How much energy-saving help can you expect to get?

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What has happened?

The Government has forced the energy companies to pay £910m towards energy-saving measures and will offer free insulation to the poor and half-price insulation to other households.

Should I lag my loft?

Almost certainly. There should be 27cm (10 inches). Loft insulation pays back in less than two years if you do it yourself, or three years if professionally installed. It will be quicker now with the new discounts. Higher fuel bills will also make insulation more economical.

Is it hard to install insulation?

No. For lofts, you have to buy insulation from a DIY store and lay it on the floor wearing protective gear.

How much will it cost?

Under the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target scheme paid for by energy companies, insulation is free for those on benefits and older than 70. The professional cost of installation should fall from about £500 to £250 with the discount.

Is there anything else I can do to lower my bills?

Yes. Save energy: wear a jumper before flicking on the heating, close curtains at dusk, turn off lights. Cut your energy costs by switching to the cheapest deal: an internet tariff paid by monthly direct debit.

What about solar panels?

Many other energy efficiency measures are recommended beforehand, such as insulating the loft, switching to eco-lightbulbs, installing a new boiler, lagging pipes and fitting draught excluders. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' claim that solar panels take 100 years to pay back is wrong. It's about 20 years – and falling with every rise in fuel bills.

How can I get help?

Ask your energy company what help it offers under the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target scheme or call the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012.