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Free home insulation: a guide to the government scheme

Insulation can help reduce your costs substantially at a time when energy prices are soaring. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come cheap. So the government-led ECO scheme is making things a little easier for those eligible to get free home insulation. Here’s what you need to know.

Insulation can help reduce your costs substantially at a time when energy prices are soaring. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come cheap. So the government-led ECO scheme is making things a little easier for those eligible to get free home insulation. Here’s what you need to know.

Sofia Hutson
Energy expert
4
minute read
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Posted 11 FEBRUARY 2020 Last Updated 18 MAY 2022

What is the free home insulation government scheme?

Insulation is designed to keep warm air inside your home, reducing energy use as a result. The free home insulation scheme, backed by the government and funded by the energy companies,  is there to help unemployed, vulnerable or low-income UK residents keep energy costs down by covering the cost (or partial cost) of installing insulation.

It’s called the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme, and it’s focused on making homes as energy-efficient as possible, with the support of the big gas and electricity suppliers.

Did you know?
2.4 million homes have been improved under the ECO scheme since it launched in 2013. The latest version of the scheme – ECO4 – runs between April 2022 and March 2026.

Do I qualify for free home insulation?

To qualify, you’ll need to: 

  • Live in England, Scotland or Wales.
  • Be receiving a means-tested benefit, such as Income Support or Tax Credits
  • Own your own home or have permission from your landlord to make the improvements.
  • Live in a home with poor energy efficiency – that’s a home in energy efficiency band D-G (or E-G if you live in social housing or private rented accommodation)

Local authorities can also refer people who are on a low income and vulnerable to living in a cold home or are at risk of fuel poverty to the scheme.

If you live in Northern Ireland, you may qualify for help towards the cost of loft and cavity wall insulation under the Affordable Warmth scheme.

What type of insulation does the ECO scheme cover?

The ECO scheme includes cavity wall insulation, solid wall insulation and loft insulation.

Which energy companies offer free home insulation? 

The larger energy suppliers are obliged to offer help under the scheme and have targets to meet for doing so. Companies currently providing support are:

  • British Gas
  • Bulb
  • E (Gas & Electricity)
  • E.ON Energy including Npower
  • Ecotricity
  • EDF Energy
  • ESB Energy
  • Octopus Energy
  • Outfox the Market Energy
  • OVO (including SSE Energy Services)
  • Scottish Power
  • Shell Energy
  • SO Energy
  • The Co-operative Energy
  • Utility Warehouse
  • Utilitia.

You don’t need to get your energy from one of these suppliers, or switch to them, to get help under the scheme.

What is insulation? 

Insulation reduces the amount of heat lost from your home. It’s estimated that one third of heat can be lost through the walls and a quarter through the roof, so if your house is poorly insulated, you’re likely to be using – and paying for – much more energy than you need to. There are different types of roof and wall insulation:

  • Cavity wall insulation – a cavity wall consists of two walls with a gap (cavity) between them. Insulation material is injected into the cavity through holes in the outside wall, helping to stop heat escaping. Not all cavity walls are suitable for installation. An installer will need to carry out a survey to see if it’s right for your home.
  • Solid wall insulation – a layer of insulation material is installed on the inside or outside of your walls, then covered with another layer so you can decorate. External wall insulation may need planning permission.
  • Loft insulation – a loft can be insulated by putting mineral wool between the beams on the floor. If you have less than eight inches of insulation, adding another layer will help retain the heat.

How do I get free home insulation? 

First, find out if you’re eligible for the scheme. If you live in England or Wales, use the government-endorsed Simple Energy Advice website.

If you live in Scotland, use Home Energy Scotland.

You can then contact the participating energy companies to see what they can offer and how to apply.

Ofgem has a list of companies and their contact details.

Is home insulation worth it?

Yes, when you consider that you could be losing more than half of your heat without proper insulation. Loft and cavity wall insulation could save you hundreds of pounds a year off heating bills. In fact, the government estimates that ECO improvements will cut household bills by around £290 on average, but this could rise to as much as £1,600 for the least energy-efficient homes.

How much does insulation cost without the grant?

Depending on the type and size of home you’re living in, you could expect to pay from around £300 to £700 for cavity wall insulation. Solid wall insulation is more costly, ranging from around £6,000 up to £20,000.

Is home insulation completely free under the ECO scheme? 

Not always. Energy companies can decide which improvements to fund, and in some cases, you may be asked to contribute towards the cost of the work. So it’s worth contacting different energy companies and seeing what they’re willing to offer.

What else does the ECO scheme offer? 

The scheme mainly focuses on free home insulation, but it may also be possible to get help with replacing a broken or inefficient boiler or other heating system.

How can I save more money on energy costs?

There are many ways to save money on energy bills, in conjunction with home insulation. For example, if you’re eligible, you may be able to take advantage of Cold Weather Payments or apply for the Warm Home Discount Scheme.