For the last few months it has only been landlords that have been able to access subsidies on insulation for homes. But after slow take-up by landlords, the Government has opened it up to everyone with a Community Services Card. Sustainability Trust chief executive Phil Squire talks about why it’s good news.
Some great news for low-income homeowners this week.
The Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes insulation programme that has been providing subsidies for low-income rental homes has just been expanded. Now people that own their own homes can get a 50 per cent subsidy for insulating ceilings and underfloors too.
The Warm Up NZ programme, managed by EECA, has been providing generous subsidies for low-income households since the early 2000s. The government investment makes a lot of sense on many levels – happier and healthier citizens, less hospital admissions and more time at school and work. It’s win-win-win from many perspectives.
Research that measured the benefit to cost ratio of the government investment came back at 6:1 for low-income households. That is to say, for every $1 spent on insulation there were health savings (mainly in prescriptions and hospital costs) of $6. Talk about successful social investment!
However, at the beginning of last year, Warm Up NZ fell victim to some political machinations and the total investment was slashed and retargeted to rental properties only.
This left low-income homeowners out in the cold. The Warm Up NZ rental programme was intended to encourage landlords with vulnerable tenants to get their homes insulated early (and to a high standard) prior to the insulation deadline – set by new regulations under the Residential Tenancies Act – of June 2019.
Over the past year, however, much to the surprise of the industry and EECA, there has been very little uptake by landlords. One would think that rationality would reign and if you had a legal requirement to get your rental insulated, had vulnerable tenants, and could get it done at 50% of the market cost – you’d jump in.
But this hasn’t happened. There are a variety of reasons, perhaps one being that government provided EECA with very little marketing budget so landlords could be forgiven for not being aware of the offer.
So, in order to ensure that allocated $18 million is used to benefit more householders, the Government have announced that the funding will now be available again for low-income homeowners.
An excellent call in our opinion.
Our experience in the past was that low-income homeowners formed more than 70 per cent of the uptake in Warm Up NZ, so we expect that the demand will take off very quickly and subsidies will soon be in short supply.
There are a lot of households that will qualify with the primary eligibility based on holding a Community Services Card.
Many middle-income households will be surprised to find they may meet the income threshold, for example a family with four kids and a household income of less than $85,000 will qualify.
Our advice is that if you are a homeowner and think you may be eligible for the subsidy – give us a call quick. And if you are a landlord, talk your tenants (or vice versa) as these subsidies will be going like hotcakes. We’ve already seen a spike in rental insulation enquiries and installations since the new Which landlord are you? and the Warm house, cool landlord campaigns launched last month. So to get upgraded quickly, cheaply and professionally, book with Sustainability Trust today. We always include free warm, dry homes advice for tenants, and now offer a full refund of rental assessment fees if you insulate with us.
Thanks for joining the winter mythbusting party, which this week comes live from a glacier! It’s pretty cold, which you and your home won’t be anymore if you let us help.
With this little series we are taking you through some common mis beliefs about winter, and through to the other side which is cheaper, warmer and better for you and the environment. Don’t miss part 1 from last week, with corkers such as “Insulating is an expensive upfront cost I can’t afford” and “I need thick, thermal lined curtains”
- Heat pumps are expensive to run
Not if you follow these top tips:
Use heat mode (not auto mode). The heat mode setting will raise and maintain room temperature to the capped level. In contrast, the auto mode will heat continuously and then when the room is too hot it will flip to air con mode to cool the environment. In other words, you pay to heat and cool, heat and cool, heat and cool.
Clean your filters regularly, so your heat pump is free from dust and able to heat efficiently.
Set it to a 20-22 degrees cap. Any higher is unnecessary and costs more to run. If this doesn’t feel warm enough or your energy bills are suspiciously high then your ceiling and underfloor insulation may not be to standard.
Switch off your heat pump when you go out, unless you want to keep the cats warm. If you’re out for more than 30 minutes and leave the heat pump running, you’re paying money for nothing.
- It’s winter – if we open the windows then we will freeze!
Nobody freezes in 15 minutes in the Wellington region, and that’s all you need for daily home ventilation. The process of opening the windows allows moisture-laden air to escape and be replaced with dry, fresh air. This is essential for a healthy home and to prevent damp issues, plus dry air is much easier and cheaper to heat.
