As you may have seen in earlier blog posts, the latest iteration of ECO Flex is now on offer to Greater Manchester residents. If your home has poor energy efficiency and your total household income is £31,000 or below you could be entitled to fully funded home upgrades to reduce your energy costs. There are several further ways to qualify for ECO Flex which you can read here including ill health which applies regardless of household income.
Each Greater Manchester district has one energy efficient home upgrades installer covering the area. Improveasy are covering Stockport, Manchester City, and Trafford. If you live in Bolton, Salford, or Wigan, your installer would be Next Energy. If you live in Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, or Tameside, your installer would be 0800 Repair.
Ella McLennan from Improveasy writes about the home upgrades eligible residents are entitled to, and breaks down both the monetary and energy savings of each installation. Improveasy was founded in 2011. They have been installing for the ECO scheme since its outset. The company has been listed as one of Europe’s fastest growing companies by the Financial Times, and recently won Regional Large Scale Project of the Year at the North West Energy Efficiency Awards.
What home upgrades are available with ECO Flex?
ECO Flex is a fabric-first programme, which means that insulation must be present or installed before your heating system is improved. This helps the house retain heat more efficiently – the heating system does not have to work as hard and costs less to run. Flex also employs a whole house approach where multiple upgrades are usually installed. The end goal of this programme is to improve your home’s EPC rating, reduce your energy bills, and reduce your carbon footprint.
The main upgrades are as follows. The savings per year are based on the average house in England – a 3 bed semi.
Install time: Up to 3 days depending on the weather
Upfront cost without funding: Around £6,500
The electricity produced by solar panels is renewable because it is produced only from the sun. This electricity can power any appliances that are switched on while the surplus is exported to the electricity grid or stored in a battery for another time. You can use electricity only when you need it. When you don’t, you can also choose to sell it back to the grid. Luckily for us in Greater Manchester, solar panels do not actually need direct sunlight, although they do generate less electricity on cloudy days. If your system has not retained enough sunlight on a cloudier day, it will automatically switch to using the electricity grid without you noticing. This will still create a saving on your electricity bills. It usually requires two people to install the system. In England, the cost for solar panels upfront is £6,500, so a free install is another massive saving for your home!
Air source heat pumps
Energy bill savings per year: Variable
Install time: A week
Upfront cost without funding: Around £10,000
Under ECO Flex, you can get a free air source heat pump. They provide all heating and hot water for your home. Even when it is freezing outside, air source heat pumps work. These appliances work by utilising heat already present in the environment. The system itself does not burn any fuel and therefore emits no CO2. A new condensing gas boiler operates at around 90% efficiency producing less than 1kw of heat per unit of gas. An efficient heat pump can provide 4kw of heat per unit of electricity. They are installed on flat surfaces just outside of your property in conjunction with an indoor cylinder which provides hot water. In most cases radiators and pipework will need to be upgraded as well. Octopus Energy found that on average, they cost £187 less a year to run than a boiler.
External wall insulation
Install time: 2 weeks depending on the weather
Upfront cost without funding: Around £10,000
External wall insulation is a layer of insulation material on the outside of your home. It is then rendered over for a smooth finish. EWI both insulates your home from the outside and improves the visual appearance of your property, adding to its value. Typically, EWI will add around 100mm to your home. It provides a waterproof, protective barrier against penetrating damp. Without a grant such as ECO Flex, EWI can cost over £11,000, so this is definitely worth considering!
Cavity wall insulation
Install time: A day
Upfront cost without funding: Up to £10,000
Cavity walls are formed by two walls of brickwork built close together, and between this insulation can be administered. Most homes built after 1920 have cavities. You can tell whether your home has solid or cavity walls by the brickwork pattern. There are several types of cavity wall insulation material including mineral wool, bead, or foam. Cavity wall insulation is one of the longest lasting energy efficient home upgrades your property can have.
Internal wall insulation
Install time: between 3-5 days
Upfront cost without funding: Varies
Internal wall insulation involves attaching insulation material to the inside of your property’s walls to keep it warmer in winter and cooler in summer. All wall fittings, radiators, sockets, and skirting will temporarily need to be removed. The walls then be plastered over again. This can improve and modernise the appearance of your home while insulating it and keeping your heating bills down. According to Moneysupermarket.com, this insulation costs around £7,000 without a grant.
Install time: A day
Upfront cost without funding: £50 DIY
Loft insulation is an effective measure that takes very little time to complete. It works as an insulator for decades. The depth of insulation for ECO Flex is 270mm-300mm. If the insulation in your loft is currently less than this, energy is being wasted and heat is escaping through your roof. If you check the EPC register and your property is listed, it may show the depth of the insulation checked by an assessor at the time it was registered. Unless you know exactly how much insulation there is or isn’t in your loft, you will need somebody to go into the loft space with a tape measure and find out if you need loft insulation as it does reduce very gradually over time! You can put this insulation in yourself, but to ensure you don’t block any ventilation, it is best to ask an installer.
Room in roof insulation
Install time: 2-3 days depending on house size
Upfront cost without funding: £600
If your loft is converted into a living space you will want to keep it as warm as the rest of your house. In this case, you need to insulate your roof instead. Room in roof insulation is a different home upgrade measure to loft insulation as it involves plastering over insulation fixed onto the ceiling. This insulation can make significant savings on your fuel bills as 25% of the property’s heat is lost through the roof.
Install time: A day
Upfront cost without funding: £500
Insulating underneath your flooring stops any draughts coming up from the ground. Ground level floors can be cold and should be insulated if possible. The floors of upstairs rooms do not need to be insulated if the room or space underneath is heated, and instead you can insulate your loft or roof. Underfloor insulation will most often be made of a foam or glass wool roll. Netting will be installed to secure the insulation in place. If there is a basement or cellar, the ceiling will be boarded over afterwards. This insulation lasts for decades. It is definitely worth looking into for your home. If you qualify for ECO Flex, not only will your install be free, but it will also reduce your energy bills going forwards.
Extra information and contact details
For those wondering, you can also get boiler upgrades on ECO Flex. However, although they offer lower carbon emissions than older models, they are not considered renewable and therefore there is less funding available for them. The latest boilers are condensing boilers. These are simply more efficient than traditional boilers. Non-condensing models lose heat more easily. Condensing boilers are designed to minimise this heat loss. Their efficiency will reduce both your energy bills and carbon emissions. Calculate the savings you could make on your energy bills when upgrading your boiler to the most efficient models here with the Energy Saving Trust. If you are interested in ECO Flex, please reach out to your district’s installer today: