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Could fixing our inefficient and heat-leaking homes bring down bills, cut carbon emissions, and reduce our dependence on energy imports? 

In September last year the government announced the Green Homes Grant, stating that homes, schools and hospitals across England could become greener and cheaper to run thanks to a £3 billion plan to upgrade the nation’s buildings – the biggest in a generation.

When one considers the current state of affairs, such a scheme couldn’t come soon enough, especially when you look at the state of some of our building stock at the moment.

Is it enough? … Is it ever?

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital Editor of HA magazine

The great heating crisis

Did you know that UK homes are some of the most expensive to heat in Europe because of poor maintenance and insulation?

The UK has some of the highest levels of fuel poverty and dilapidated homes in the EU, with over ten million British families living in a home with a leaking roof, damp, mould walls and/or rotting windows.

Recent figures, compiled for the Guardian by the Association for the Conservation of Energy from official EU data, compared the UK with other EU states with similar climates and income levels, including Germany, France and the Benelux countries.

In the study, the UK ranked bottom of the 12 for fuel poverty, 11th for the proportion of income spent on energy bills and 9th for homes in a poor state of repair.

Our homes are old

Also, the Buildings Performance Institute Europe recently highlighted that Britain has the oldest houses in the EU, with over 50% having been built before 1960 and just over 10% built since 1991.

Older UK homes need at least double the energy to stay warm compared with many countries, even those with colder climates, like Sweden.

Great improvements have been achieved already; however, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), around 95% (7.6m) of solid walled homes still need to be insulated.

A stark comparison is that 72% of properties with cavity walls have the insulation required, while 69% of the 23.9m properties with a loft have appropriate insulation, which DECC deems as lofts with at least 125mm of insulation. Only 1% of houses are thought to have no insulation at all.

With this in mind, it is vital that landlords, including local authorities and housing associations in England take full advantage of the Green Home’s Grant, which is set to run until the 31st March 2021.

What is it?

Homeowners can sign up for big savings on upgrades to their homes under the government’s £2 billion Green Homes Grant, with an additional £1 billion announced to improve the energy efficiency of publicly owned buildings.

Under the scheme, the government will fund up to two-thirds of the cost of home improvements up to £5,000. Those homeowners with low-incomes, including those on certain benefits, are eligible for a grant covering up to 100% of the cost of works up to £10,000. The scheme aims to improve the energy efficiency of over 600,000 homes.

Grants are offered to cover green home improvements ranging from insulation of walls, floors and roofs, to the installation of double or triple glazing when replacing single glazing, and low-carbon heating like heat pumps or solar thermal - measures that could help households save up to £600 a year on their energy bills.

Is it enough?

…Is it ever? Despite the efforts made with the last Green Deal instalment and this latest scheme, many feel that not enough is being done and that too little money is being set aside to address the issue of fuel poverty and inefficient homes. Both strategies  have been criticised for being a ‘feast and famine’ approach that will not address the issue with enough speed.

According to the ‘End Fuel Poverty Coalition,’ there are around 4.5 million fuel poor homes in the UK today. There are also a further 21 million UK households suffering with poor energy efficiency - below B and C on an Energy Performance Certificate.

The adage “speculate to accumulate” springs to mind; when energy saving measures have already historically proven to be financially successful due to the very real energy savings that can be made when quality insulation is implemented within a building.

You can apply for the grant by visiting the government's website

Joe Bradbury Digital Editor of HA magazine