Green Homes Grant alternatives: easy energy-efficient home renovations to do if you can’t get a voucher

Builders are among the professionals permitted to enter our homes in Lockdown 2 and, as has been well documented since our first stay-at-home order in March, increased time at home means our home improvement to-do lists are ever-growing.

There is funding available for homeowners carrying out energy-efficient home renovations such as insulating lofts or walls, installing double-glazing or adding solar panels.

In an effort to boost the green economy, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced £2 billion in funding for works in his summer statement. The deadline for using vouchers for approved home improvements has been extended to the end of March 2022, the Government has announced.

Planning permission is often required for external changes so these improvements won’t be immediate.

The estimated cost to instal nine solar panels at a three-bedroom property is £4,700, reducing energy bills by around £330 a year if you tend to be home all day according to the Energy Savings Trust. With the Green Homes Grant vouchers covering two-thirds of the cost, homeowners will need to pay around £1,500 themselves.

For those home renovators not in a position to secure a voucher in time, or make big energy-efficient improvements this year, but who still want to make a difference to their homes — and their bills — here are six impactful yet quick upgrades to consider.

Six energy-efficient home interiors upgrades

Window seal replacement

Often overlooked in favour of bigger projects intact window seals prevent draughts and maintain the energy-efficiency of your home.

Temperature changes cause window seals to expand and contract so it’s a good idea to inspect and even replace them every five to 10 years.

“The total window seal replacement cost is likely to be between £25 and £80,” says Mike Fairman of tradespeople directory Checkatrade.

“If in doubt as to whether you need to replace your window seals, you should look out for the following tell-tale signs: condensation on your windows, mould appearing on the seals and draughts coming from around your windows.”

Smart thermostats

With the functionality to control your heating on the go, most commonly from your phone, smart thermostats will help you to save money on monthly energy bills.

If your daily routine doesn’t vary a huge amount – i.e. you leave and return at the same time every day and you would like your heating to switch on before you get up and then again before you get home – then it’s possible a traditional thermostat is sufficient.

If you tend to come home at different times, or you don’t have any controls at all, then it’s worth investing in a smart thermostat to avoid wasting heat or returning to a cold home.

“Smart thermostats are a great solution for people looking to cut their energy bills or for homeowners who want more control over their heating when they are out of the house,” says Fairman, “This eco-friendly upgrade costs around £225.”

Loft insulation

According to Which? research, installing loft insulation could reduce your energy bills by up to £215 a year depending on the size of your home.

Loft insulation costs around £400 for a three-bedroom, semi-detached property, so it would take around two years for the work to pay for itself through savings if you go from none at all to insulation with the recommended thickness of 270mm.

Checkatrade saw a 49 per cent increase in searches for loft and roof insulation between September and October this year.

“Loft insulation is a great way to cut energy bills and keep your home warm,” says Fairman. “And it is a required building regulation for extensions or loft conversions.”

Switch showerheads

Consider replacing your rainfall showerhead with a water-saving model.

“They are easy to install and have precision holes, with more holes than your average rain shower head to create a spray more mist-like effect than pumping out litres of wasted water,” says Sam of Samantha Watkins Macrae Interior Design.

“They save on water, eliminate heated water wastage for busy homes and can offer twice as much power.”

This model from Amane promises to boost shower power, while saving up to 60 per cent of the water usually used in an eight-minute shower. It costs around £115.

Make smart paint choices

Avoid paints that contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), high levels can trigger asthma, nausea or other allergic reactions.

“[VOCs] can be harmful to the environment and also for us to breathe in,” says Omar of Space Shack, an interior design company listed on design platform Houzz. “Using a nontoxic paint is a great way to reduce this impact.”

Look for limewash, clay, plant-based or mineral paint.

Brands to check out include Earthborn Paints, Edward Bulmer Natural Paints, Auro, Farrow & Ball low-VOC ranges, Fired Earth and Little Greene.

Airlite natural paints promise to improve the air quality in your living spaces. It “eliminates bacteria” and “turns the walls of your home into a completely natural air purifier.”

Pipe insulation

Spending less money heating water up, keeping hot water hotter for longer and avoiding frozen – or worse, burst – pipes in winter altogether is always a good idea.

The cost comes from hiring professional help, as some pipes may be hard to reach, but they should be able to do the job in just a few hours. The insulation itself should be priced from around £20.

“Insulating pipes around your home correctly can be a hassle,” says Fairman, “The right type and size of lagging are essential for each individual pipe in order to be 100 per cent effective.”

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