What is the Great British Insulation Scheme?


It might sound like the next Bake Off spinoff, but what actually is the government’s new Great British Insulation Scheme (GBIS)? We’ve got the lowdown to guide you on if it could help you and how to apply.

What is the Great British Insulation Scheme?

The Great British Insulation Scheme is a government initiative to improve energy efficiency in eligible British homes. The scheme is exclusively for adding or upgrading home insulation with free or discounted installation. It is offered alongside the existing ECO4 scheme that can provide additional home energy efficiency upgrades to eligible low income households. 

There are a variety of different kinds of insulation that can be provided through GBIS:

  • cavity wall insulation.

  • internal or external solid wall insulation.

  • loft insulation.

  • flat or pitched roof insulation.

  • underfloor insulation.

  • solid floor insulation.

  • park home insulation.

  • room-in-roof insulation.

Apply online for support from GBIS.

How does insulation help me save?

The average household spends more than half their energy bill on heating and hot water according to the Energy Saving Trust1. Yet, a large amount of that heat simply escapes into the great outdoors through our windows, walls, roofs, and more. 

Insulating our homes is like wrapping them in a warm cosy blanket. The insulation helps to trap in the heat we are generating so our boiler doesn’t have to work quite so hard to keep us warm. This saves energy and money on heating our home. 

Which insulation does my home need?

Loft and roof insulation.

There are several places you can add insulation around your home. However, according to Energy Saving Trust around a quarter of heat escapes through the roof2, which makes roof and loft insulation a good place to start.

It’s currently recommended that, in homes without loft conversions, mineral wool insulation is added to a depth of 270mm throughout the loft space3. This should be installed between the joists with any board flooring laid on top - but not compressing the insulation. 

You can pick up mineral wool insulation from many DIY stores, as it is relatively easy to install yourself if your loft is accessible.

If you currently use your loft space as a room (most commonly due to a loft conversion) then the walls and ceiling should be insulated. Flat ceilings can use standard loft insulation. Sloping ceilings and vertical walls must be insulated via solid board roof insulation. Roof insulation will need professional installation, unlike the mineral wall loft insulation, and is generally more expensive.

Wall insulation.

Another leading cause of heat loss is through the walls. The Energy Saving Trust estimates around a third of all heat is lost through the walls of your home4. While that’s even more than the roof, it’s also not a job you can do yourself - which means it is usually more expensive.

Unlike loft insulation, the key factor when insulating walls is not the amount but the type of insulation. There are two main types of wall insulation, and it is important to identify which would work for your home. 

The majority of houses built after the 1920s will have cavity walls, and thus need cavity wall insulation. Houses built before this will usually have solid walls, and so need solid wall insulation - this may be installed internally or externally depending on the property. Solid wall insulation can be very disruptive to install and is usually significantly more expensive5. It is a good idea to try combining it with other redecorating or refurbishment work.

Unusual properties, such as timber framed houses, will need specialist advice on wall insulation as they may not be suitable for either.

Floor insulation.

Most people will only need to insulate the ground floor of their home, as heat will rise through the upper floors helping to keep them warm. If you have any rooms above unheated spaces, such as garages, workshops, or basements, it is also a good idea to insulate them.

Most modern houses have solid floors of concrete on the ground floor. However, older homes may have suspended timber floors. 

If you have an accessible basement the easiest way to check is to go down and have a look at the floor from below. If you can see joists and the underside of the floorboards it is a suspended timber floor. 

For homes without access below the ground floor, you will need to lift up a corner of the flooring (including underlay) to check. Another clue is if there are ventilation bricks in the walls below the ground floor level that are visible from outside the house. This means you probably have suspended timber floors.

It is generally much cheaper to insulate a suspended timber floor6, as mineral wool can be added between the joists - kept in place by netting. For DIYers this is a relatively straightforward job to attempt yourself, and all materials can be easily found from DIY stores. 

Solid floors must be insulated with a layer of rigid insulation that is professionally installed. The insulation can go below the floor if the concrete floor is being replaced. Alternatively it can be installed above, but this will increase the height of the floors. Bear in mind that this could create uneven floor heights between spaces or not line up with existing skirting boards and doors.

Energy efficiency advice for your home.

Ready to get energy smart? This video is full of useful tips for more efficient energy use in your home.

From smart meters to draft excluders, there are plenty of simple measures we can take to make the most of our home energy.

Am I eligible for GBIS? 

To get support from the GBIS your property must:

Homeowners, landlords, and tenants can all apply. However, tenants will need their landlord’s permission to proceed.

Unfortunately, the scheme is not currently available in Northern Ireland.

Please be aware that eligibility does not guarantee free insulation and installation - other factors will be assessed to determine the level of discount you are eligible for, if any.

Check your eligibility online.

How to apply for GBIS.

  1. To start the application process simply check your eligibility online via the government website. It only takes a few minutes to complete. Before starting it is a good idea to check your current Council Tax band, EPC rating, and whether you have cavity or solid walls.

  2. As part of the check you will need to submit who you currently get your energy supplied from. 

  3. If you are eligible for support from the GBIS you will be prompted to ‘Create a referral’. 

  4. This will pass on your application to your energy supplier who will get in touch to arrange a home assessment. The home assessment will identify which insulation options would be most beneficial for your home.

  5. If you are eligible for GBIS but need to contribute towards the cost of the installation, this will be made known to you after the home assessment. You can still choose to pull out of the process after the assessment if you don’t want to take on the cost.

And it’s that simple.

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Published 03/01/2024