Harnessing the power of the sun is growing in popularity up and down the country, and with good reason – a push to end our reliance on fossil fuels that damage the environment is paramount, and solar power is a great renewable and non-polluting alternative to heating and powering our homes.
While the thought of switching your energy source entirely can seem daunting – not to mention expensive – it doesn’t have to be. If you are on certain benefits and live in a certain type of property, you may be eligible for solar PV (photovoltaic) panels for your home.
In this article, we’ll be going over the nuts and bolts of what’s needed to apply for these grants, helping to make your home and your energy consumption far greener.
Top 7 Things to Know About Free Solar Panel Grants
- You must be on certain benefits and live in a certain type of property to be eligible for free solar PV panels.
- Only homeowners living in a house with electric heating are eligible for a grant. Council tenants and persons living in privately rented homes aren’t eligible.
- Not everyone eligible will receive free solar panels because each energy company has a limited number of grants.
- Only some energy companies are participating in the free solar panel scheme.You can find a list of the companies here.
- If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can ask any of the participating energy companies for a grant—you don’t need to go through your own provider unless you want to.
- Before approving the grant, the energy company may require a home inspection.
- The current round of grants opened on 1 April, 2022 and closes on 31 March, 2026.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Get Free Solar Panels?
If you are eligible for free solar panels, you can apply through any of the named participating energy companies listed above – we will cover this in more detail throughout the course of this article.
Who Is Eligible for Free Solar Panels?
According to Ofgem, only homeowners living in their own house or flat are eligible. This means that council tenants and individuals who rent a privately owned home or flat are currently ineligible for solar PV grants.
Below, you can see a full list of the household benefit criteria to be able to ascertain if you can apply to the scheme.
|Pension Credit (in addition to State Pension)||Yes||None|
|Child Tax Credit||Yes, but only if you earn £16,010 a year or less||None|
|Child Benefit||Yes, but only if you meet the income requirements based on the size of your family||If you’re a single parent, the income requirements are as follows:
1. For one child you must earn £18.500 or less a year
2. For 2 children you must earn £23,000 or less a year
3. For 3 children you must earn £27,500 or less a year
4. For 4 children you must earn £32,000 or less a yearIf you’re part of a two-parent family, the income requirements are as follows:1. For one child, combiined income must be £25,500 or less a year
2. For 2 children, combined income must be £30,000 or less a year
3. For 3 children, combined income must be £34,500 or less a year
4. For 4 children, combined income must be £39,000 or less a year
|Working Tax Credit||Yes, but only if you earn £16,010 a year or less and you meet at least one additional requirement||In addition to receiving Working Tax Credits and earning £16,010 a year or less, you must also meet one of the following ctiteria:
1. You are over 60
2. You have a child under 16
3. you have a child under 20 in full-time education (but not at university)
4. You have Severe Disability Element
5. You have a Disabled Worker Element
|Income Support or Universal credit||Yes, but only if you meet at least one additional requirement||In addition to receiving Income Support, you must also meet at least one of the following criteria:
1. You have a child under 16
2. You have a child under 20 in full-time education (but not at university)
3. You get Child Tax Credit including a Disability Element
4. You get a disabled child premium
5. You get a pensioner premium
|Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance||Yes, but only if you meet one additional requirement||In addition to receiving Income Based Job Seeker’s Allowance, you must also meet one of the following criteria:
1. You have a child under 16
2. You have a child under 20 in full-time education (but not at university)
3. You get Child Tax Credit including a Disability Element
4. You get a Disabled Child Premium
5. You get a Pensioner Premium
|Income-related Employment Support Allowances||Yes, but only if you meet one additional requirement||In addition to receiving Income-related Employmernt Support Allowance, you must also meet one of the criteria:
1. You have a Work Related Activity or Work Related Support component
2. You have a child under 16
3. You have a child under 20 in full-time education (but not at university)
4. You get Child Tax Credit including a Disability Element
5. You get a Disabled Child Premium
6. You get a Pensioner Premium
I Live in a Council Home or Flat. Can I Get Free Solar Panels?
