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For those of us who want or need to improve our homes, there are a number of government-sponsored schemes which can help. While most home-alteration schemes are reserved for those who need to make changes out of absolute necessity, anyone who is committed to going green and reducing their home’s carbon footprint can also enjoy feed-in-tariffs which pay them for their trouble.

The trick to benefiting from a home improvement grant is to always know the details of what you are applying for before actually undertaking any of the work. Even if you believe that you are guaranteed to have your application accepted, starting the work before receiving official approval will usually result in your grant being denied. It is also important to realise that a home improvement grant is not the same as free money; any funds you receive will need to go towards a specific purpose, while most eco-friendly grants will also require monetary investment on your part.

To learn about the different home improvement grants currently on offer, visit a government website or reach out to your energy supplier. You can also get in touch with your local authority to find out what schemes are currently provided in your area.

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Home improvement grants for alterations

There are several grants available for homeowners or private renters who need to alter their homes as a matter of necessity. The Disabled Facilities Living Grant is designed to help anyone who needs to adapt their home in order to make it easier for a disabled person living there to live an independent life. The Mandatory Repair Grant scheme, meanwhile, is for landlords, agents or tenants who have received a statutory repairs notice from their local councils. This is essentially how a local authority enforces necessary alterations to properties which are dangerous or unfit to live in.

If you need to apply for such a scheme, your first port of call should be to contact your local authority. Do not book or start any work before your application is approved, or your grant will most likely be denied.

Repair, renovation and replacement grants also exist, though these usually require exceptional circumstances. Local councils can also prioritise Disabled Facilities Living Grants and Mandatory Repair Grants if their funding is reduced or limited.

To fully benefit from home alteration work, ensure that it is performed by a good quality local Pro.

Energy home improvement grants and Feed-in Tariffs (FIT)

When it comes to home alterations, some of the government’s biggest schemes focus on making properties more energy efficient and increasing the production of clean energy. Focusing on one of these areas is often the most surefire way to benefit from home improvement grants, though this does not mean that the changes to your home will come free of charge; often, benefiting from these grants will require significant investment on your part.

Energy related home improvement grants are typically related to ‘Feed-in tariffs’ (FIT). Essentially, a household or business which generates its own electricity using methods which do not deplete natural resources can receive payments for doing so. In other words, it pays to go green!

FITs can be provided by the government, local authorities and certain energy suppliers (known as FIT licensees). The scheme itself is administered by Ofgem E-Serve. Exactly how much you can receive will often be subject to change depending on the amount of energy that you generate and changing quarterly policies. 

A number of different technologies are eligible for FITs, including:

  • Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems with a total installed capacity (TIC) of 5MW or less
  • Wind turbines with a TIC of 5MW or less
  • Hydroelectricity systems with a TIC of 5MW or less
  • Anaerobic digesters with a TIC of 5MW or less
  • Micro combined heat and power (CHP) installations with with a TIC of 2MW or less

Exactly how you can benefit from FITs will vary. The most obvious way is with reduced energy bills: the more of your own energy that you use, the less you will need to purchase from your supplier. 

A ‘generation tariff’ is when an energy supplier pays you a set rate for each unit (or kWh) of power that you generate. An ‘export tariff’ is when your supplier pays you a higher rate for units which you produce, do not use and export back to the grid. Installations with a TIC of 30kWp or more can often require the installation of a smart meter to monitor exactly how much energy is exported back to the grid, though most domestic installations are nowhere near this large.

Something that you will need to keep in mind when applying for an FIT is that the system will need to be installed by a qualified, often specialised electrician who can provide you with a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certificate (hydroelectric or anaerobic digestion systems usually require a ROO-FIT process). You should also contact your supplier as soon as you get a quote for the installation to make sure that you are eligible. Following a successful application, your FIT licensee will perform eligibility checks and add you to the Ofgem Central FIT Register.

If you want to have solar panels installed, you will also need to ensure that your property has an up-to-date Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Your property will usually need to have a rating of ‘D’ or above to be eligible for a higher tariff rate.

ROO-FIT applications are for certain technologies and larger systems, such as solar pv or wind installations with a declared net capacity greater than 50kW. If you need to make a ROO-FIT application, set up an account on the Renewables and CHP Register, then begin your application and answer any questions sent while your claim is reviewed.

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Home improvement grants for boiler replacements

Another home improvement which you can receive help with is replacing an old or inefficient boiler. This is a highly effective way of saving money on your energy bills, though exactly how much will depend on the state of your home and the quality of your current system. 

With the government’s ‘ECO scheme’, homeowners and private tenants can have their boilers replaced for a subsidised price, or even for free. However, there are a number of conditions to take into account. For example, the claimant must usually be receiving income-related benefits.

Whenever you have any repair or replacement work done on your boiler, always make sure that it is performed by a qualified heating engineer listed on the Gas Safe Register. Allowing an unqualified Pro to do gas work in your home could put you in serious danger or carbon monoxide poisoning or even gas explosions.

Home improvement grants for smart meters

Smart meters are designed to reduce a property’s energy bills by giving residents greater control over their power usage. Once installed, they can allow a property’s heating to be controlled remotely or even programmed to change at different times of day. Some, such as NEST smart thermostats, can sense when a property is empty and adjust themselves accordingly.

Despite the benefits of smart meters, there are also a number of perceived disadvantages. Regardless, the government has plans to roll them out to all UK homes and businesses by the end of 2020. If you are interested, contact your energy supplier today about having yours installed.

Home improvement grants for insulation

If you want to improve your home’s energy efficiency, insulation is an effective and relatively cheap way to go. Loft insulation in particular can significantly reduce the amount of heat lost in a property, which in turn will reduce the amount of energy which you need to spend on heating.

Insulation is another home improvement which can be provided through the government’s ECO scheme. Energy suppliers can also provide free insulation in order to meet their own targets. 

To find out what is on offer, get in touch with your energy supplier. They will more than likely want to survey your property before booking the actual work. In any case, ensure that the work is undertaken by an experienced insulation specialist.