A surge in energy prices over the last few years has led to many people investigating ways in which to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, in an attempt to save money on heating bills.
Measures such as insulation and double glazing will reduce the heat loss from your property, and therefore reduce your energy usage; while central heating will heat your house much more efficiently, reducing your fuel consumption.
Central heating can be very expensive, and even though it will save you money and pay for itself in the long run, the initial cost can be daunting. The installation of a full central heating system could cost anything from £2,500 to £5,000 for an average property.
The upgrade of an existing boiler alone is likely to cost around £2,000. Finding the money for such an investment is not easy, and for some people it may be possible to take advantage of government schemes which offer grants to help with the cost of installing central heating.
Warm front scheme
Available in England, the warm front scheme can provide grants for central heating and home improvements to households which are on particular benefits, and live in poorly insulated homes with inefficient heating.
As well as central heating, the scheme also provides grants for insulation, cavity wall insulation, draught proofing, hot water tank insulation, and glass-fronted fires.
If you qualify, you can claim £3,500 towards central heating; and £6,000 if oil-fired central heating or alternative heating methods are used.
To be eligible for the scheme you must satisfy a number of conditions. If you are receiving pension credit you may be eligible, or if you are on income-related employment and support allowance. If you are on income-based jobseekers allowance or income support, you may be able to claim if you are also receiving one of these benefits.
A pensioner premium, a disability or severe disability premium, or child tax credits with an element for a child with a disability; you may also qualify if children under five are living with you.
You can apply for the scheme by phone on 0800 316 2805, or through the direct.gov website:
If an application is approved, a warm front engineer is sent to your property to carry out a survey to determine what improvements can be made. He will also assess the property for energy efficiency; if it is above the threshold which qualifies for help, you may not be able to access a grant.
If the claim goes ahead, a warm front installer will be allocated to the job, and will contact you directly to make arrangements. Any general work on your house through the scheme should be completed within three months, while the limit is five months for heating works.
If a new gas system is installed, you will also be given an aftercare service which includes an annual safety check. If you do qualify for the scheme, the full grant can be used to pay for the cost of installing central heating, but you would be liable for any costs over and above the amount of the grant.
Energy assistance package
In Scotland the energy assistance package offers central heating grants for those households on low incomes, or at risk of fuel poverty. The package is broken down into four stages; stages one and two offer free advice on saving energy and low cost energy tariffs, and include benefit and tax credit checks.
Stage three for the private sector means home-owners and tenants may be eligible for standard grants if they are on qualifying benefits, or they are over 70 and have no central heating.
Stage four includes enhanced benefits and people may qualify if they are over 60 and do not have central heating, or they live in inefficient homes and receive a qualifying benefit.
Enhanced measures under stage four include the full installation of a central heating system, or the installation of a new boiler.
More information can be found on the Scotland.gov website:
A similar initiative in Wales is Nest, the Welsh government’s fuel poverty scheme. The aim of Nest is to remove fuel poverty in all households by 2018. A new central heating system or boiler, insulation, solar panels, draught proofing, and cavity wall insulation can all be claimed for under the scheme by people on certain benefits. More information is available on the Nest website:
In Northern Ireland, the warm homes scheme provides grants for energy efficient home improvements for people on low incomes and certain benefits. The warm homes scheme offers the installation of central heating for those who qualify, as well as the conversion of an LPG gas system, a solid fuel system or an economy 7 system, to an oil-fired or gas-fired system. More information is available at:
The Green deal
If you don’t qualify for a grant towards the cost of having central heating installed, you may be able to take advantage of an innovative government scheme called the green deal. About to be launched in 2012, the initiative provides loans for the cost of energy efficient home improvements; but rather than paying back a monthly fee, the repayments are recovered through your energy bill.
The idea is to encourage homeowners to make improvements which lower their energy use and therefore their carbon emissions. Boiler upgrades will be available through the green deal, and the amount you save on heating bills will directly offset the repayments.
Summary – Grants for central heating
Central heating is by far the most efficient form of heating, and will reduce both energy usage and fuel bills. If you currently have an inferior heating system, the cost of installing central heating will be several thousand pounds, and should be seen as a long-term investment.
If you are receiving benefits, or on a very low income, you may be eligible for a government grant to pay for the cost of a new heating system. Check the relevant website for your country to find out whether you qualify and how to apply.