ARTICLE Kylie Jurgensen. PHOTOPGRAPHY courtesy of Pink Batts

Insulate now in readiness for winter and you may well be surprised at how little it costs to insulate your home with the wide range of subsidies that are available.

Ask anyone who’s been there, the  ‘before’  and  ‘after’  experience of having insulation installed is nothing short of life changing – not to mention money saving! For far too long many New Zealanders have been toughing out our rugged winters in draughty, damp homes in which insulation at best has traditionally meant chucking a limited amount of insulating material in the ceiling.

Although we like to think of ourselves as a nation of outdoor types, statistically Kiwis spend an average of more than 90 percent of our time indoors. And although the World Health Organisation recommends that indoor temperatures should be at least 18 degrees Celsius (and 21 degrees Celsius for infants and the elderly), the average indoor temperature in many of our homes – especially those built before minimum insulation standards were introduced in 1978 –  hovers around a chilly 16 degrees Celsius. The results: inflated power bills, respiratory illnesses, allergies, damp, mould and increased health risks for at-risk sectors of the population.

Fortunately the tide is turning. Since 2007, significant changes to the Building Code have raised the standards of insulation for new homes and major renovations across different climate zones of the country. These requirements are specified in terms of R-values, a measure of how effectively a particular insulation product resists the flow of heat through it. An insulation product with a higher R-value resists heat transfer more effectively than a product with a low R-value.

Without insulation, the average Kiwi home loses a whopping 30 to 35 percent of its heat through the roof; 18 to 25 percent through the walls, 21 to 31 percent from windows, 12 to 14 percent through the floor, and another six to nine percent through air leakage. Improving insulation in any one of these areas will definitely make a difference to health and comfort levels in your home, but to be most effective, insulation needs to provide unbroken coverage as heat can escape through gaps such as ceiling downlight cavities and uninsulated window frames.

Insulation options

A wide range of different insulation products is available, and in most homes a combination of different products used for different areas of the house is likely to provide the best results. Common insulating products include wool (brands include Eco Fleece, Latitude, Terra Lana, Woolcote, Insulwool), mineral wool (Rockwool), glasswool (Bradford Gold, Pink Batts) polyester (Cocoon, Novafloor, Novatherm), polystyrene (Goldfoam, GreenStuf, Koolfoam, Lanwood EPS/Styrofit/Styrofoam, Polyfoam, Poly Palace, Retrotherm, Wunderfloor), cellulose fibre (Insul-fluf), fibreglass (Polygold), aluminium foil (Air-Cell, Silverzone, Sisalation, Thermabar) and foam (Airfoam).

Many brands offer a range of solutions for different R-ratings, generally priced per square metre with costs increasing as the R-rating gets higher. When you’re trying to find your way through the bewildering array of insulation products out there, it’s important to consider:

  • The degree of insulation required in terms of the purpose of the room/area.
  • Other factors contributing to the energy efficiency of the room/area, such as air sealing, heat sources, moisture control and ventilation.
  • Where the product will be installed (ease of access, fittings or fixtures that need to be accommodated, the type of coverage required).
  • Fire resistance.
  • Vermin resistance.
  • Ability to withstand rot and mould.
  • Performance over time – most products will shrink, compact or decay over time and become less efficient so this should be factored into the cost.
  • Independent verification of any standards/claims made about the product’s effectiveness.
  • Cost/ease of installation.
  • Levels of toxicity, potential irritants.
  • Environmental-friendliness of the product.

Government funding

If you are planning to insulate a property it is worth checking to see whether or not you are eligible for funding to subsidise the project. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s (EECA) Energywise funding is available under the government’s  ‘Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart’  programme for houses built before 2000. You can get 33 percent of the total (GST inclusive) cost of installing ceiling and underfloor insulation to recommended levels, up to a maximum of $1,300. Homeowners with Community Services Cards or property owners whose tenants have Community Services Cards are eligible for 60 percent of the total cost of the insulation project.

To access EECA funding, you need to find an insulation installer who is an approved service provider. A list of approved service providers is available on the Energywise website at www.energywise.govt.nz. Contact the service provider directly, and get them to come round to your property and provide a quote for installing the insulation. If you are happy to go ahead with the work, you should be able to have your home insulated within a few weeks. The provider will complete the work, bill you for your portion of the total cost, and contact EECA directly to get payment for the subsidized portion. However, it’s worth noting that you cannot apply for EECA funding for work that you do yourself, or for work that has already been completed.

Additional financial support

Some local and regional councils provide financial assistance with insulation costs in addition to the EECA funding. The type of assistance varies depending on the council but in most cases it consists of a loan for the unfunded portion of the insulation costs, which is paid back with interest over a nine to 10 year period as part of the homeowner’s rates costs. Participating councils currently include Auckland Council, Chatham Islands Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Hawkes Bay Regional Council, Marlborough District Council, Nelson City Council, and Tasman District Council.
In the Auckland region, projects such as  ‘Warm  ‘n Well’  and  ‘Snug Homes’  provide fully funded home insulation for low income homeowners with children, or family members suffering from housing-related respiratory disease. The  ‘Healthier Homes’  programme in the Waikato also provides free insulation for properties occupied by Community Services Card holders. The programme is managed by WEL Networks on behalf of WEL Energy Trust and further details are available at www.wel.co.nz. Many of these programmes are not particularly widely advertised so it is worth contacting your local council as well as your energy company directly to find out if they are offering financial support for insulation projects.

Most banks have also agreed to waive fees for top-up loans taken out by homeowners in order to install insulation under the EECA’s Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme. When you have a quote from a local EECA approved insulation installer, contact different banks to find out what assistance they can offer.

You might be interested in reading: Environmentally friendly home insulation.

 
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This article by Kylie Jurgensen featured in 002 of New Zealand Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.
 

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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