Some people think that leaving the window open a crack all day does the job. Nope, you can burst that bubble. All this does is leak heat out of the home. Windows need to be open wide to create an air flow that’s strong enough to draw damp air out and dry air in. So open wide for 15 mins a day, twice a day, every day! But not when the heating is on….make sure to shut your heating off first, then switch it back on when you’ve ventilated.
- Central heating is for the mega-rich
Comfortable living is now easy, affordable and popular. Ducted heat pump systems extract, heat and transfer warm air around the entire home with low-cost tech that is far more energy efficient than traditional hot water or gas central heating systems. Book your free heating assessment today, or browse our EcoShop for our most popular models, starting at just $8,000.
We hope these tips help you know the what, how and why of warm homes in winter. If we’ve whet your appetite then get yourselves booked onto the next Warm Up for Winter workshop 5.30-7pm Wednesday 14 June.
Our superhero home energy experts David, Josh and Vishal will share their very best top tips to get your home ready for winter and cheaper to run, and we’re GIVING AWAY some of the best heaters on the market too. Tickets just $5, including competition entry. Bookings via www.sustaintrust.org.nz/events/
Stay warm and dry people.
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
This quote has inspired us to share and untangle some common assumptions about being warm in winter. With record numbers of enquiries, property assessments and home energy product sales, it’s time for a recap on how to be warm, dry and energy efficient. Check back again next week for more myths debunked.
- Insulating my home/rental is an expensive upfront cost I can’t afford
Ratepayers can pay just $20-30/month for insulation with a rates loan from GWRC. It’s a fantastic and safe way to access up to $3,900 for insulation costs, repayable over max. 9 years via your property rates. It takes around a fortnight for the paperwork to come through, so you can warm up and save on bills quickly with install asap thereafter. This has to be Wellington region’s best kept secret!
Alternatively we offer a short term 0% interest loan repayable over 6 -12 months, across our insulation, heating, ventilation and LED downlight supply and install services. A great way to have a bit more time to pay off what you need now. Find out more about these repayment plans.
Don’t forget – insulation costs are quickly offset by improved health, comfort and quality of life. As insulation now lasts around 50 years and is a legal requirement for all rentals by July 2019, this is a crucial long term investment for any homeowner and is much more affordable than you think.
- The subsidies have run out (or I’m not eligible)
Not true! There are a limited number of subsidies still available, but only until June 2018. Once they are gone, they are gone!
If you are renting have a Community Services Card then your landlord may be able to get half price insulation with Government funding. If you own your own home and have a Community Services Card, then you may also be able to get funding of up to 50%from Sustainability Trust and our partners to help pay for insulation. If you think you could apply then do it, now, before they run out!
Psst – eligible homeowners can get both special offers – half price insulation and put the rest of the costs onto one of the above repayment plans, making insulation even more affordable. Contact us today to find out more.
- Heating? Insulation? Just put an extra jumper on!
A jumper will warm up your body, but the actual temperature inside your home needs heat to prevent moisture and housing-related health issues. If a room is cold and damp then it will cause mould and dust mites, which can lead to serious health issues like pneumonia, asthma and rheumatic fever. Sadly, over one in four Kiwis suffers from asthma, and your home environment is the number one way to prevent and treat poor health.
Bedrooms and living areas should be 18-21 degrees C, according to the WHO. As a general guide, most New Zealand homes built before 1978 need ceiling and underfloor insulation, fixed heating in the living space and radiant heaters in the bedroom, to counteract the problems caused by poor building construction standards. The quality, thickness and fit of insulation is crucial, as well as the size and type of heating.
Want to know more? Then register for a Warm up for winter workshop, book a home assessment with one of our experts, or read EECA’s home heating info guide. If you have a housing related health issue then you may be be to get extra help from Warm Fuzzies.
- I need thick, thermal lined curtains but they are are hard to get and expensive
Thermal backing make little or no difference to heat retention. Call it an old wives tale, mistake or assumption, put simply it’s wrong. What matters is multiple layers of fabric that trap air and create a barrier between the curtains and the window. So the perfect recipe for curtains is good quality curtain material, which is lined with at least one layer of fabric – simple cotton will do the job. The fit too is crucial, as curtains need to fully cover windows including top and bottom, ideally floor length with a pelmet too.