Unfortunately, it is only homeowners living in a house with electric heating that are eligible for a grant, meaning council tenants and those in privately rented accommodation aren’t eligible.
I’m a Pensioner. Am I Eligible for a Free Solar Panel Grant?
If you are a pensioner and meet the core criteria for the solar panel grant scheme, then you are eligible – but if you don’t get accepted, there are various other energy-efficiency options available to you which we will cover a little later in this article.
I Think I’m Eligible for a Grant. Will I Definitely Get Free Solar Panels?
Unfortunately, even if you are completely eligible for free solar panels, you still might not be granted them. This is because each energy company only have a limited number of grants available during any one round, meaning you might still miss out.
The best tactic is to apply as soon as the application window opens to increase your chances of being accepted before the volume of grants run out.
Which Energy Companies Participate in the Energy Companies Obligation Scheme?
The companies participating in the ECO’s scheme are as follows:
- British Gas
- E (Gas & Electricity) Ltd
- E.ON Energy (including Npower)
- EDF Energy
- ESB Energy
- Octopus Energy
- Outfox the Market
- OVO (including SSE Energy Services)
- Scottish Power
- Shell Energy (formerly First Utility and formerly Hudson)
- So Energy
- The Co-operative Energy
- The Utility Warehouse
- Utilita Energy Ltd
Do I Need to Apply Through My Own Energy Provider?
There is no need to apply through your own energy provider unless you want to – you can apply to any of the participating parties.
What’s the Process for Applying for a Solar Panel Grant?
To apply for a solar panel grant, you can contact any of the participating energy companies. You can find the contact details for these companies on the Ofgem website.
You’ll first need to apply and be confirmed as eligible for the free solar panel grant. Once this has happened, and you’ve been confirmed as a recipient, you will have a solar panel installer visit your property to confirm that your property is suitable for solar panels – moving forwards from this stage, your installation will then be scheduled and taken from there.
The company should offer you advice about their particular application process. In some cases, you may need to complete a form, whilst other companies simply require a telephone assessment.
However, in most cases you will need to provide proof of your eligibility for a grant. Depending on your own specific circumstances, this could consist of a letter from HMRC, DWP or Jobcentre Plus, the Pension Service, or the Ministry of Defence.
If you receive benefits, you may also be asked to provide a bank statement as evidence.
Once the company has confirmed your eligibility, they may ask to schedule a house visit to determine whether your home is suitable for solar PV panels.
Once the company completed its assessment, they’ll notify you of your decision and, if your application is approved, they should explain how to claim your grant.
How Long Does the Application Process Take?
The time it takes to apply will be different for each applicant, as some will require home visits to ascertain the compatibility of solar power to your property, as well as to discuss your potential renewable power plans in more detail.
When Can I Apply for a Solar Panel Grant?
The current ECO4 scheme opened on 1 April, 2022 and runs until 31 March, 2026.
However, as each energy company has the discretion to decide whether they want to participate and how many grants to offer, you’ll need to contact a supplier to ask whether they’re currently accepting applications through the scheme.
I’m Not Eligible for a Grant. How Can I Save Money on Solar Panels?
If you aren’t eligible for a grant or don’t qualify in time for one, there are other ways in which you can save money on solar panels for your home. Solar panel installation is an investment for the future, so upfront cost savings are rarely seen, but there are ways to gain recompense on your investment via the following schemes:
Boiler Upgrade Scheme
If you live in England or Wales, you can also potentially save money by asking your installer to claim a grant under the Boiler Upgrade Scheme which was launched in April 2022.
This scheme replaces the Renewable Heat Incentive. The scheme is open to domestic and small non-domestic properties in England and Wales, and it runs from 2022 to 2025.
You can get:
- £5,000 off the cost and installation of an air source heat pump
- £5,000 off the cost and installation of a biomass boiler
- £6,000 off the cost and installation of a ground source heat pump
You can get one grant per property and you must have a MCS certified installer apply for the grant on your behalf.
Smart Export Guarantee
The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) pays back homeowners with renewable electricity systems for the amount of low-carbon electricity they generate and export back to the National Grid. This government-backed initiative was launched at the start of 2020.
