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What help can I get with heating under the Affordable Warmth scheme?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 November 2013 at 9:21 am

Q: I have a typical 60s semi. Unfortunately I don't have a central heating system (warm air broken down). I am now retired and on pension credit. I have tried to get something done via the Affordable Warmth scheme but all they seem interested in is replacing boilers which I don't have!

I have been looking at air pumps and was wondering if I can get any help to finance installation? I currently have a gas fire in the living room, immersion heater and various electric panel heaters to keep warm. The house itself is all double glazed and has cavity wall insulation. I seem to be falling through a hole when it comes to the Green Deal!

A: There is a wide range of measures that are (theoretically) available under the new affordable warmth scheme - which is now called the slightly less user friendly home heating cost reduction obligation, or HHCRO. It is not part of the green deal, but its partner scheme the Energy Company Obligation or ECO. You can see the range of eligible measures if you click here.

As you will see in the right hand shaded green, electric storage heaters, warm air units and air source heat pumps are all eligible measures. So I contacted the department of energy and climate change to find out why you are not able to access them. This is what the spokeswoman said: 

"It is a commercial decision for the obligated energy companies as to how much funding they provide to each consumer and which measures they offer. This may depend on consumers’ individual circumstances. The ECO Affordable Warmth obligation provides support for heating and insulation measures for low income, vulnerable consumers. The legislation and Ofgem guidance allows the energy suppliers to support the installation of a wide range of such measures which enable the householder to heat their home more affordably.

"Suppliers can choose which of the eligible Affordable Warmth measures they want to deliver, including boiler replacement or boiler repairs, in order to meet their target. It is our expectation that they will try to do this in the most cost effective way to minimise the overall cost of the scheme. The supplier offers that are on the market at present are largely focused on gas boiler repairs and replacements and loft and cavity wall insulation.

"Consumers can approach any obligated supplier (i.e. the traditional ‘big 6’ plus First Utility), but we also recommend they contact Energy Saving Advice Service for further impartial advice."

This is rather a depressing response. My interpretation of it is that the obligation doesn't actually oblige the energy companies to provide the whole range of measures that people need. As off gas homes tend to be more expensive to heat, this is very disappointing. I suggest you give the Energy Saving Advice Service a ring on 0300 123 1234 as they may know if any of the energy companies is offering (or planning to offer) a wider range of measures. 

However, outside the green deal and ECO, there is some funding available for air source heat pumps at the moment. The renewable heat premium payment, which is available until 31 March 2014, gives an upfront grant of £1,300 towards the installation cost of an air to water heat pump (there is no grant for air to air heat pumps). 

An air to water heat pump would need the installation of radiators or underfloor heating. It would also be eligible to receive the renewable heat incentive when it is introduced next year. The £1,300 grant would be deducted from the renewable heat incentive payments over the seven year life of the scheme.

More information on YouGen

Introduction to the Green Deal and ECO

YouGen guide to heat pumps


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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5 comments - read them below or add one

Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 21 January 2014 at 2:46 pm

Hi nannyjan

The green deal may be a good place to start. It depends what you are looking for. If you qualify for help from ECO to buy the boiler, or want to use green deal finance to help spread the cost, then it's probably worth getting a green deal assessment. We recommend seeking out an independent advisor, rather than one that's going to sell you their employer's products.

If you want a more detailed assessment of what's the best route to go that's completely tailored to your requirements, and are prepared to pay a bit more for it, then you could try a home energy masterplan.

Otherwise it's a matter of getting a lot of installers to give you quotes for a variety of options. For example, an air source heat pump might be an alternative to a gas boiler, and qualifies for the renewable heat incentive

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nannyjanComment left on: 21 January 2014 at 2:17 pm

I have recently moved into a 2 bed terraced house without central heating and have been using electric fan heaters and oil filled radiators....its far from ideal, it will cost £600+ to have gas brought into the house plus the cost of central heating installation, so I have been looking for alternatives and came accross the ' green deal ' as yet I havnt made any enquiries and im wondering now if I may well have the same problem as gilburn...I do get a bit bamboozled by all the info thats available and end up doing nothing constructive............

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 5 December 2013 at 9:41 am

This response came in by email:

Have just read your latest newsletter and feel sorry for the guy who lives off grid and can’t get help from the latest range of energy saving / production initiatives (ECO etc.).

We have PVs and solar thermal systems on our south facing roof.  Great, but our most loved installation is our wood fuelled stove.  Its in our living room and as we have open plan layout the heat rises up the stairs as well as moving to the other rooms downstairs.  The stove is of Danish design and is a double cylinder construction with air vents.  So it heats the air by convection as well as radiation. It gives a very efficient burn.  It was installed with a flue going via the outside wall and up over the guttering to above the roof, so it wasn’t cheap.  We burn well seasoned wood and last year estimated that the cost was the same as burning gas.

Last November we bought a 6 acre wood and love sustainably managing it.  We are fit and active pensioners and hope to keep up the supply of wood from our coppicing to our home for many years.

Perhaps the pensioner who wrote to you could consider a wood fuel stove, it would be cheaper than using electricity for space heating.  I notice you feature biomass boilers at the foot of your Yougen website so perhaps someone could help him with a grant.

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gilburtonComment left on: 12 November 2013 at 11:45 am

Ok re the warm air. It was a very old sixties system which was repaired once when the fan motor went and when it failed again a few years later we gave up with it.

It wasn't very efficient and the ducting was not good and did not feed all the rooms. eg the ducting for the main bedroom was taken off the central duct up the centre of the house,through the attic and then DOWN to a very small vent in the ceiling!! No booster fans so it just trickled out at roof level.

one bedroom didn't have a vent at all!

All this happened years ago so a lot of the vents have now been removed andcovered over.

Unfortunately I was never in a position financially to get central heating installed.

There is no grant available for air to air systems. I would have to get radiators installed and apply for an air to water grant which is only £1300 so I would still have to find thousands to cover the other costs.

As I have found out the whole concept of the Green Deal and other associated parts of it are built on the assumption that everyone has central heating. In actual fact the old Warm Air scheme with a grant of up to £3500 would have been the better option for me but I was too late for the scheme before it closed.

Oh well I'll just have to give it a miss and thanks for your efforts to find out on my behalf.



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Bob Irving

Bob IrvingComment left on: 5 November 2013 at 12:55 pm

Surely, if the questioner has a broken warm air system, it would make sense to repair it or to replace the original heater with a some kind of air-air heat pump, thereby making us of the original ducting.

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