There’s been a lot of coverage in the media recently about the Government’s Green Deal, a new scheme designed to help us make our homes (and businesses) more energy efficient.
If you’ve heard the hype, but don’t really know how the scheme works, here’s what it could do for you.
The Green Deal is different from other schemes because while it enables you to invest in environmentally friendly home improvements, you pay them off over a number of years and, crucially, the loan stays with the property - it isn’t your responsibility any more if you move home.
This is because the home improvements are designed to cut the energy bills of that particular property, so the new owner would inherit the loan and benefit from the energy savings.
The home improvements covered by the Green Deal include double glazing, boilers, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation, measures that can dramatically improve the energy efficiency of your home (and so reduce your energy bills) but can cost a lot of money.
The Deal also covers microgeneration equipment, such as solar panels, biomass boilers and ground and air source heat pumps, which cut your energy bills because you’re generating some of the electricity, hot water or heat for your home.
The first stage of the Green Deal is having your home inspected and assessed to determine what energy-efficient improvements you can make and how much you could save on your energy bills.
The inspection must be done by a Green Deal assessor - some will charge and others won’t - and they’ll produce a report afterwards stating their findings.
Only go for an assessor accredited with the Green Deal quality mark, which is something all companies participating in the Deal must have - it shows that they comply with a code of practice.
Some assessors are independent but others are linked to a Green Deal provider, although they are supposed to be impartial.
If you want to proceed once you have the findings of the assessment, the next stage is choosing a Green Deal provider - you can search for both providers and assessors at www.greendealorb.co.uk/consumersearch.
When you’ve found a provider you’re happy with, you have to sign a contract with them specifying the work to be done and the cost of it, including the interest rate you’ll be paying for the loan. Once this is agreed, the provider will get a Green Deal installer to do the work.
One of the unique aspects of the Green Deal is that you pay off the cost of the home improvements through your electricity bill.
The idea is that the loan repayments will be covered by the energy savings you’ll make from doing the home improvements, although there’s no guarantee that you won’t be out of pocket.
If you live in a period property, have a low income or are on benefits, you may be able to get extra help - contact the Energy Saving Advice Service (0300 123 1234) in England and Wales, or Energy Saving Scotland (0800 512 012) to find out more.
There’s a Green Deal Cashback Scheme for householders in England and Wales - see http://gdcashback.decc.gov.uk - and a Green Homes Cashback Scheme in Scotland - visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland for details.
Product of the week
Lots of people apply a clear varnish to sanded wooden floorboards, but staining them a dark colour can look stunning, and it doesn’t show up dirt as much.
Use Ronseal Diamond Hard Floor Varnish in Satin Walnut (£37.32 for 2.5ltr, www.chapelinteriors.co.uk) - it’s low odour, nice to use and dries quickly (you can recoat in just two hours).
As well as being a beautifully rich colour, the varnish is designed to resist knocks, scratches and scuffs.
A few coats is enough for most floors, but the more coats you do, the more beautiful the colour becomes, so don’t hold back.
If you’re varnishing wooden floorboards and you need to use the room again ASAP, go for a water-based varnish, such as Ronseal Diamond Hard Floor Varnish (above), to get the job done in a day, or sooner.
he quickest way to cover a large area is with a long-handled roller - use a long-pile roller sleeve to get into all the nooks and crannies, or go over them with a paintbrush.