We offer a Curtain and Tailoring Service for paying customers, so get in touch today to get your curtains lined or to commission a full set. All profits are invested into free curtains for Community Services Card holders via the Wellington Curtain Bank, so that’s amazing quality for your home, whilst helping others too.
We hope this has helped you to see the light. Check back again next week for more common assumptions debunked, or feel free to get in touch for personalised advice and a property assessment.
Earth Day is here again, this Saturday 22 April 2017. A reminder that we only have one planet to live on and that we need to pay attention to how we take care of it.
Astronomers say there may be a habitable planet about 39 light years away circling around a dwarf star in the constellation of Cetus. But we won’t be swapping earths anytime soon. The hard truth is, there’s no one else out there creating the environmental degradation– it’s you and me baby!
Our challenge this Earth Day, as stewards of our city, country and planet, is to take real and lasting actions to reduce our environmental impact. Every choice we make has consequences, so being informed is the first small step to making a difference. This year’s Earth Day is focused on environmental literacy so here are some practical suggestions for you to learn what, why and how to save this precious earth we call home.
- Get involved: Indulge your curiosity by learning about environmental issues such as climate change, and inspirational solutions, such as clean rivers, electric vehicles or renewable energy. Check out our library for interesting reading and watching, attend events, have a debate night with friends, book your kids onto a workshop, research online – whatever you do, actively educate yourself and share your new knowledge widely.
- Know what your actual impact is: It’s very easy to calculate your personal impact – and information is the first step to reducing it. An average Kiwi’s carbon emissions are around 18 tonnes a year. This needs to drop to around 2 tonnes a year to get the world healthy. At Sustainability Trust we use Catalyst’s Annual Carbon Emissions (ACE) Calculator, and offset our emissions with Ekos and local carbon credits sourced from Southland forests. Everything counts – so how can you reduce yours?
- Reduce-Reduce-Reduce: Do everything you can to limit or reduce your environmental impact. Eat less meat and dairy (or none at all!). Walk, cycle, swim. Drive an electric car. Reuse, recycle, compost. Make a warm, energy-efficient home with long life ceiling and underfloor insulation, LED lights, good quality fitted curtains, double glazing (or cheaper alternatives like window film), use water wisely – do everything you can to get that energy use and power bill down.
- Invest and divest: Make sure you invest in climate friendly companies. Put simply, the more money that is behind the right causes will help balance out the markets long term. We recommend investing in renewable energy generators such as Meridian, Mighty River Power, wind turbine and solar manufacturers, and not buying into environmentally harmful industries such as fossil fuel companies or agriculture (especially dairy).
- There’s an election coming up: This September we’re back at the polls. Make sure that you vote for candidates with robust environmental credentials. Do your research, attend meetings, ask questions, write letters, sign petitions. Whoever makes it in to government, let them know that the environment counts.
As a local grassroots organisation, Sustainability Trust is engaged in practical action across the Wellington region. We are so enthusiastic that our community across New Zealand can and are making steps in the right direction. Earth Day 2017 provides us with a strong reminder that we need to take action, both personally and by helping ensure large decision makers play their part too.
If we can help you in any way, please give us a call on 0508 78 78 24.
A story about a Wellington couple doing everything they can to live sustainably, a little inspiration for those of us doing what we can, when we can but who would like to do more.
The bananas didn’t make it this year, but the corn is going strong.
Mornington couple Ken and Anne Simpson have proved that real gardening, the kind that feeds a family, is possible in windy Wellington.
They have an abundant, sprawling 400sqm fruit, nut and vegetable garden on a slope that boasts apples, figs, plums, kiwifruit, gooseberries, cranberries, peaches and nectarines among the usual vegetables. Out the front they’ve created self-generating bush with 50 different native species spread over a 400sqm slope.
All this in a suburban setting just five minutes’ drive from the Wellington CBD.
“It provides food for us and the birds, fuel for the wood-burner, and nectar and pollen for bees. It is a constant source of interest, pleasure, surprises, and challenges,” Anne says.
Our capital city is not known for its easy climate, and Ken says it’s been experimentation that brought success.
