Since I reported on the new Green Homes Grant last month there have been a number of stories in the press about problems people have encountered – both in applying for the scheme and finding approved contractors available to do the work.
Unfortunately, the scheme seems to have been cooked up on the fly, without industry warning or consultation, which is always a recipe for trouble.
Just to remind you, the Green Homes Grant aims to encourage householders to make their homes more energy efficient by covering two-thirds the cost of ‘primary’ carbon-saving measures (see below) up to a maximum of £5,000. Work must be carried out by approved contractors and the scheme is scheduled to finish at the end of March 2021. See more in last month’s article.
Given recent press criticisms, here are a few practical pointers and warnings when applying for the scheme:
To qualify for the grant, you need to complete an application for a Green Homes Grant voucher accompanied by a quote/quotes from your chosen contractor/s. Vouchers were meant to begin to be issued now but the government can’t cope with the volume of applications and say they won’t be issued till mid-November.
However, beware as the voucher has a time limit of three months from issue. So check the contractor can do the work in the likely timeframe you’ll have available. Also be sure to get a quote before you apply for a voucher. The government recommends getting three quotes but that may prove impractical. So use your judgement.
Cavity and wall insulation (guide cost: £300 loft; £500/600 cavities)
Since the government closed the CERT scheme, which gave free loft and cavity insulation, the industry has contracted sharply and there is effectively only one Trustmark installer that I can find in Sussex – CavityTech.
There is another contractor quoted on the Trustmark site – Everwarm, based in Scotland, but they are taking calls on a single number for the whole country and I found it impossible to get through.
Luckily, I know CavityTech to be reputable but they tell me they are fielding a massive number of enquiries and are now booking surveys for after Christmas. However, they can install quickly and hope to meet the 31 March deadline.
If you are interested in loft insulation please note that the loft needs to be empty and if boarded, the insulation will have to go over that to meet the depth for the grant. Insulation of rafters above is not really an option.
Similarly, please check whether you already have insulation before requesting a survey. This may sound obvious but contractors are wasting time going out to do surveys where they find there is already loft insulation or filled cavities.
Heat pumps (guide cost: £9,000-£12,000)
The story here is also depressing. Installers have been inundated with enquiries and some are turning potential customers away.
The problem is that they already had a planned pipeline of work and the March deadline gives too little room to fit in extra jobs. They also tell me that manufacturers can’t meet the demand and it is getting harder and harder to source heat pumps.
Nevertheless, if you have the upfront cash and don’t mind getting your grant over seven years, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is still with us and will deliver the same overall grant, albeit without £5k upfront. Without the panic of time constraints, most companies are happy to quote.
Please note that the Domestic RHI has now been extended to March 2022, so there is still a year and a half to get a heat pump fitted.
Solid wall insulation and underfloor insulation
Both of these measures are very costly and involve a lot of disruption. They are normally done as part of a major scheme of refurbishment and I suspect it would be hard to find contractors or get quotes, given the Green Homes Grant’s known problems.
Do be wary of cold calls or companies proposing expensive works under the Green Homes Grant scheme. Unfortunately, there are a lot of rogues out there looking for a big down-payment before they disappear forever.
So, what’s next?
Quite where we go from here is not clear. I suspect that the government will eventually realise that this all needed a bit more thought. Possibly they may extend the deadline for completing works or otherwise alter the terms of the vouchers to make the scheme more workable. So keep an eye open for a revised offering.