Social rent homes get eco-upgrades in £12.8m scheme


John Philips, who lives in a Victory Homes house in Swanton Morley, shows off the solar panels installed on his roof as part of the scheme

More than 250 households have so far benefitted from a £12.8m project to install air source heat pumps (ASHPs), solar panels and external wall insulation in social rent housing across the East of England.

The scheme is being funded by social housing provider Flagship Group and the government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF).

Among those to benefit are John, 83, and Dorothy Philips, 77, who live in Swanton Morley, Norfolk, in a home managed by Victory Homes, part of Flagship.  

Mr Philips, a retired carpenter and joiner, has helped build everything from stage play scenery to a nuclear fallout shelter, but said the new solar panels and heat pump at his home were just as impressive.

He said: “We’re very happy with it. We are at 18 degrees all the time and have constant hot water 24 hours a day.” 


John Philips with his air source heat pump

The first wave of the upgrade scheme was delivered in 2022-23, in partnership with West Suffolk Council. It was funded by £1.5m from the government fund and £2.5m from Flagship.  This wave saw upgrades to 151 homes, with 52 getting heat pumps and solar panels, and 99 being upgraded with external wall insulation.

The second wave started last year and runs until 2025, with £4.4m contributed by the government and matched by Flagship. More than 100 homes have already had upgrades in this wave.

Claire Papworth, retrofit team manager at Flagship, said heat pumps were more efficient than gas boilers because they are designed to work at a steady temperature.

She said: “It's comparable to the miles per gallon in your car - the more efficiently you drive your car the more miles you will get per gallon.

“A heat pump is most efficient when it can maintain a constant lower temperature, rather than turning it on and off and turning the thermostat up. This ensures the home stays warm for a longer period so the heat pump is not working hard trying the heat the home. 

“With boilers, for every £1 you spend you’re only getting about 90p back in energy because they’re not totally efficient.

“But for every 1kWh (kilowatt-hour) you draw from the grid with a heat pump, you get 3kWh back, so effectively you are getting £3 worth for every £1 you pay for.

 "We ensure that insulation levels are up to standard alongside ASHP installs to help reduce the amount of energy required to heat your home and to retain the heat provided by the ASHP. In doing so the energy reduction will help reduce energy costs."

Ms Papworth said the overall aim of the project is to reduce emissions.

 Flagship’s Net Zero Strategy is centred around upgrading all its homes to the energy-efficient EPC C/SAP 69 rating by 2030.