The government has announced a new scheme to help households to make their homes more energy efficient. Here we share our view on it and some advice for anyone thinking of taking advantage of it.

About the new ‘Green Homes Grant’

On Wednesday 8 July 2020, the Chancellor announced a voucher scheme for households to help with the cost of measures such as insulation. It is part of the government’s new ‘Plan for Jobs 2020’, aiming to stimulate the economy. You can read the plan in full on the Treasury website >

Here is what the plan says about the new energy-efficiency scheme for households:

“To meet the UK’s target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, emissions from heating buildings need to be significantly reduced. To support this objective, the Plan for Jobs announces that over £2 billion will be provided to support homeowners and landlords in making their homes more energy-efficient in 2020-21. This funding could support over 100,000 green jobs, so that local tradespeople can make homes warmer, cheaper to heat and more environmentally friendly.”

“The government will introduce a £2 billion Green Homes Grant, providing at least £2 for every £1 homeowners and landlords spend to make their homes more energy efficient, up to £5,000 per household. For those on the lowest incomes, the scheme will fully fund energy efficiency measures of up to £10,000 per household. In total this could support over 100,000 green jobs and help strengthen a supply chain that will be vital for meeting our target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The scheme aims to upgrade over 600,000 homes across England, saving households hundreds of pounds per year on their energy bills.”

We understand that the scheme will start in September and we’ll be interested to see the full details when released.

CAfS’ view on this scheme

While this funding is a good start, it must be part of a much bigger programme. As the government said in its announcement, heating buildings accounts for a fifth of the UK greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change, and to properly address the poor energy efficiency of UK properties would require a suite of measures, including:

  • financial support for households to retrofit their properties;
  • much more stringent building regulations for energy efficiency in new buildings (with the ideal being a standard such as Passivhaus);
  • training for construction professionals in building ultra-low-energy homes and retrofitting pre-1920s properties in an appropriate way; and ensuring these are a strong focus on these in construction and architecture courses for students.

Unfortunately, the chancellor’s announcement addresses only the first of these.

Our advice for householders

We would urge any householders thinking of taking part in the scheme to seek independent advice before you commission work, to make sure it’s right for your property.

If you have a pre-1920s home (e.g. solid wall/rubble-filled wall):

Using cement-based and non-breathable products in a pre-1920s building can trap moisture, making them damp, and therefore unhealthy and uncomfortable to live in, as well as harder to heat. It can also degrade the stone over time – particularly sandstone, which is softer. Unfortunately, it’s still common to see cement used for flooring, pointing and render in these properties, along with non-breathable insulation. It’s a problem we’ve come across many times when offering energy-efficiency advice to households in Cumbria.

One of the challenges is the shortage of builders with the skills and knowledge to use materials that allow these properties to manage heat, moisture and ventilation in the way they were intended to – for example, lime-based materials. This is a problem we’ve been trying to help overcome, by offering training courses for construction professionals, including architects and builders.

If you have a cavity-wall home:

If you are considering cavity-wall insulation, it’s important to make sure that it is appropriate for your property. Cavity-wall insulation may not be right for your property – particularly if it is exposed. It can lead to damp, and may have to be removed at a later date.

If cavity-wall insulation is appropriate for your home, it’s crucial to choose the most appropriate type of insulation. Some materials that are still commonly used can leave gaps, or gaps can develop over time, leading to cold spots and damp.

How CAfS can help

Our Cold to Cosy Homes Cumbria service can offer advice as well as free energy-saving equipment, and referrals for more substantial improvements.

There is guidance on our website about retrofitting different types of properties. Visit the For your home section >

We also run events throughout the year to upskill householders and construction professionals. Please keep an eye on our events page and social media for details, or sign up for our newsletter to be first to hear about new events.