With the energy crisis continuing to affect households across the country, many families with low incomes are under a lot of stress as they struggle to pay their energy bills. Thankfully, there is a range of free grants available to qualifying low-income families to help ensure their homes are suitably well-heated all year round and their bills are reduced long term. In this article, we will be looking at the most relevant grants for energy efficient home improvements to help low-income families with the free installation of a new measure (such as a heat pump) and the ability to save money on heating annually.
ECO (Energy Company Obligation)
The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme was introduced by the government in 2013 with the aim of reducing the carbon emissions of domestic properties across the UK as well as tackling fuel poverty in low-income families. This is done by giving energy companies the responsibility of offering grants to households to install heat saving improvements completely free, meaning you won’t be out of pocket or need to tap into your family’s fund to secure better heating for your home.
Since its launch, ECO has helped 2.3 million homes get free energy efficient home improvements installed and the fourth and final phase of the scheme, ECO4, is sure to help even more families who need this support. For families that have a seriously ill child especially, it can be a relief to know that you won’t need to take out a budgeting loan just to be able to afford basic heating.
Who can qualify for ECO4?
If you are a homeowner or privately renting tenant, on a low income, are claiming an eligible benefit, or have an inefficient heating system in your property that has given it a low Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating, you are likely to be approved for a grant through ECO4.
There have been some changes between ECO4 and its previous iteration ECO3 when it comes to exactly what benefits can qualify you for funding through the scheme. This has been done to place more focus and importance on income-related criteria, ensuring low-income families don’t miss out on the opportunity for a grant when they truly need it. The eligible benefits that are relevant to low-income families are:
- Child Tax Credits (CTC)
- Child Benefits (depending on the income threshold)
- Income Support (IS)
- Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Universal Credit
- Warm Home Discount Scheme Rebate
- Housing benefit
In an emergency, you can get in touch with your local council for financial assistance and grants for families on a low income, so you will have enough to live on until your benefits start.
What other grants are there for low-income families?
If you are not claiming any benefits, you may be able to get support from your local council, further assistance payments, or other grants for families with a low income. Families raising disabled children could get support to help with their priority household debts as well depending on the situation. One example of this is the British Gas Energy Trust, which focuses on reducing fuel poverty and helping vulnerable people to stay debt free when it comes to their heating.
In some cases, they can also offer funding for individuals on benefits similar to Universal Credit and Income Support so they can afford basic needs. Other energy companies will normally have their own scheme to provide support to customers who may be struggling to pay their energy bills. Below are some alternative government schemes that have been introduced to help low-income families with their heating.
Green Homes Grant
The Green Homes Grant scheme allowed homeowners and landlords in England to apply for a voucher towards the cost of fitting energy efficient and low carbon home improvements, which meant they could save up to £600 a year on energy bills. If a qualifying application was submitted before the end of March 2021, the government provided a voucher that covered around two-thirds of the cost of eligible measures for your property.
The maximum value of the voucher in most cases was £5,000. However, you might have been able to get a higher level of subsidy if you were a homeowner and either you or someone in your household was claiming an eligible benefit. This would cover the full cost of the installation and the maximum value of these vouchers was £10,000. Landlords were not allowed to apply for this low-income part of the Green Homes Grant scheme. If you submitted your application before the closing date and were approved, be sure to redeem your voucher and get your new heating measure installed before it expires.
Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS)
The domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme is closed to new applications as of March 2022. However, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme has taken its place and continues to support the deployment of low carbon heating systems like heat pumps to low-income households across England and Wales.
The RHI was introduced in 2014 and provided financial assistance to the owner of the renewable heating system for seven years. Those who successfully applied before the closure scheme in March 2022 will get payments quarterly spread across the seven years. The exact amount received will depend on several factors including the type of technology installed, the tariffs available at the time of application, and in some cases, metering. In order to be eligible for RHI payments all renewable technologies were required to be:
- Listed as a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified product
- Issued with an MCS certificate
Technologies that were included were:
- Biomass (wood fuelled) boilers
- Biomass pellet stoves
- Ground to water heat pumps
- Air to water heat pumps
- Solar thermal panels (flat plate or evacuated tube) providing hot water for your home
- Water source heat pumps were possibly eligible for the Domestic RHI
- Specific cooker stoves and high temperature heat pumps could also qualify
Contact us today to check your eligibility for grants for low-income families and we can put you in touch with energy experts that will handle the process of getting your free heat pump for you from start to finish.