In the first installment of this series, I detailed what the Green Deal was about and how I went about arranging an assessment, which is the first step in getting anything done. I had the assessment last week so it's now time to report back on how it went.
Price and Output
As detailed in my previous post, it took five calls before I reached someone who really knew what I wanted and could organise an assessment. Or so I thought. The second company on my list did call me back eventually, at which point I had to tell them that because they had called me two weeks after I had sent a request, I had already booked with someone else.
The first hurdle to overcome was a bit of confusion regarding pricing from the assessor. From what I understand, the process works like this:
- You get an assessment done,
- The assessment is "lodged" (not sure who with),
- As a result of that, you get a report,
- You take the report to a Green Deal Provider if it makes sense for you to have the works done under the Green Deal (more on that later).
The first step incurs an upfront cost for which I have been quoted a variety of prices:
- British Gas quoted me £99,
- The highest quote I got was £150,
- The company that actually organised the work quoted between £70 and £120 depending on the assessor (which turned out to be £99 in the end),
- Another company quoted £125.
However, the assessor was under the impression that the second step (lodging the assessment) would incur an additional charge. This was subsequently clarified and it appears that there is no extra charge. This is quite important because you only get a report after lodging the assessment. That report is what allows you to take the Go/No-go decision for the rest of the project so it's a rather important document. The upfront charge you are quoted has to include everything until you get that document because that's the amount of money you will invest whether you decide to do work under the Green Deal or not.
Considering the amount of information in the report, £99 is a reasonable price to pay for it as it enables you to understand exactly what needs doing, how much it's likely to cost, how much of it can be done under the Green Deal and how much has to come out of your own pocket. You can also take this report to any company dealing with energy efficiency if you decide not to get the work done under the Green Deal and they should be able to provide you with a quote. However, £299 as I was quoted at some point makes it a lot less appetising.
I would recommend that providers and assessors clarify their pricing and clarify the process. The initial assessment is money that the customer has to pay upfront and this needs to include delivering the report to them so it is vitally important that it be right and that it be quoted upfront so that customers can use it as part of their decision process.
The assessment itself involves capturing a lot of information about the property, measuring all sorts of things and taking lots of photographs. The assessors that visited my property were very knowledgeable and went through that quickly, despite having to occasionally fight against the capture software on their iPad.
The most difficult part of the assessment was getting consumption data. You need 12 months worth of consumption data both for electricity and gas as well as your tariffs so that potential savings can be calculated. Getting the actual consumption is easy, especially if you use EnergyDeck: go to the analytics, select a yearly period and hey presto you have the number you need. What makes it more complicated is the fact that tariffs have changed quite a bit over the past few years and some of them are far from clear. Gas was quite a challenge for a few reasons:
- My meter is in cubic feet while my tariff is against kWh and the assessor's software didn't have any cubic feet option, only cubic meters: I know we all want to go metric (and as a Frenchman I completely concur with the idea) but it'd be nice to support imperial units,
- The British Gas tariff is a two-tier tariff and I can't for the life of me work out what part of the consumption is under tier 1, what part is under tier 2,
- Most bills cover 3 or 4 months so you have to aggregate several of them to get to 12 months.
So a bit of preparation will go a long way: pull out all your bills for the past 12 months and do the calculations beforehand. Don't hesitate to average or round figures, you're only looking for an estimate.
The recommendations I was given verbally at the end of the assessment are in line with a similar exercise I did last year with another company, before the Green Deal existed. That's good, it adds credibility to the recommendations, which are:
- Loft insulation,
- Wall insulation,
- Under-floor insulation,
- Draft proofing,
- Change the boiler and install a thermostat,
- Solar-thermal system.
On the face of it, it sounds sensible. Talking it through with the assessor, we discounted 2 and 7 at least for now.
Regarding wall insulation, I live in a mid-terrace solid brick house. This means that the party walls are not considered for insulation and I am left with the front and back walls. It's a typical suburban house with a bay window at the front and French windows at the back, which means that the surface areas of the windows compared to the surface areas of the walls to insulate is quite large and from an insulation point of view, insulating the windows makes as much sense as insulating the walls. It's a solid wall construction so insulating the walls is a lot more expensive than insulating the windows. Finally, I am already 75% double-glazed so I just need to do the remaining 25% to have double glazing everywhere and I know by experience that those remaining 25% let in a massive amount of cold air in the winter.
Regarding solar-thermal, I have no objection to doing it but I want to have more information on the subject, in particular I want to compare it to a heat pump (ground or air source). My gut feel is that solar-thermal is the most practical option for my particular situation but I want to be sure.
So after discounting options 2 and 7, the estimate for the works came at roughly £7,000. However, the only options that are unconditionally covered by the Green Deal are 1 and 6 (and maybe 2); the others are covered under certain conditions, which I don't qualify for. I suspect that they are only covered by the Green Deal if you are on low income and already receive grants and benefits but I couldn't confirm that. What this means for me is that the portion covered under the Green Deal is slightly over £500. That leaves more than £6,000 to finance myself. In particular, neither double-glazing nor under-floor insulation are available to me under the Green Deal. I can understand the position on under-floor insulation as this is not an exact science yet. At that point it is clear that the Green Deal is not for me
There won't be a next step from a Green Deal point of view for me. This doesn't preclude me getting the work done though but I will have to finance it differently.
If we assume that the aim of the Green Deal is to help Britain meets its carbon reduction targets, it's in our interest that the largest number of people as possible can benefit from it. In order to do that, here are a few suggestions I have based on my experience with it:
- Make sure pricing is very clear and that all assessors know how much they will charge customers for the original assessment report and advise customers of that price.
- Consider including double-glazing in the measures that are available to everybody via the Green Deal, especially for solid wall houses as it can make a big difference and is better value for money than solid wall insulation.
- Research best practices for under-floor insulation so that this can be offered as a realistic option: there is no point in insulating lofts and walls if cold air still comes in from floors.
- There are many people who, despite not being on benefits and not generally getting any financial help, will struggle to finance such works, in particular self-employed people. It would be nice to help them as well.