Around 500,000 people are warmer because of the Government-subsidised home insulation and heating campaign, according to the scheme's boss.

Michael Underhill, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority chief executive, defended the scheme on TV3's consumer show Target on Tuesday and said it had been extremely popular and successful after 175,000 houses got either new insulation or heaters.

Consumer Candice Shalfoon complained to Target she could get a cheaper job by not using tradespeople in the state programme and that providers were taking advantage by marking up prices due to the Government subsidy.

"If you think the price is high, get more than one quote," Underhill said.


ECCA provided data this week on the takeup in the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme, showing how the 175,000 houses had either had new insulation or heaters: modern wood and wood-pellet burners, energy-star qualified heat pumps and high star-rated, flued gas heaters.

Robert Linterman, the authority's residential manager, said the focus was to initially install insulation.

"Only once the home is insulated can the home owner elect to install an approved heating appliance. To date the programme has delivered over 155,000 insulation retrofits and over 33,000 heating retrofits," he said.

Cold weather spurred more people into the scheme.

"It's available year-round, however there is typically an increase in uptake over the colder winter months. As homeowners feel the cold and start receiving their higher energy bills, they realise it's really something they can take advantage of," Linterman said.

The retrofit target in June was the highest for the year at 12.5 per cent compared to 9.5 per cent in July, 9 per cent in August then dropping to 8.5 per cent in September. The lowest for the year was one of the hottest months, January, at 5 per cent , he said.

The scheme was now into its fourth year, starting on July 1, 2009 and homeowners could get 33 per cent off the cost of insulation, up to $1300. That was available for all homeowners with places built before 2000, regardless of income, he said.

"EECA is working with several local councils, including Auckland Council and Wellington Regional Council, and New Zealand's major banks to provide cost effective finance, through either additional charge to the rates bill or increase to their mortgage, to cover the costs of repayment over a period of time. The cost of this to the homeowner is from $7 a week - a small price for the homeowner to pay for the comfort and health benefits they can get from an insulated house," Linterman said.