. I have a suspended floor with no insulation, so selected “none” but, mysteriously, was only presented with solid floor insulation in my plan, at a cost of £5,000.
Finally, but not exhaustively, the plan suggested a new condensing boiler (when I said I already had one) and upgrading my double glazing, neither of which qualify for the grant.
If and when you are lucky enough to be happy with your plan, you are directed to the SEA site to find an authorised installer for each of the 30 eligible improvements. In other words, you have to choose a home improvement measure before being shown appropriate installers.
It doesn’t, however, offer you authorised advisors to help you decide what sort of insulation or heating improvement you need and in what order. For this I referred to the Trustmark website, where all authorised people are registered, and where you can search in your area for retrofit assessors or coordinators under standard PAS 2035.
So, in my case, “The Plan” is to contact one of these to help work out what is best for my home and the planet, regardless of whether the green homes grant should play a part.