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There are a lot of freebies on offer from energy providers if your home qualifies, from new boilers to loft and cavity wall insulation.
This guide shows how to grab these crocks of gold, including current offers, who can get them and how to apply.
CHAPTER I.- What can you get?
"Free stuff" – we're talking £1,000s worth – is a sexier phrase than "Energy Company Obligations (ECO) scheme", but they're the same thing. Generally, freebies are only for people who get tax credits and have an income of £16,010 or less, or those who are receiving certain benefits such as pension credit. Many big energy providers are giving away:
- Boilers: typically costing up to £2,300, you could get one free if you satisfy providers criteria – full info.
- Loft and cavity wall insulation: worth around £700 combined – full info.
CHAPTER II.- Free boilers
A new boiler typically costs £2,300, according to the Energy Saving Trust, so this is a fabulous freebie. If your boiler isn't inefficient, just broken, you may be offered a repair rather than a new boiler.
The offer includes fitting, though there may be an extra cost if an engineer needs to carry out extra work – for example, if it needs moving or you need extra radiators. You should be told about this beforehand.
Who can get it?
You're likely to qualify if:
- You get tax credits and have a household income of less than £16,010 and...
- You receive income-based benefits, such as pension credit or income support, and you have children, a disabled person in the household, or are over 60.
You won't be able to get a free boiler if you live in a housing association property or are a council tenant. Instead, this will be arranged through their own schemes.
The criteria are complex, so a quick way to check if you qualify is to call the Energy Saving Trust advice service and answer a few basic questions on 0300 123 1234 (England and Wales), 0800 1422 865 (Northern Ireland) or 0808 808 22 82 (Scotland). Also see providers' criteria in How to get it.
How do I get a free boiler?
Just call a provider for a free assessment. You're free to pick any energy company offering the deal – you don't need to be a customer.
All deals are ongoing, with no limit on the number of free installations. If you apply, we'd love to hear your free boiler experiences.
What's offered by each provider?
How much can you save?
The Energy Saving Trust say heating accounts for about 60% of what people spend each year on energy bills, so an efficient boiler makes a big difference. Depending on your boiler's age, a shiny new efficient one could save you up to £350/year.
It's likely new boilers are top of many homebuyers' wishlists, so this could boost your house price, too.
CHAPTER III.- Free loft and cavity wall insulation
Cavity wall and loft insulation is worth around £700 and can slice about £300 off energy bills each year, and energy firms are offering them free to certain groups.
- Cavity wall insulation. Most homes built since 1920 have a gap between internal and external walls. Filling the cavity with insulating mineral wool and foam means cold air's kept out, and warm air stays in.
- Loft insulation. Up to a quarter of your home's heat escapes through the roof, but you can solve this by laying mineral wool under the rafters.
Who can get this?
Some providers give insulation away to suitable homes regardless of income, while some require you to be receiving certain benefits such as pension credit. See providers' eligibility criteria below.
You may not be able to get free cavity wall and loft insulation if you live in a housing association property or are a council tenant. The idea is they will arrange to do this for you though their own schemes.
A quick way to check if you qualify is to call the Energy Saving Trust and answer a few basic questions on 0300 123 1234 (England), 0800 512 012 (Wales) or 0808 808 22 82 (Scotland).
How do I get free insulation?
Just call a provider for a free assessment. You're free to pick any provider – you don't need to be a customer. Below is a list of the big six providers that offer free insulation.
- EDF Energy. Call 0800 096 8634.
- E.on. Apply via E.on's site. See its eligibility criteria.
- Npower. Apply on Npower's site or call 0800 072 1741. Also see its eligibility checker.
- SSE. Call 0800 975 2844 or fill out an online enquiry form. See its eligibility criteria.
How much can you save?
The Energy Saving Trust reckons cavity insulation typically costs £400 to £500 to install (including building work), and can save an average three-bedroom home up to £160/year on its bills. Loft insulation costs about £300 and can save £140/year.
If you don't qualify for the schemes above, look for an installer on the National Insulation Association site. As a benchmark, the Energy Saving Trust reckons cavity insulation typically costs £450 to £500 to install, and loft insulation about £300.
The DIY route could work out cheaper for loft insulation at about £150. For more help, Homebuilding magazine has a handy step-by-step guide to insulating your loft.
CHAPTER IV.- Other ways to cut your energy bill
Also ensure you're on the cheapest energy tariff and do the energy-saving basics:
Consider fixing to beat price hikes
Despite recent cuts to gas prices from all the big six, energy prices are up overall. Locking in with a cheap fix is one way to avoid future price hikes, and cut costs now – especially if you're on a standard tariff.
Our Cheap Energy Club checks you're on the cheapest deal and handles the switch for you. Plus to encourage you, there's up to £30 extra if you switch via Cheap Energy Club.
It's the same gas, the same electricity, the same safety. All that changes are the customer service and the price you pay. For more on this, plus top fixes, see our Cheap Gas & Electricity guide.
Thrifty heat-saving tips
If you wander round the house in boxers or bra 'n' knickers with radiators on full and windows wide open... STOP IT.
Sensible changes can save you large, from insulating your chimney to notching down the thermostat. Here are a few thrifty ways to keep your home toasty.
For more tips, join the Old Style forum board's Prepare for winter thread. Also see theGreat Energy-Saving Hunt and our Energy Mythbusting guide. If you use heating oil to heat your home, you can save, too. Follow the simple steps in Cheap Heating Oil.