Replacing an old boiler can be an expensive business. And even if you decide to get it repaired, then older models will eventually become less efficient, meaning you could well see an increase in your energy bills.
But if you are on a low income, it is possible to get a helping hand, thanks to the government’s Energy Company Obligation scheme – or ECO, for short. If eligible, you could qualify for a grant towards a new, more energy efficient boiler.
We take a look at the ECO scheme, what it covers and who qualifies to apply.
What is a Free Boiler Grant?
Launched back in 2013, ECO scheme aims to reduce the UK’s collective carbon footprint while tackling fuel poverty by enabling low-income households to replace their heating system with a more efficient boiler. The ECO scheme is part of the Government’s Electricity and Gas Order, which will run until 2022.
Primarily funded by the UK’s main utility companies, the scheme is also backed by big names, including EDF Energy, Npower, Scottish Power, SSE and British Gas. There are, in total, currently 27 energy suppliers involved in the scheme.
All the boilers installed under the ECO scheme are A-rated for energy efficiency, saving eligible households up to £200 a year on their heating bills. The scheme is available in England, Scotland and Wales – for Northern Ireland, there is an alternative called Warm Homes Grants scheme.
A boiler grant under the Energy Company Obligation ECO scheme will enable applicants to replace their old boiler at little or no cost, and as the grant is non-repayable, there is no need to retrospectively pay back the funds. It is, in effect, a free boiler for those who qualify.
Who Qualifies For a Boiler Grant?
With the focus of the ECO scheme on increasing access to affordable warmth while helping to reduce the UK’s energy consumption, there are strict qualifying criteria when it comes to applying for a free boiler grant. And it’s important to note that the free boiler grant scheme is only open to homeowners and not those living in council owned accommodation.
To apply for a free boiler grant, you will need to meet the criteria as follows:
You Must be the Property’s Owner
To be eligible for the free boiler grant, you need to own your own home and be a permanent resident. The property must also be connected to a mains gas supply. It may also be possible to apply if you live in privately rented accommodation or social housing, but you must have your landlord’s permission. If unsuccessful as a private tenant, you may be able to apply for other grants under the scheme’s Affordable Warmth obligation.
Your Boiler is old, Broken or Inefficient
The boiler you are looking to replace must be gas and at least five years old. Its efficiency rating will also need to be less than 86% to qualify – with the most energy inefficient boilers that are broken typically attracting the largest grants. Inefficient boilers may be considered, depending on the supplier, but the priority currently appears to be on old and broken boilers.
You are in Receipt of Certain Benefits
As the scheme was set up to support low-income households to improve energy efficiency and reduce their bills, you must be receiving certain benefits to be considered.
All applicants must be in receipt of one or more of the following benefits to apply for a free boiler grant:
- Pension Credit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
- Income Support
- Tax Credits (Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits)
- Universal Credit
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Mobility Supplement
- Personal Independence Payment
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance
- Attendance Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance
- Constant Attendance Allowance
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
You can also apply if you are in receipt of Child Benefit, however, your household income cannot exceed a set amount.
When applying for a grant through the ECO scheme to obtain a new boiler, as well as the above criteria there are a couple of more conditions to meet before you can be considered eligible for a boiler:
- The total household income of all working-age residents must not exceed a set maximum amount (this figure will depend on the types of benefits received and the number of adults and children living in the property).
- The property must be of a suitable size to result in sufficient energy saving from installing a new boiler. (For example, upgrading a boiler in a smaller flat may not result in sufficient carbon and energy saving to validate the funding).
How Much is a Boiler Grant?
There is no set amount you could receive under the ECO scheme as the funding will depend on the energy efficiency of your home, the supplier you apply to and the boiler system to be installed. In some instances, you may also be asked to make a contribution to the new boiler.
However, by having a new and more efficient boiler installed you stand to save on your energy bills plus the grant you have been given does not need to be paid back.
How do I get a Boiler Grant?
If you are eligible to qualify for a free boiler grant and tick the boxes when it comes to the application criteria, then this is your first step to potentially getting a new boiler.
Your energy supplier should have let you know if you do qualify to apply, but if you have not been contacted then you need to get proactive and get in touch with them.
With the ECO scheme based on the participating utility suppliers, many of the big companies have already reached their targets for the initiative but it is still possible to apply for and receive a free boiler grant. Remember, to qualify you need to:
- Be a homeowner (however, it is possible with some utility companies to apply if you are in private rented accommodation and have the support of your landlord)
- Are in receipt of at least one of the qualifying benefits
- Have a gas boiler at least five years old
- Your home is supplied by mains gas
How to Apply for a Boiler Grant
When it comes to applying, you can find out if you are eligible for the funding by contacting your participating energy company– or any of the companies listed under the ECO Scheme. Alternatively, call the Energy Saving Advice Service for more guidance on 0300 123 1234.
After completing an online form, your chosen participating energy company may also call you to ask a series of questions to confirm you meet the criteria. Once they have then checked the benefits you receive and annual household income, the next step is for a technical survey carried out by a registered installer. If you qualify, a decision will then be made on the amount you are entitled to, and arrangements made for the installer to conduct the work. You will now have a new boiler, a more energy efficient home and hopefully lower energy bills.
For more information on the ECO scheme or other initiatives you may be eligible for, go to the Energy Saving Trust.
- Who qualifies for a boiler grant? – Vaillant