The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry


Warm up New Zealand .. heat smart

Posted on: June 18th, 2009 | Filed in Architecture & Construction

Home insultion New Zealand government grants to insulate your homeThe government today officially launched the insulation and heating scheme announced in the budget last month. This initiative is designed to address a real issue which plagues NZ homes – inadequate insulation.

The undeniable fact is that a vast number of NZ homes are inadequately insulated leading to serous health impacts as well as wasted energy. Personally having been brought up in the UK and having lived in a country like Sweden I was staggered when I moved to NZ to see so many homes (almost all in the Auckland region) with no fitted heated system.

People always assume that if you live in a country like Sweden you must be every hardy to cope with sub-zero temperatures for months of the year – the reality is they are not as hardy as NZ’ers, they have houses that are super insulated coupled with true central heating. Every house, every office, every school, every factory is beautifully heated – the living conditions are excellent.

It begs the question why should NZ make excuses and have to put up with cold houses. The health advisors say that an ideal living room temperature is 18 degrees yet on average in NZ such rooms in winter barely reach 16 degrees.

So now with a $323m investment over 4 years the government is aiming to bring about change. The grant of up to $1,800 for a combination of insultion (ceiling and underfloor) and clean heating will apply for any home built before 2000. The intention is to see over the 4 years 180,000 homes insulted – that compares with only 60,000 homes insulated over the past 18 years.

The grants are not income related which means all the NZ housing stock will benefit, and potentially in 4 years time over half a million kiwis will be living in better insulated homes.

Creating a truly warm living environment goes far beyond just insulating the roof and underfloor, good design can play a large part; as with  double glazing, adequate draft preventions and more efficient heating systems, and in older houses – wall insulation. However any improvement in insulation is to be encouraged.

Applications for these grants need to be made through service providers in your area – ful details on this Ecca website. Take advantage because having lived in beautifully insulated homes, the benefits it brings are immeasurable.

Article Discussion

  1. Given how cold it’s been in Auckland I’m glad I had Expol installed under the floor of my own property early last year!

    Makes a huge difference on these chilly mornings!

    Now how do I go about getting a retrospective grant?

  2. Kevin Goldsack says:

    Interested in this scheem. Our house was built 1974. Two back room are very damp. We are on an age beefit. Would like to know how we go about applying

  3. Kevin,

    Thanks for posting a comment – by the sounds of it your house would certainly benefit as well as fit the criteria.

    The process (as I have read) is that you need to contact a local installer of ceiling insulation or underfloor insulation and they manage the process – they will assess your house and put together a quotation. You will then be eligible to a grant of a third of the cost up to a maximum of $1,300. I cannot confirm as yet if you apply to Ecca for the grant or the installer get reimbursed by the government. First step speak to a local installer.

  4. Andrew Burns says:

    My wife is fench and was horrified at how cold NZ houses were when she moved to NZ.

    As a landlord, i was interested in this concept but put off when the insulation had to be installed by approved installers to qualify for the subsidy at a estimated cost of $6000 for a medium sized house minus the grant (from memory).

    If you are prepared to get dusty it is very easy to install insulation and many landlords have the ability and willingness to get into and even enjoy DIY projects. Allowing self installation would allow more tenants to be warm and cosy.

  5. Alistair,
    I think this is connected to the salaries here in NZ. Comparing new build techniques & levels of insulation with the UK, it is difficult to build better here and be competitive with the very cheapest methods used here.
    What I’m trying to say is that the market decides.

    One major aspect that does not appear to be covered well is the insulation of the concrete slab in new builds. Often there is none, but even when there is some, it does not appear to include the most important part…the edge.
    One of my pet subjects at the moment:

    I think most of us here are penguins!

  6. Steve,

    I could not agree with you more. As part of my previous life I worked for Fletcher Building in the concrete division and have worked on residential solutions incorporating passive thermal benefits. However as you rightly say if the primary building slab is not adequately insulated then the benefits can be lost.

    The key Firth product of Rib Raft offers a massive insulation benefit as well as saving on concrete costs with smart design for structural internal walls etc. However the edge slab insulation is so key. The design detailing you have provided is great – thanks for sharing this, I am sure others will benefit from this perspective and insight.

  7. David Wills says:

    I was also horrified by the quality of houses in this country, particularly with reference to how warm they are. Having been brought up in Europe and seen the superb insulation standard that the Germans work to – or the Bulgarians for that matter – I was very surprised at the igloo I was offered for more than the price of the UK detached brick home I had left. The UK house had central heating and the NZ one had a pot belly for heating. The UK house was double skinned brick with foam insulation and the NZ one was wood clad over jib with no insulation. The UK had underfloor and ceiling insulation but the NZ had neither. The UK had double glazing and here we didn’t. The list goes on.

    I am also earning more here than I was in the UK. So I’m not sure how that equation stacks up with the claim made above regarding wages being less leading to the market deciding that we prefer to live in a fridge. If the wages are less than the UK then the operational cost of building should be less. Furthermore in terms of materials I would have also thought that building a double skinned brick wall weighing several tons two storeys up in the air would have been slower, harder, more dangerous and therefore more expensive in terms of safety requirements and material transportation costs than a single storey timber frame that can be clad by hand.

    Frankly what I see is badly built houses at exorbitant prices where it is clear that the focus has been on profit for the builder and their supply chain rather than the quality of build for the customer.

  8. David

    You make some very interesting and valid points. I think the issue is not salaries.

    The fact is one of scale – the NZ housing market has around 22,000 new builds each year. The vast majority of these are custom builds of homes for individual owners who buy a design and build service from a building company.

    That company is not selling a home as a “living experience” instead they are selling a pack of materials and a contracted labour team to build in x weeks. The issue is that the budget of the homeowner is always going to be distracted to glitzy taps and bi-fold doors as tangible features than hidden benefits such as underfloor insulation or double glazing.

    Compare that to the UK (a market I have bought homes in) where you buy from a group home builder (Wimpey and Bryant – both of which I have owned) – in that situation you buy a warm comfortable home ready built where the only decision you make is the colour of the tiles in the bathroom.

    The fact is NZ does not really have any large home spec builders to whom you can buy a house today and move into in a month so there is no opportunity for economies of scale in construction and materials – imagine how many doors and windows Bryant Homes in the UK buy each year and the economies of scale that provides.

    NZ is waking up to these issues slowly – the new Building Code requires double glazing and full insulation – the problem is that for too long I think NZ’ers really did believe they lived in a sub tropical paradise where 5 months of winter colds were the price to pay for those long summer days!!

  9. Alistair,
    Apologies for the delay in replying to you.
    Thanks for the link about RibRaft. I had heard about it, but not got round to checking it out, and I wanted to have a proper look before replying.
    I feel a bit bad about the result :(
    I may have missed something, but with the lack of edge insulation, and the thermal bridging of the ribs, my conclusion is pretty much what I expected :(

  10. Until recently I practised as an architect in the UK working mainly on residential extensions and alterations. The rigid phenolic insualtion we specified (Celotex, Kingspan etc) gives you roughly twice the R-values of the pink batts stuff they are retro-fitting in homes here. If you are going to all that trouble why not do it properly? Celotex seems to be unavailable here but I have found an Auckland-based firm that does the Kingspan Kooltherm range.

  11. Hi Alasdair,
    Forman’s have quite a range you might find interesting if you don’t know them.
    This may be similar:

Post your views