Green deal cash will help hard to insulate homes

Chris Hopkins of Ploughcroft
Chris Hopkins of Ploughcroft
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Great swathes of Yorkshire’s terraced housing were built without easy to insulate cavity walls, which has earned them the label “hard to treat”.

Most of the properties have solid walls creating permanent cold spots. At an average cost of between £6,000 and £10,000 for solid wall insulation, most homeowners cannot afford to invest in this energy efficiency measure, despite the considerable savings that can be made on fuel bills.

Now, thanks to the Government’s new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, which launches tomorrow, solid wall insulation could be a realistic option for many. The year-long £540million scheme allows all homeowners, including landlords, to apply for non-repayable grants to help make their properties more energy efficient.

You can get up to £6,000 for insulating solid walls providing you fund 25% of the total cost of the work yourself. Exterior cladding can be used, although internal wall insulation is most popular with those who want to preserve original stone or brick-built facades.

Chris Hopkins, of Brighouse-based Ploughcroft, which specialises in internal wall insulation, spent three years on the Government’s Green Construction Board and campaigned for the cash incentive.

“I told officials that many houses here in Yorkshire are built of stone and are expensive to insulate, so I am very pleased that they have come up with this new scheme,” says Chris, who has rebuilt his business after a foray into solar panels ended in disaster.

The former Dragons’ Den winner was hit by over-expansion and by the Government’s decision to cut feed-in tariffs. He now concentrates on building, roofing and insulation. He uses three-inch-thick foil-backed cladding that is installed inside, both upstairs and down, on outside facing walls. The work takes around two weeks and does not involve knocking plaster off.

“You lose about 50% of your heat through outside facing walls,” says Chris. “A typical uninsulated three-bedroom terrace has annual gas and electricity bills of around £1,582 a year and after insulation treatment, the bill drops by £591.”

There has been little demand for the system thanks to the initial cost, but the new Government scheme makes it far more tempting.

To help homeowners through the bureaurcratic nightmare of the scheme, Chris has set up a Green Deal Assist department. It helps advise on the existing Green Deal Loan, which has proved unpopular, and is giving assistance to those who want to use the Improvement Fund.

The grants are non-repayable and include up to £6,000 for solid wall insulation and £1,000 for installing two energy-saving measures, such as a new condensing boiler, fan assisted storage heaters, double glazing (to replace single glazing) and loft or cavity wall insulation. Those moving house will qualify for an additional £500 if they make the property more energy efficient within 12 months. However, you must first have a Green Deal energy assessment, which costs about £100-£150 and is refundable if you go ahead with work, and you have to use a Green Deal registered installer, which means you probably can’t use your own trusted tradespeople.

“Accessing schemes like this is hard work so that’s why we set up a department to help people with the paperwork. It’s not easy, which is why a lot of people don’t bother,” says Chris, who is in the process of renovating two terraced homes. He is applying for cash from the Improvement Fund although even he won’t bother to take full advantage of what’s on offer.

“I looked into replacing the single glazing using the scheme and it just wasn’t worthwhile,” he says. “There aren’t many registered installers. I got a quote from one and the cost is about £1,000 more than if you use a local person. It wiped out any benefit, which is a shame.”

www.ploughcroft.co.uk; Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-green-deal-guide-to-the-green-deal-home-improvement-fund

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