12 October 2020

A breath of fresh air given to New Green Homes Grant Scheme

In July this year, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the government were committing £2 billion to green home upgrades. The Green Homes Grant Scheme is designed to help improve housing stock and to stimulate the economy.

Initially the scheme made no reference to ventilation, but this consideration has now been included. This blog takes a closer look at what the scheme is, how it works and what it means for ventilation.

What is the Green Homes Grant Scheme?

The scheme provides vouchers to part-fund environmentally friendly energy efficiency considerations including insulation, double glazing and draught-proofing. The aim of the scheme is to enable homeowners and landlords to upgrade their properties with energy-saving features in order to reduce energy usage.

When does the scheme start?

From the end of September 2020, homeowners can apply for the vouchers to cover some of the cost of an energy-efficiency home improvement.

Who is eligible?

Homeowners, including owner occupiers and social/private landlords, in England will be able to access the scheme. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply here. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are not included in the scheme.

With the condensation season on the horizon (occurring in the winter when the warm air inside a house condenses on cold windows), the scheme provides social landlords with a funding opportunity to improve insulation and rethink ventilation to help prevent the build-up of condensation indoors – the biggest cause of damp and mould.

Given that tenants in properties which are deemed inadequate for living can now take landlords to court if reasonable improvements are not made (under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act which came into law in March 2019), improvements to prevent damp and mould now are a prudent investment.

How will the Green Homes Grant Scheme work?

The government will provide a voucher that covers two-thirds of the cost of qualifying energy efficiency or low carbon heating improvements to eligible homeowners and landlords. The maximum value of the voucher is £5,000. Those on a low income and in receipt of certain benefits can receive a voucher covering the full cost of the improvements up to a maximum value of £10,000.

What is covered by the Green Homes Grant Scheme?

This is split into two parts – primary and secondary measures. In order to qualify for funding to cover secondary measures, homeowners must first carry out one of the primary measures.

The subsidy for the second measure is capped at the value of the subsidy provided for the primary measure. For example, if £1,000 is awarded for a primary measure, the amount available, if eligible, under the scheme for a secondary measure would be capped at £1,000.

Primary measures include:

  • Solid wall, under-floor, cavity wall, loft, flat roof, room in room, or roof insulation
  • Air or ground source heat pumps
  • Solar thermal
  • Biomass boilers

Secondary measures include:

  • Double glazing, triple glazing and secondary glazing (to replace single glazing)
  • Upgrading doors to energy efficient alternatives (replacement of doors fitted prior to 2002)
  • Draught proofing
  • Hot water tank/appliance tank thermostats/heating controls, as well as thermostatic radiator valves, smart heating controls, or zone controls

One or more of the above are eligible under the scheme. Importantly, none of the work should worsen the existing ventilation of a property.

Can the scheme cover work already completed?

No. The voucher cannot be used to help pay for works that were carried out prior to the voucher being issued.

Can vouchers be redeemed with any tradespeople?

No. Only a tradesperson registered with TrustMark or Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), are accredited to take part in the Green Homes Grant voucher scheme. Accredited tradespeople are listed on the Simple Energy Advice website.

How long is the scheme available?

The Government has made it clear that those eligible and in receipt of a voucher will have to complete any work by 31 March 2021, so there is a short window to make use of the scheme and vouchers will be approved and issued on a first-come-first-served basis.

Where does ventilation fit in?

Accredited installers working under the Green Homes Grant scheme will now be legally obliged to ensure that the indoor air quality (IAQ) of a home is not worsened by adding insulation, double glazing or draught-proofing measures. The recent update to the scheme has included ‘reasonable enabling work to support the retrofit’, which covers the repair and improvement of controlled ventilation.

While ventilation is covered under part F of building regulations, the explicit reference to ventilation which has now been added to the scheme will prevent energy efficiency work being carried out without considering its impact on the ventilation status of a property.

For any building work on existing homes, building regulations require that “the rest of the building should not be made less satisfactory in relation to the requirements (including ventilation) than before the work was carried out.” This is now a legally enforceable requirement of the Green Homes Grant Scheme.

Incorporating funding for ventilation measures in the grant scheme will help insulation installers ensure that ventilation isn’t an additional burden on consumers, but an essential part of home improvements carried out under the scheme.

On the Scheme, Zehnder’s Technical Product Manager, Rupert Kazlauciunas, says “It’s great to see ventilation has now been added to the latest green homes grant scheme. With more people working from home making such energy efficiency improvements is going to be vital for keeping utility bills low. However, failing to consider ventilation could have an impact on the quality of indoor air, leading to a decline in productivity and health. It’s vitally important ventilation is assessed in parallel with the green grant home improvements to avoid poor indoor air quality or conditions leading to excess humidity and mould growth. The best way to do this would be to install a constant running system, such as dMEV which is an ideal retrofit solution to replace old bathroom and kitchen extract fans.”

Why ventilation is so important

Overheating and poor IAQ have become two of the biggest modern-day housing issues and one of the key reasons these problems have risen so rapidly comes from the drive to insulate properties for energy efficiency without adequate attention to ventilation.

Many properties rely on natural infiltration to remove pollutants and moisture, both of which can be harmful to our home and health, but in airtight buildings these pollutants and moisture are trapped inside.

In 2012 the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that indoor air pollutants were responsible for around 99,000 European deaths a year. According to Air Quality News, indoor air can contain up to 900 potentially dangerous chemicals, particles and biological materials.

People spend up to 90% of their time indoors and in recent months amidst a global pandemic this is likely to be even higher. We are an indoor nation and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon. The impact of poor IAQ on health is a growing concern.

A report published in January 2020 by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) specifically identified that improved insulation needed to be matched with adequate ventilation to prevent the build-up of pollutants in the home.

The Government’s recent decision to include considerations for ventilation in the Green Homes Grant Scheme is a welcome announcement. For further information on ventilation solutions and the best options for retrofits, get in touch with Zehnder’s indoor climate experts.