Spread the cost of eco-friendly homes
THERE'S been a lot of hype about the Government's Green Deal, a new scheme designed to help us make our homes (and businesses) more energy efficient.
Yet few know what it means in practical terms.
The Green Deal is different from other schemes in a key way.
You invest in environmentally friendly home improvements, but are allowed to pay them off over a number of years.
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Crucially, the loan stays with the property – it isn't your responsibility if you move home.
This is because the home improvements are designed to cut the energy bills of that property, so the new owner would inherit the loan and benefit from the energy savings.
The home improvements covered by the Green Deal include double glazing, boilers, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation.
These are measures that can dramatically improve the energy efficiency of your home (and so reduce your energy bills) but can cost a lot of money.
The Green Deal also covers microgeneration equipment, such as solar panels, biomass boilers and ground and air source heat pumps, which cut your energy bills because you're generating some of the electricity, hot water or heat for your home.
The first stage of the deal is having your home inspected and assessed to determine what energy-efficient improvements you can make.
The inspection must be done by a Green Deal assessor – some will charge and others won't – and they'll produce a report of their findings.
Only go for an assessor accredited with the Green Deal quality mark, which is something all companies must have.
Some assessors are independent but others are linked to a Green Deal provider, although they are supposed to be impartial.
If you want to proceed once you have the findings of the assessment, the next stage is choosing a Green Deal provider – you can search for both providers and assessors at www.greendealorb.co.uk/consumersearch.
When you've found a provider you're happy with, you have to sign a contract with them specifying the work to be done and the cost of it, including the interest rate you'll be paying for the loan.
Once this is agreed, the provider will get a Green Deal installer to do the work.
One of the unique aspects of the Green Deal is that you pay off the cost of the home improvements through your electricity bill.
The loan repayments will be covered by the energy savings you'll make, although there's no guarantee that you won't be out of pocket.
If you live in a period property, have a low income or are on benefits, you may be able to get extra help. Contact the Energy Saving Advice Service (0300 123 1234) to find out more.