They “liberated” the back lawn about 16 years ago and since then have been figuring out which way the wind hits it, which plants will protect each other, testing the limits and using the wisdom of companion planting to get things growing.
They’ve added a beehive, chickens (the poo is great fertiliser), compost heaps, worm farms – the backyard is teeming with life.
Anne says she was initially inspired to grow their own organic food when she read about genetically modified food.
“We all actually ought to be doing this, so we thought ‘What can we do in a capital city?’, we needed to find out what was possible.”
One thing leads to another, says Anne, and the next thing you know you’ve got solar panels.
The couple’s efforts to be self-sufficient haven’t been limited to the garden – they’ve got a 1000-litre water tank, and solar panels which generate about 2800 kw a year.
They’ve tried to make their carbon footprint as small as possible – making their own green cleaning products, avoiding plastic packaging, and making their home more energy efficient.
They’ have a mechanical ventilation system which they say sorted condensation overnight, with it the mould. They have insulation in the walls, ceiling and underfloor, secondary window glazing and have gradually changed their lights to LEDs.
Most recently they called in Sustainability Trust to upgrade their bathroom lights to LEDs and to fill in the gaps in the ceiling insulation which had been required with conventional downlights.
The investment Ken and Anne have made has paid off – their winter power bill now averages about $60 a month.
The Simpsons are shortly moving to Scotland to restart a life there, and are passing the home on to another family next month.
“I’ve learned lots,” says Anne. “We’ve started something here and hopefully we’ll start something else.”
For anyone inspired by what they’ve done, Anne says: “Just start with a little bit. Try it out and see what you can accomplish. Do a bit of dreaming and be a bit inspired by things you read. Have a go at things you would like to do.”
And from Ken: “Get advice”.
Sustainability Trust offers advice on making homes more energy efficient and ways to live sustainably, so if you’ve been inspired, call us on 0508 78 78 24.
What makes a good heater? Ultimately, a heater needs to deliver warmth to where you sit or sleep, but there is plenty of science and technology behind how they work that can be confusing. This simple explanation of how heaters work and the differences between some popular options should help you work out what heating is best for you, your budget and your energy use this winter.
All portable electric heaters convert one Watt (W) of electricity to 1W of heat. Or ‘1-to-1’ in heater tech-speak. Therefore, effective heat distribution is what makes all the difference, otherwise you’re paying to warm the spiders on the ceiling!
Sustainability Trust has some great options for eco-friendly home heating, from full home (central or ducted), floor or wall mounted heat pumps, and wood burners too.
Radiant heaters are a good option for room-specific heating at a lower price point than heat pumps or wood burners, or as a supplement to existing fixed heating.
Our premium Atlantic Tatou heater delivers 70% radiant heat and 30% convection. Radiant heat, like the sun, is most ideal since it heats the surfaces around you. It distributes heat at floor level for longer meaning you get your money’s worth by feeling warmer sooner. The Tatou features a high-tech thermostat and timer, and can either be free standing or wall mounted.
An alternative to the Tatou is our Kent micathermic range. These free standing heaters provide a combination of radiant (20%) and convection heat (80% – heating the air), distributed three ways: out both sides as well as above the unit. It’s the sideways radiant heat that gives the micathermic units an edge over regular oil column heaters. They are small, portable and also feature a thermostat to regulate the desired temperature.
If you want to keep your old oil column heater, consider using a small desk fan to re-circulate warm air that has settled around the ceiling. This prevents ‘heat stratification’. Small fans are cheap to run.
Here are some other useful reminders and tips to help navigate the world of radiant portable heaters:
Be careful around the terms ‘efficient’ and ‘economical’. Remember, all portable electric heaters convert ‘1-to-1’. Efficiencies are achieved instead:
- If heat can be distributed at floor level so you feel warmer quicker
- By using a thermostat to maintain a comfortable temperature without the heater running continuously
Some heaters may be considered economical because they cost less to buy; others because they draw little electricity for equally little heat but an under-sized heater will not keep you warm. For a medium-large room (60-100 cubic metres), aim for 2000-2500W output. Know the Wattage before purchasing.
