Last week I explained how the Government's new Green Deal scheme works. It provides a loan for you to invest in improvements that make your home more energy efficient, such as double glazing, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation.
You can also use a Green Deal loan to invest in electricity and heat-generating technologies for the home, such as solar panels, biomass boilers, and ground and air source heat pumps.
The loan is paid off through your electricity bill over a number of years and as the improvements are designed to cut your home's energy bills, the loan becomes the responsibility of the new owner if you sell up and move on.
Extra help is available under the Green Deal for people who live in period properties, have a low income or are on benefits. There's a Green Deal Cashback Scheme in England and Wales (visit http://gdcashback.decc.gov.uk) and a Green Homes Cashback Scheme in Scotland (visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland).
The Green Deal is new, but other Government schemes with similar aims have been going for some time.
If you're considering installing electricity-generating equipment, such as solar electric panels or a wind turbine, the Government's Feed-In Tariffs scheme won't help with the cost of the installation, but it will (providing the equipment qualifies) pay you once the equipment's up and running.
Introduced almost three years ago, Feed-In Tariffs pays out for both the electricity you generate and use at home and any surplus electricity you export back to the National Grid. Add to this the savings you'll make on your electricity bills by generating your own electricity, and it can be an attractive option. You get the payments from your energy supplier, and the tariffs are guaranteed for up to 20 years.
If you're interested in using a renewable heat technology at home, another Government scheme, the Renewable Heat Incentive, fits the bill, but it's not due to start for homeowners until later this year.
Providing they meet the scheme's criteria, ground and air source heat pumps, solar thermal (hot water) panels, pellet stoves with back boilers, and biomass boilers should qualify for payments, with a different tariff applying to each. The tariffs are due to be paid for seven years for every kilowatt-hour of heat produced.
Until the Renewable Heat Incentive is introduced for homeowners, the Renewable Heat Premium Payment provides grants to help with the cost of installing renewable heat technologies at home.
The grants apply in England, Wales and Scotland, and range from £300 towards the cost of solar thermal panels to £1,250 for water or ground source heat pumps. However, the scheme is due to finish at the end of March this year, so time is fast running out.
Also finishing at the end of March is the Home Renewables Loan scheme, an initiative in Scotland to provide interest-free loans to help with the cost of buying and installing heat and electricity-generating domestic systems. Loans are on a first come, first served basis, with up to £10,000 available for renewable heat technologies and up to £2,000 for electricity-generating equipment.
Detailed information on all these schemes is available at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk, where there are links to other relevant websites.
Product of the week
If you're looking for a great multipurpose power saw for DIY, gardening and cutting firewood down to size, look no further than the Bosch PSA 900 E Electronic Sabre Saw (£75.95, www.tooled-up.com).
The saw's quite big and heavy, but it's also balanced and ergonomic, with non-slip grips at the back and front and a variable-speed trigger so you feel in control.
Changing the blade is easy, and the impressive 900W motor powers through wood, metal, plastic and more.
The best way to try out a paint colour is to apply a little to all the walls, or at least the wall that gets most light and the wall that gets least, so you have a good idea of how the whole room will look.
Do two coats and leave to dry for the full effect, but don't apply the paint too thickly, or you'll have to sand it afterwards.
You can paint pieces of paper instead of the walls. These are easy to move from wall to wall, but the colour won't necessarily look the same on the paper as on the walls, which could be disastrous.