Eight things I wish I’d known about using Cocoon

2011: August

I wrote yesterday about getting my home insulated with Cocoon, the subsidised scheme where you can get loft or cavity wall insulation done for just £99. I’m very happy we had it done, but there are a few things I wish I’d known before I started the process, things that weren’t clear from the Cocoon website or the literature I saw before booking. 

You get to choose which company carries out the work... but you won’t find out what those companies are until you ring up. I hadn’t heard of any of them, so I picked InstaGroup because at the time they had a slightly shorter turnaround time than the other three. There are now five, and I’ll give you their names now so you can check out their websites and think about which you’d prefer. Bear in mind that they will all be fully qualified to do the work in question.

Miller Pattison (SIG) 
Green Puzzle 
Carillion Energy

The surveyor will need access to the house and the garden. Tidy up so it’s easy for them to move around quickly. The InstaGroup surveyor turned up to my house half an hour early and nearly fell over a clothes-horse full of washing that I hadn’t had time to put away. I moved the clothes-horse to the bottom of the garden, only to find him backing into it again as he tried to take a photo of the outside of the house. 

You may be asked to sign something that isn’t quite right. The InstaGroup surveyor tried to make me sign a piece of paper that said  “Our technician has told you that you need extra vents [in your attic]”, although he assured me that we did not need any extra vents. My signature would have made it look as if I’d been advised to get extra vents but was choosing to ignore the technician’s advice – completely not true. We had a disagreement about this because he couldn’t see why I wouldn’t just go ahead and sign. My solution was to cross out the untrue section about the technician’s advice before signing. As ever, if you’re asked to sign something, read it carefully. 

The loft insulation installers will not lift any boarding in your attic. They won’t lay insulation on top of boarding either. If your attic is more than two-thirds boarded, they won’t carry out the work at all; the survey will make it clear whether or not this is the case. The good news about this is that if you have boxes in the attic, you can push them onto the boards instead of moving them out of the attic.

You may have to chase your chosen company to book the work. My survey was done in early August, and I was told that someone would “be in touch shortly”, but a month later nothing had happened, so I rang InstaGroup myself to set a date for the work. 

You’ll need to do a bit of preparation.  When we finally got a date, I rang InstaGroup and asked “Is there anything we need to know? Anything we need to do to prepare the house for the work?” and was told there wasn’t. In reality, you will need to:

  • Clear your stuff out of the loft if you’re getting loft insulation done (or push it onto any boarded areas)
  • Make sure the outside walls are clear if you’re having cavity wall insulation done
  • Talk to your neighbours about any access that may be needed (our cavity wall insulation required access to the neighbours’ garden)
  • Warn your neighbours that you’ll have one, possibly two, lorries in the street on the day of the work.

The insulation firm won’t necessarily tell you all this, because to them it’s too obvious to be worth mentioning. We squeezed this information out of InstaGroup by guessing what might need to be done and then ringing them to confirm it. Every question got the answer, “Well, obviously you’ll need to do that, yes.”

There will be dust. The InstaGroup workmen were brilliant at cleaning up after the work, but installing cavity wall insulation will inevitably mean a layer of brick-dust outside the house. It will coat plants if they’re near the house and make the outside of your windows filthy. So don’t do what we did and clean all the windows the week before the work. 

You’ve got to book quickly. The bargain £99 deal depends on a subsidy from central government, topped up by West Oxfordshire District Council, and this subsidy (known as CERT funding) will end in the next 14 months. From autumn 2012, the government’s Green Deal will make it easier for homeowners to pay for insulation work, but the help will be in the form of affordable loans rather than subsidised discounts.  Anybody who needs this work done should grab a £99 deal now, before it’s too late. 

I hope this slightly cautionary blog post hasn’t put anyone off taking advantage of the Cocoon scheme. If you’ve read this far, you’ll find the whole experience much easier than I did. As someone once said: “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself."