Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

Insulation handout cash going begging

Many people remain unaware of how to make their houses warmer and drier. Photo / Darryl May
Many people remain unaware of how to make their houses warmer and drier. Photo / Darryl May

More than 120,000 New Zealand houses got state insulation and heating handouts in the last two years but Aucklanders are reluctant to reach for the Government scheme.

Mike Underhill, chief executive of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, urged Aucklanders to take advantage of the deal which covers a third of insulation and new clean heating equipment costs, in some cases up to 100 per cent.

Although 24,000 of the region's residents had got funding via the scheme since it started in July 2009, many people remained unaware of how to make their houses warmer and drier.

Just 5.4 per cent of Auckland's houses used the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme, he said.

"Even with the funding, we know money is still a barrier for many people. Your local council or bank may be able to help with special payment options," Underhill said.

Auckland was second only to the West Coast for low uptake of subsidised insulation, trailing Nelson where 16 per cent of households used the scheme.

Martin Wylie, formerly of Slingshot and CallPlus and an ex-Telecom company secretary, has bought Eco Insulation, one of the North Island's largest government-selected providers.

Auckland's large stock of modern housing, warm climate and savvy population could explain reluctance to use the scheme, he said.

"And Auckland has more immigrants who don't speak English or haven't been targeted well by providers. It's misunderstood how cold and damp it gets in Auckland and therefore how much you need good insulation and clean heating."

Anthony Thomson, Eco's commercial manager, said the firm had insulated about 25,000 properties in the last two years and 8500 houses nationally last year.

Thomson said one of Eco's targets was "apathetic affluent Aucklanders, living in 80 to 100-year-old Mt Eden villas, paying $600/month electricity bills who think there's no way the Government will subsidise them."

Eco had won work on many state housing projects and was bidding on others.

Under the authority's general-income, low-income and snug homes subsidised schemes, about 12,000 houses had been insulated by Eco but Housing NZ Corporation work had resulted in the business fitting a further 11,500 houses.

With landlord approval, tenants could also apply for the scheme, which provided heat pumps and insulation.

Wylie said Eco was about to launch LED lighting for new insulation and heating customers, businesses and retail stores. The lights cost 90 per cent less to run than traditional bulbs, but prices were high, some LED lights selling for $50 each.

Eco could sell bulbs for around $20, promoting their benefits such as less energy use, cool running with less heat build-up, long life up to 50,000 hours per bulb, and the fact that they were recyclable with no mercury residue. Also replacing existing bulbs with LED would help overcome the problem of not being able to insulate over recessed lighting because of fire risk, leaving holes where heat escaped.

- NZ Herald

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