Around 2,000 homes were destroyed in Victorian bushfires in February this year, and a further 1,400 were left uninhabitable.

The home owners are to be offered a rebate of up to $1,600 (£830) to install solar hot water heating when they rebuild their properties, or $1,000 (£520) for installing a heat pump system.

The rebate is widely offered to those retrofitting existing homes, but is not normally available to those building from scratch.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the Government was making an exception for those whose properties had been destroyed in the fires.

“This is another leg up to help these communities as they rebuild and it will have long-term environmental benefits as well,” Mr Garrett said.

“Solar hot water can save a family up to $700 on their energy bills and help cut down their impact on climate change – it’s one of the most simple and effective ways to make your home more energy efficient.”

Until recently, the full $1,600 was also available for heat pumps, but Government says that the $600 cut more accurately reflects the cheaper cost of the systems compared with solar hot water heating.

“Heat pumps are typically a lot cheaper than solar hot water systems, so this change provides a fairer balance between the gap that householders have to pay,” said Mr Garrett.

“We’re offering $1000 back on heat pump systems which can start at around $3000, and a $1,600 rebate on solar hot water systems which start at about $4,200.

“We know there will be some people affected by the transition – people who can show they bought their heat pump prior to 5 September 2009 can apply for the higher rebate.”

Sam Bond

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