Home insulation take-up low despite £1bn government drive and soaring energy bills

Work composed of mineral wool insulation in the floor, floor heating insulation , warm house, eco-friendly insulation, a builder at work
Which? survey finds few UK homeowners are making home insulation improvements despite the benefits it offers including reducing energy bills. Photo: Getty

Fewer UK households are taking the steps to improve their home insulation, and public awareness remains low, despite concerns about high energy costs and staying warm in winter, research by consumer group Which? found.

The government introduced funding for 300,000 eligible households to install insulation but 46% of homeowners have not explored insulation in the past five years, often believing their homes are already well-insulated.

Last Thursday the government launched a £1bn drive to help those most in need heat their home for less, through the Great British insulation scheme.

This scheme comes after the energy bill support scheme which gave every household a £400 discount on their energy bills between 2022 and 2023, ending in March 2023.

Some 86% of Brits worry about high energy bills and 69% are concerned about keeping their homes warm in winter, according to a Which? survey of 2,673 UK homeowners with bill-paying responsibility in April.

Read more: Energy bill fears forcing 13 million households to keep heating switched off

It comes as the energy price cap is set to drop in October from its current level of £2,074 to £1,923, making the typical bill around at £160 a month. The cap limits the price of a single unit of energy for customers paying for variable energy tariffs.

Despite the drop in the price cap, some households are likely to pay more this winter due to a rise in the daily standing charge, and the fact that last winter’s universal £400 energy support is not being repeated.

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: "Improving the insulation of a home can be a complex and expensive process, including identifying the needs of the property, finding financing solutions, and identifying a qualified and reliable installer."

Complex and expensive process

Cost concerns, payback times, and lack of grants deter many homeowners, with 53% citing upfront costs as a major obstacle.

Benefits of home insulation include reducing a household's carbon footprint and lowering energy bills and keeping homes warmer in winter.

Read more: One in three UK households 'will pay higher energy bills' this winter

With just 14% of homeowners undertaking insulation improvements in the last five years, Which? is calling on the government to drive public awareness, reform Energy Performance Certificates, provide reliable information sources, and improve installer certification to support insulation projects.

What is an Energy Performance Certificate?

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are required when selling or leasing a property.

An EPC is a 10 year valid certificate which outlines the energy efficiency of a property or home using a traffic light system of A to G, with A being the most efficient. Scores above 92 are marked an A and anything below 20 scores a G.

The EPC certificate provides a benchmark of how much it will cost to heat and power a property and how much carbon dioxide it releases.

The certificate also provides recommendations for energy-efficient improvements, the cost for the works and the potential savings that could be made.

The UK government set a target for all homes in England to have an EPC certificate rating of C by 2035 and the Scottish and Welsh governments have set similar targets. There is no legal requirement for homeowners to meet this target.

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Which? found that four in 10 UK homeowners reported that their home’s EPC band was D to G — below the UK government’s target for energy efficiency — but said they would not consider insulating their homes for the future.

The current system for calculating EPCs can lead to inaccurate ratings, according to Which?. Assessments also vary in quality — with some providers offering one for as little as £35 on the basis of a 30-minute assessment.

Energy efficiency rating chart and house on black background. Ecological and bio energetic home. Energy class, performance certificate, rating graph
An EPC is a 10 year valid certificate which outlines the energy efficiency of a property or home using a traffic light system of A to G, with A being the most efficient. Photo: Getty

What is the Great British insulation scheme?

Last Thursday the government launched a £1bn drive to help those most in need heat their home for less, through the Great British insulation scheme.

The poorest 10% of households face substantially higher bills this winter without the support of the scheme, according to Which? analysis of household energy costs in 2023/24.

Energy security secretary Claire Coutinho said: "Our Great British Insulation Scheme will help hundreds of thousands of people, including some of the most vulnerable in society, get the upgrades their homes need, while cutting their energy bills."

London, England, UK. 12th Sep, 2023. Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero CLAIRE COUTINHO is seen in Downing Street as cabinet meet, (Credit Image: © Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE! Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News
Energy security secretary Claire Coutinho says the government is determined to help families keep their homes warm and save on their energy costs. Photo: PA

Here's what home insulation people can get under the scheme:

  • cavity wall insulation

  • solid wall insulation (internal or external)

  • loft insulation

  • flat or pitched roof insulation

  • underfloor insulation

  • solid floor insulation

  • park home insulation

  • room-in-roof insulation

Customers will be able to use a new online checker for the Great British insulation scheme, to find out if they are eligible.

"It is important that the government drives public awareness of the information and advice that is available and works with industry and others to address the barriers preventing consumers from improving the insulation of their homes," said Concha.

Watch: Better home insulation could mean people live longer, study suggests

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