According to Ofgem, SEG Licensees determine the rate at which they will pay SEG Generators, the contract length and other terms. Generators thinking of applying for an SEG tariff should therefore shop around to see which tariff is best for their circumstances.
SEG tariff rates must always be above zero. SEG payments are calculated by using export meter readings.
SEG Generators are paid by their chosen SEG Licensee for the electricity which they export back to the National Grid. This will grant owners savings in the long-term, despite an initial up-front cost.
For more information, take a look at this page.
Are There Other Ways to Reduce My Energy Bills?
If you find out that you’re not eligible for a free solar panel grant, there are other ways to reduce your energy bills.
Cold Weather Payment
If you receive Pension Credit or Support for Mortgage Interest, you should also receive funding from the Cold Weather Payment to help keep your home warm.
The Cold Weather Payment is a £25 payment for every seven days that are deemed as “very cold weather” (zero degrees celsius or below over a consecutive period of seven days) between the 1st of November and the 31st of March each year.
You don’t need to apply for the Cold Weather Payment. It’s paid automatically to people on Pension Credit and other benefits.
If you think you’re entitled to the Cold Weather Payment but you haven’t received it, contact your Pension Centre between November and March. The 2021 to 2022 Cold Weather Payment scheme has closed, and you’ll be able to check if you’re due payment in November 2022.
For full information on the Cold Weather Payment scheme, see this gov.uk page.
Winter Fuel Payment
If you were born on or before the 5th of October 1954 and have lived in the U.K. for at least one day from the 20th to the 26th of September 2021 (named by the government as the ‘qualifying week’), you may be eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment. This is a set amount of between £100 to £300 to help residents to pay their heating bills during the winter months.
Payments are issued in November and December of each year, and any fees you receive will not impact any other benefit allowances. The amount you will receive depends on:
- Your age
- The age of other people you live with
- Whether you live in a house/flat or a care home
- Whether you or your partner receive Pension Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Employment and Support Allowance.
There is no need to apply for the Winter Fuel Payment; if you’re eligible, it should be paid to you automatically. If you think you should be receiving it, and aren’t currently, take a look at the gov.uk page on the Winter Fuel Payment.
Warm Home Discount Scheme
If you receive the Guarantee Credit top-up for Pension Credit (known as the ‘core group’), or if you’re on a low income and are in the ‘broader group’ as classified by your energy supplier, you could be eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme.
This scheme gives you a one-time discount of up to £140 on your electricity bill between October and March, and the money is taken directly from your electricity bill.
Depending on your eligibility, there are different ways in which you need to apply. For those on a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter, your electricity provider will be able to tell you how you need to apply and if you’re eligible, while for permanent residents of park/mobile homes, please view this page for application details.
For those on low incomes, there’s an opportunity to apply directly to energy suppliers – this is true even if you don’t get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit. You must meet the following criteria:
- Have an energy supplier who accommodates the Warm Home Discount Scheme
- Be on a low income
- Receive ‘means-tested’ benefits (being part of the ‘broader group’).
For a list of suppliers currently obliging by the Warm Home Discount Scheme, take a look at this list.
Affordable Warmth Obligation
If you receive certain benefits and live in a home which you rent from a private landlord or own yourself, or live in social housing, you can be eligible for insulation for your loft or cavity walls, or a variety of boiler-related upgrades, such as replacing or repair work.
For those eligible but in rented accommodation, any alterations must be with the consent of the landlord. There is a long list of criteria which can make you eligible, which you can read here.
If you’re not eligible for this scheme, you can still get access to free advice from Each Home Counts.
Can I Get a Loan to Install Solar Panels?
It is possible to get a loan to install solar panels, but as with all loans, there is the inherent importance of keeping up with repayments to avoid costly interest payments further down the line. It can be easy to be sucked into this type of offer as home improvements can be billed as ‘free’, but they are far from that.
If you are sure you can keep up with repayments, it can be a good solution, but it is one to approach with caution as with all loan scenarios.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?
Depending on the size of your home – and of your roof – the price you can expect to pay for solar panels can vary. For a four-panel roof, you can expect costs of between £1,800 to £3,000, which is typically suitable for a home with one adult.
