Green Deal: How to claim £5,600 on home improvements

loft insulation

Government cash is now on offer to householders through the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. We crunch the numbers on costs and savings

Householders can now earn generous cashback on home improvements, such as new double-glazed windows or wall insulation, which could increase a property's value as well as trim energy bills.

It sounds foolproof – but a previous incarnation of the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund proved chaotic. The initial scheme, launched in June, closed within just six weeks after £120m was snapped up by households keen to earn cashback on energy-efficiency measures.

Householders should act now before the fresh £30m pot runs out – or risk missing out on payouts of up to £5,600. This guide explains how.

What is the Green Deal?

The Green Deal is the Government's way to tackle the upfront costs of making a home more energy-efficient. In 2013 the Government offered loans to customers which are repaid over 10 to 25 years and are added to electricity bills. The repayments should always be less than the energy savings, so a household's monthly costs should not increase.

Take-up has been low. Fewer than 2pc of households assessed for the Green Deal have signed up, according to figures released this month by the Department for Energy & Climate Change. The loan also incurs interest of between 7.9pc and 10.3pc, at a time when cheap personal loans of less than 4pc are on offer.

In June the grants become even more generous under the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, open to households in England and Wales. Crucially, you did not have to take out a Green Deal loan to claim cashback but the pot of money on offer was exhausted in weeks.

What is new?

The Green Deal has been resurrected with a few minor tweaks – notably with a staggered release of the cash on offer. Available from this week, the fund is a fraction of the £540m sum earmarked for the next three years.

The fresh release of funds is positive news for the thousands of households that paid for a Green Deal assessment in June – typically costing £120 – only for the cashback to be withdrawn without notice.

The Energy Saving Trust, a government-funded organisation that provides advice to householders, said it had received a record number of inquiries this week as a result of the scheme's relaunch.

"Most people want to know if they are eligible," said Brian Horne of the Energy Saving Trust. "It's certainly going to help people to install more energy-saving measures.

The funds are being released more gradually, with another injection of cash expected in February. "We expect this round to be different," Mr Horne said.

How much can I claim and what are the costs?

Cashback is available in two forms. The first £24m is set aside for providing householders with 67pc of the cost of solid wall insulation, with a maximum payout of £4,000. For example, a householder would claim £4,000 back on a spend of £10,000 on their wall insulation.

As an added sweetener, householders are offered an additional £100 towards the assessment cost and an extra £500 for people who have bought their home in the past year.

The remaining £6m is set aside to provide people with £1,000 to install two energy-saving improvements other than solid wall insulation. This could cover the entire cost of some measures, such as £500 for cavity wall insulation or £1,000 for two energy-efficient doors. These "extra" works include:

• Cavity wall insulation
• A condensing mains gas boiler
• Secondary glazing
• Double or triple glazing (replacing single glazing)
• New warm air unit
• Fan-assisted storage heaters
• New energy-efficient doors
• Floor insulation
• Loft or roof insulation
• Waste water heat recovery

Scenario 1: Solid wall insulation and energy-efficient doors

Solid wall insulation costs between £9,000 and £26,000 to install, so the £4,000 on offer will cover less than half of the typical cost of insulating a home.

However, even with a fraction of the bill covered, householders can cut their energy costs by up to £460 a year, according to figures from the Energy Saving Trust.

Houses likely to benefit include a four-bedroom detached house (£460 saving per year), a three-bedroom semi-detached house (£270) and a mid-terrace house (£180). Flats will typically save just £150 a year from solid wall insulation, which can be added to external or internal walls.
If the Green Deal assessor also recommends energy-efficient doors at the front and back of the house, the £1,000 pot could cover this cost. Draught-proofing around windows and doors could reduce bills by £10 to £50 a year.

Typical cost of improvements: £9,000 to £26,000 (insulation) + £1,000 (for two doors) + £120 assessment fee
Contribution from Green Deal: £5,600 (if moved in last year)
Net cost: At least £4,520
Typical annual bill savings: Up to £460 (solid walls) + up to £30 (doors)

Scenario 2: Cheap new heaters and floor insulation

In some homes, improvements could cost virtually nothing under the cashback scheme. A household whose property does not have solid walls (for example, by having cavity walls instead) or is already insulated could install two measures and claim the £1,000.

For instance, fan-assisted storage heaters (£100 per heater being replaced) and floor insulation (£300 to £700) could be covered by the £1,000 government payout.

Other lower-cost measures eligible for cashback include new doors, warm air units (£300), or loft insulation (£265 to £395).

Typical cost of improvements: £699 (one storage heater) + £300 to £700 (floor insulation) + £120 assessment fee
Contribution from Green Deal: £1,620 (if moved in last year)
Net cost: From £0
Typical annual bill savings: Up to £33 (by upgrading old electric storage heaters) + up to £75 (floor insulation)

Scenario 3: A new boiler and double glazing

Some extras can cost far more than the cashback offered, so householders should work out how much they will save in the long term.

Double or triple glazing, for example, costs several thousand pounds for the typical home, and up to £10,000 for larger houses. Through energy savings, changing from single to double-glazed windows trims household bills by up to £175 in detached homes, up to £120 in semi-detached properties, up to £105 for a mid-terrace and up to £65 in a flat.

A new boiler, for example, will set customers back at least £1,000 to buy and install. However, moving from a "G" rated boiler to an "A" rated boiler saves £490 in a detached house, £305 in a semi-detached house and £130 in a mid-floor flat, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

Typical cost of improvements: £2,300 (new boiler) + £4,500 (double glazing in a three-bedroom semi-detached house) + £120 assessment fee
Contribution from Green Deal: £1,620 (if moved in last year)
Net cost: Approximately £5,300
Typical annual bill savings: Up to £490 (new boiler) + up to £175 (by installing double glazing in a single-glazed detached home)

Who is eligible and who misses out?

Householders can apply as long as they pay for the works themselves. This means that tenants can apply for cashback if they foot the upfront costs.

However, restrictions apply. If a Green Deal assessor recommends solid wall insulation (earning up to £4,000 cashback), this must be installed in order for you to be eligible for the £1,000 payout on two "extras".

Also, the £1,000 pot for extras must be spent on two improvements. If a Green Deal assessor recommends just one improvement, the home would not be eligible for cashback.

The offer also excludes anyone who already receives a subsidy through the Energy Company Obligation or Green Deal Communities, or has used Green Deal cashback previously.

What is the process and how long does it take?

1) Assessment

The initial assessment and work must be carried out by a registered Green Deal provider. The first step is to book an assessment, at a typical cost of £120, and keep your Green Deal advice report, which contains home improvements the assessor has recommended.

The report estimates how much you could save on your annual energy bills through improvements. Crucially, householders must install cavity wall insulation, or already have insulated their solid walls, before they can claim for the two "extra" improvements worth up to £1,000.

For those customers who took out an assessment earlier this year, the report should still be valid. Anyone with a Green Deal report that is less than two years old can move straight to the installation phase.

2) Installation

The second step is to book a Green Deal installer who can carry out the works. Householders can pay upfront and claim the cashback later, which they can do from January 2015. They can also apply for a Green Deal loan in order to reduce upfront costs.

3) Claiming cashback

Cashback is awarded in the form of vouchers that can be redeemed from January 12 2015. It will take 20 working days for vouchers to be processed, so the earliest payouts will begin in February.