Insulation in the roof or walls of your property can save you hundreds of pounds a year by keeping heat inside the home, and reducing the need to keep your radiators pumping away. Loft insulation alone can slash a home's heating costs by 15%.

So insulation is a better solution for the environment, it's quick to install (around two hours) and best of all it's free – under the right circumstances. You don't even need to be a customer of the company that provides the work.

A little research into the other freebies around could also see you saving big money. Grants and support for homes utilising solar and wind power are available from a number of sources, so it is worth digging around.

For example, British Gas calculates that cavity wall insulation alone could create a £250 saving for the homeowner of a detached house, while loft insulation could save a similar amount. Around a third of the heat that a house loses escapes through the walls, with another quarter going through the roof.

Application can be made online here and is based on a number of criteria, including:

• The condition of the house

Houses built in the 1990s are likely to have the insulation already.

Houses built after 1920 are likely to have a gap in-between the walls, and filling that cavity with foam or mineral wool provides the dual purpose of keeping cold out and trapping warmth inside the house.

If the house is suffering from damp this needs to be rectified before work can proceed.

• Income

Houses 10Under the ECO (Energy Company Obligation) the big six energy suppliers are obliged to support energy improvements for people on certain benefits, for those in solid wall properties and for households in the poorest parts of the UK.

British Gas has no income criteria for providing free insulation, but other companies are different. You'll need to be receiving benefits such as pension credit and there is also an income cut-off point of £15,860, so if you earn more than this you may not qualify.

Companies which offer free insulation under those circumstances include EDF, Npower and E.on – visit their websites to find out more.

If you live in a housing association property or a council house the insulation should be arranged by the company that owns the house. If you live in a block of flats the whole block will need to get it, although it's similarly unlikely that you will be living in a block of flats that you own.

• Installation

There's no need to worry about marks in the walls, as all drilling is done outside. A series of 22mm holes (around the size of a 10p) will be drilled, the insulation material will be pumped into the gap, and the holes will then be filled – a simple, swift task. If this is impossible certain grants might be available for 'hard to treat' cavities through the government's Green Deal.

Loft insulation in a semi-detached house costs around £300, which would take 18 months to a year to pay for itself in energy savings. In the loft the 270-300mm insulation will be rolled out onto the floor, which of course does take up space and reduces storage, but many lofts have rigid insulation boards on the joists of the loft so this is not usually a concern. In any event the savings you can make mean that it's a no-brainer.

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