On the other end of the spectrum, for homes of four or more people, 16 to 24 solar panels may be required to generate the energy needed. This can range from £5,700 to over £10,000, depending on the roof space.
For full information on solar panels and their associated costs, take a look at our dedicated page.
Are Solar Panels the Right Choice for My Home?
With such a big change coming with switching your energy type, you want to be sure that it’s the right choice for you. Let’s take a look at the key advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.
|Solar panels take advantage of an infinitely renewable energy source||Some homeowners and buyers don’t like the aesthetic appearance of solar panels, which may deter some from purchasing|
|Your home will become more energy-efficient, which in turn will reduce your energy bill outgoings||If you live in a hot country, the high temperatures can negatively affect your solar panels and reduce their efficiency|
|Your home value can be increased after the installation of solar panels, owing to the hallmarks of energy efficiency||If you have a north-facing roof, or if your home is in a shaded area (such as beneath large trees), you may not see the benefits as you won’t be receiving the full energy of the sun on your solar panels|
|The climate of the UK is perfect for harnessing the sun’s power, as higher temperatures from hotter countries can interfere with the chemical process inside the panels which can end up reducing the output||Solar panel installation can be expensive if you aren’t able to take advantage of grants|
The main advantages of solar panels are their reliance on renewable energy rather than fossil fuels to heat and power our homes. They can save you money in the long run if you enrol in schemes such as the RHI, and you can be paid for any electricity you give to the National Grid.
The disadvantages are the upfront cost of having solar panels installed if you aren’t able to get a grant for this. In some cases, you might struggle if you own a listed building and might have to opt for solar tiles instead to get around planning permission, which can cost more than regular PV panels.
Do I Need Planning Permission to Install Solar Panels?
Typically speaking, solar panels fall under permitted development when it comes to planning permission, meaning you don’t usually need to apply for it. There are cases where this rule differs, such as if you live in a listed or protected building, or are within a restrictive covenant.
You’re less likely to get permission for solar panels on a listed building, but solar tiles might be permitted as they can be more sympathetic to the building’s design. For full information, take a look at the planning portal’s page.
How Can I Get a Free Boiler?
Older boilers can become inefficient and will require more energy to power your home. Upgrading an old boiler is a great way to improve your energy efficiency while using less power to heat the same space.
The ECO scheme entitles low-income households to an energy-efficient boiler upgrade, either for free or with a large discount. Where a boiler isn’t possible, alternative heat-saving options can be considered too, such as loft insulation, solid wall insulation, or cavity wall insulation.
Can I Get a Grant for Double Glazing?
Upgrading your windows to double or triple glazing in some exposed areas can help to bring your energy bills down as less heat is being lost through the window panes. To be eligible for a double glazing grant, you must be on certain benefits and live in a certain type of property.
The grant can cover replacing existing single glazed windows with double glazing, or improving existing double glazed windows if they don’t meet current building regulations. To see a full list of cooperating companies, take a look at this page, and to find out more detail about double glazing grants, take a look at our dedicated page.
The Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) is a government-backed energy efficiency scheme running in Great Britain to help reduce both carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty.
This scheme prompts suppliers to offer measures that aim to improve the quality of life for those with low incomes, or fuel poor, as well as vulnerable households, helping individuals to heat their homes during the colder months. This can be seen in heating savings, giving free upgrades to more energy-efficient appliances or heating apparatus.
If you would like to read more on Ofgem’s guidance for the ECO scheme, you can do so here. This will show you the steps they’re taking to achieving their goals, from supplier administration through to delivery, showing how suppliers will hit their obligations and other technical aspects.
The Boiler Upgrade Scheme was launched in April 2022 and replaced the Renewable Heat Incentive. The scheme offers grants of up to £6,000 towards the cost of installing a GSHP, subject to certain conditions. You must be a registered MCS installer in order to apply.
The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) pays back homeowners with renewable electricity systems for the amount of low-carbon electricity they generate and export back to the National Grid. This can be for solar photovoltaic (solar PV), wind, micro combined heat and power, hydro or anaerobic digestion, all of which must be located within Great Britain to be eligible.