Getting it together, whatever the weather

The news has been awash with stories about North America’s Polar Vortex and Australia’s record breaking heat waves while New Zealanders bask under a fairly moderate summer sun.  From around the globe, we’re hearing more and more about extreme temperature variations and while we’re not in the worst of it we do have our own struggles with temperature and it’s nation-wide.

While we don’t experience the depths of cold that the US’s Polar Vortex has wrought, our average winter overnight temperature is around 13.5 degrees; well below World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) recommendation for healthy homes. WHO research has shown that if your home is consistently below 18°C, you are much more likely to suffer from colds, bronchitis and asthma. We have one of the highest asthma rates in the world, and it’s no coincidence that up to 70% of our homes are inadequately insulated.

A Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences showed a huge number of benefits when houses were insulated; “significantly warmer” living environs, a significant improvement in self-reported health, fewer visits to GPs (both adults and children), being less likely to report sick days and reporting less visible mould. If you’re interested you can read the full report here.

The impact of poorly insulated homes is well understood; the costs to the Government is huge – in subsidies and health costs and it’s just as financially debilitating for many ordinary families with rising energy costs, doctors’ fees and lost work hours.

2013 saw a swath of initiatives in New Zealand to create warmer homes including the Government’s Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme and independent proposals by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford – each of which is seeking regulatory commitment to a minimum standard of insulation for all homes.

Two things are happening here; the first is that we fully expect the burden of responsibility for effective insulation to be placed on home owners rather than continue to draw on the public purse. The second is that current funding only exists for specific, at-risk groups and only for ceiling and underfloor insulation.

Tony Naidu of HeatSavers makes it very clear, “Insulating underfloors and ceilings which is what the subsidy provides for, gives you an average winter temperature increase of less than one degree.  By completing the thermal envelope, by insulating the walls as well; the average winter temperature increase is around 4-5 degrees, and of course it’s also cooler in summer”.

WHO recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 180C or 200C for more vulnerable groups; and a minimum overnight bedroom temperature of 160C.  Says Naidu, “One degree above our 13.5 average doesn’t get us over the line, but completing the thermal envelope by insulating the walls? Right there is the 4-5 degrees that makes a difference”.

For most home owners, cost, time and mess are the biggest barriers to insulating, particularly for rental properties.  “Landlords don’t want to lose weeks of revenue while running up insulation costs and we understand that.  Our product is injected straight into the walls; so no stripping of gib and sending it to landfill, and it’s safe to do with your tenants in situ. What’s more the process takes days not weeks, and it costs a quarter to a third of traditional insulation methods when retrofitting insulation into house walls.”

The real benefit is the immediate difference in temperature.  Not only a more pleasant environment in which to live, but instant savings on heating and cooling… not to mention those dreaded medical bills. 

Otago University estimates that NZ homes spend an average of $2,000 per year on energy and by far the largest percentage (34%) is spend on space heating. That’s almost $700 per year on heating rooms, and that’s just the average – chances are bigger homes and colder parts of the country are spending much more.

Says Naidu, “Insulation is an upfront cost but we offer great finance terms and we know that home owners will see the return financially as well as through associated health benefits. Now’s a good time to look into it, and beat the winter rush”.

If you’d like to find out more about insulation your home, contact HeatSavers for a free, no-obligation quotation. For health, wealth and well-being, it’s an investment well worth checking out.

 

Author Cara Tipping Smith