Why Insulation Matters For All New Zealanders

The Green Party unveiled its insulation policy for this year’s election, making headlines during a freezing winter blast across New Zealand.  "Our new housing policy will ensure all New Zealanders have a warm, dry and healthy home," said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.  The coverage this policy announcement received shows this will be an area of importance in the lead up to this year’s election.  It is our opinion that this should not be a divisive election issue as we believe all parties support every New Zealander living in a warm, dry, healthy home.  The previous “Warm Up New Zealand Scheme” has made a difference both socially and economically, it unfortunately has proven to not be enough as there are still hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders living in cold, damp homes.  As an expert in the insulation industry, we encourage this discussion and we hope this leads to more help being given to the many of us that are living in substandard conditions.  Since this is currently proving to be an election issue, it is important for our industry to help educate New Zealanders about how insulation works so they can be better informed when reviewing any party’s policy in this area.  A key area that has been neglected in the old scheme and by all parties currently is the importance of completing the thermal envelope of the house for all New Zealanders, which includes walls and windows. 

 

We wholeheartedly support improving the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders, as we believe all politicians do.  There is no doubt that a well-insulated home is a healthier home.  New Zealand is a developed country, a democracy that believes in equity, so why do so many of us live in substandard conditions.  We’ve written many other articles talking about this, so if you don’t believe in the importance of this issue yet, please take some time to read them and follow up with the other research that confirms the importance of completely insulating your home.  A completely insulated home is warmer than one with just its ceiling and underfloor insulated.  Every new home built in New Zealand after 1991 has insulation in the ceiling, walls and underfloor under the NZ Building Code for a reason. 

 

So why does the old scheme and this announced policy to expand the current scheme exclude walls and windows again for the majority of New Zealand? 

 

Here is how insulation works in simple terms:

  1. Warm air rises and escapes first from your ceilings.
  2. If your ceiling is insulated the warm air will hit the ceiling and move downwards looking for the next easiest place to leave. 
  3. If your walls aren’t insulated, the warm air will escape through your walls next as most homes have more wall space than windows and while walls may look solid, without proper insulation their thermal effectiveness is minimal.
  4. If your windows aren’t thermally protected, the warm air will escape next through them.
  5. If the ceilings, walls and windows are insulated, only then does the underfloor become a significant area for heat loss. 
  6. Once all your insulation is completed, heat pumps and other clean heating sources are great.  In a well-insulated home they will run efficiently (not all the time) meaning lower energy bills each month.

 

These are just insulation facts, not opinions.  HeatSavers does insulate walls, however, we aren’t the only option.  There are other products that can be put into walls without removing claddings, and there is the option of removing the cladding and putting in batts.  The point of this is to say it doesn’t matter what product you use, obviously we think there are benefits to our product, what matters is that insulating walls should be part of this and any other insulation/energy policy.  Yes, there is a small provision for Christchurch homes in the Greens policy to have their walls included in getting a subsidy, however, this is the only reference to insulating walls we can find from any party, and even this is policy is only a small number of the New Zealand homes that need more than their ceiling and underfloor insulated.

 

So why doesn’t every political party work together to develop a joint policy on insulation?  The benefits for the economy have surely been proven with published research and the results of the previous scheme.  Surely that is a reasonable indicator that spending on insulation to help every New Zealander have a healthier home will provide a return on investment.  Just think about homes where children and adults are warmer, drier and healthier – they are sick less, meaning less time off work, less time away from school, less time at the doctors and hospitals.  These are benefits that impact the whole economy that we all understand.  Surely this makes sense for any political party, regardless of if they look at it from a social or economic perspective?

 

There are hundreds of thousands of New Zealand homes that are not insulated properly.  This is a problem that all sides of the political debate need to work together on. All parties need to dig a bit deeper and really solve the problem by including walls and windows for all of New Zealand.  What would truly make a difference for all New Zealanders is if all the politicians can work together to solve this problem and take this away from being a ballot box issue this election.

 

Why not help make a difference yourself and let your local politician (regardless of what party) know that you believe all New Zealanders deserve to live in a Warmer, Drier, Healthier Home this election year.  Even if you live in a well-insulated house yourself, you will know someone who doesn't, and by helping them, it helps all of us.

 

Tony Naidu

Executive Director, HeatSavers Ltd

This is not an article in support of any political party.  HeatSavers are specialists in retrofitting insulation into existing walls and as such have expert knowledge to add to the public debate on the merits of insulation policies of any party.