As a general rule, aim to heat a room to at least 20 degrees C to reduce the risk of any illnesses linked to cold, damp housing. Your own comfort level is specific to you, but the higher you set your thermostat temperature, the more the heater will be running. A 2500W heater will cost 70c per hour, running continuously (28c/kWh). Observe how often the thermostat on your heater switches off and on across an hour and adjust accordingly.
Finally, make life easier for your heater. Get home insulation up to standard, block draughts around windows and doors, and install doubled-lined curtains – preferably floor length. This will all help keep that precious heat in!
Warm regards, David.
In many parts of New Zealand, households are not charged for domestic water consumption and we traditionally think of water as a free and abundant resource. Increasingly we are realising that this is far from the truth – most recently Auckland and Havelock North have been hit hard, but with record breaking water wastage, access to clean, safe water is a global crisis. Today is World Water Day 2017 so here are some tips to help us all use water more wisely.
An average household’s water use is made up from:
Bathroom – 25%
Toilet – 25%
Garden – 20%
Laundry – 20%
Kitchen – 10%
How can you reduce your use?
- Fix leaky taps and toilets
- Switch to a low flow shower head to reduce water use by up to 50%. We recommend Methven’s Kiri Satinjet low flow shower heads which have great pressure and an in-built flow restrictor
- Alternatively, fit a flow reducer behind your existing shower head
- Insulate hot water pipes to keep water warm and speed up hot water flow from taps
- Install tap aerators to reduce unnecessary water flow from taps, yet maintain water pressure
- Reduce the amount of water used per toilet flush with a toilet gizmo
- When buying new appliances, only buy ones with efficient water ratings
Did you know…
All piped water is treated to drinking water standards, yet we only drink 3% of the water that comes from our taps. That means that 97% of the expensive treated water that is piped into our homes is used where untreated water could be used.
Water harvesting is a sustainable way to gather and use water. Rainwater can easily be captured and used both in the home and in the gardens. Check with your local authority, your local public health service or on the Ministry of Health’s website for guidance and requirements on water treatment. 200ltr emergency water tanks are now available via Wellington City Council, or shop for 800ltr water saving tanks from us.
Greywater systems can also be installed to reuse waste water from washing machines, showers, baths and basins. There are a range of options for collecting and using greywater, depending on the source of the greywater and the use intended – talk to the council about rules, legislation and building consent.
Contact us if you would like any more information on how to reduce or reuse water in the home, and don’t forget that if you book a Home Energy Assessment you can get 50% off water/energy saving products.
Here at Sustainability Trust we do our best to walk the talk and limit our carbon footprint.
We’ve got five different bins in our kitchen, a worm farm, and electric bike, solar panels, insulation, energy efficient heating and lighting, sustainable paper and napkins in our loos and are often seen tutting at each other for leaving lights on in empty rooms.
But we’ve still got a business to run, a large part of which involves zipping around town in cars to talk to people in their homes about what measures they can take to create a more energy efficient and healthier home.
We also occasionally travel by plane, use on-grid electricity and generate waste. We estimate we put 43 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere in 2015, so we’ve decided to work with Ekos to offset those emissions.
Ekos is led by Dr Sean Weaver, the original chairperson of Sustainability Trust, and we’re very pleased to working again with one of our founders.
Ekos is working in partnership with Maori landowners in Southland to preserve 738ha of indigenous rainforest, the Rarakau Rainforest Conservation Project.
The project produces 2430 tonnes of carbon offsets each year – we have ‘bought’ some of those to make up for what we put into the atmosphere.
You could say that we have 13ha of rainforest working for us. The credits are calculated based on what would have happened if the carbon project was not in place – the trees would have been cut down and sold and released carbon. This project and the credits are internationally certified.
As many of you know, we provide products and services to homes and businesses that reduce emissions. In 2015 we reckon we provided services that potentially avoided 450 tonnes of carbon emissions!
We’re also always looking to improve, which this year will include swapping one of our petrol cars for an electric – we’d love to swap all of them at once, but we’re working within limited means!
We’re going to be working with Ekos a bit more closely this year to make it easier for Wellington businesses to offset their carbon emissions, so if you, or your business, wants to join an increasing number of people achieving carbon neutrality by buying offsets, please talk to us and we can help make that a reality.