Insulation companies are hiring staff during the tough recession thanks to the Government's subsidised plan to make New Zealand houses more energy-efficient.

Three firms the Herald spoke to have hired a combined total of 165 people since the Warm Up New Zealand scheme was announced in the Budget.

Paul Apperley, general manager of Eco Insulation, which is one of the North Island's largest Government-selected providers, has taken on 50 unemployed people.

"Our people are going from being on the dole to earning up to $1000 a week if they really go for it, depending on how many houses they do," he said.

Huge demand from the scheme has also seen Right House take 25 people off the dole in Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton, and the firm is looking to expand in Christchurch and employ another 10 people there.

Selina Watson, manager of the national 16-branch Premier Insulation, said 80 people had come off the dole to join her firm.

Laid-off building apprentices, locksmiths, labourers and gib-stoppers had all been snapped up.

Premier could give a quote for Auckland work in two weeks and the job could be completed just two to three days after that, Ms Watson said.

Mr Apperley said a three-week training course had resulted in mostly men becoming commission-based home heating and insulation installers working from 7.30am to 5pm, sometimes up to six days a week. Eco Insulation had formed a close relationship with Work & Income and the firm's staff numbers had swelled from just 50 people a year ago to 130 people today.

Demand was so strong that Eco had established a call-centre and had received 15 inquiries from potential franchisees, planning to expand from six North Island branches to 12 nationally in the next year.

Thousands of homeowners are tapping into the Government's $323 million home insulation and heating fund.

The Warm Up New Zealand scheme, developed with the Green Party, began on July 1 and is being run by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.

The fund will subsidise the insulation of 180,000 houses built before 2000 by 2013.

Tamara Lee, an ECCA spokeswoman, said demand was very high.

"Since the programme started on July 1 we've had nearly 8500 calls and over 90,000 unique visitors to our websites. Service providers are required to report to us monthly so we'll get uptake figures for the first month around August 8," she said.

Mr Apperley said his firm was getting 300 daily inquiries, which translated into at least 110 applications for assessments. That in turn was leading to about 70 jobs turning into real work.

Ms Watson said it was much the same at Premier, which needed more people.

Mr Apperley said his clients had to wait six to eight weeks for an assessment but work usually started just a fortnight after that. He understood about 4000 houses nationally had been insulated or heated since news of the Government subsidy a few weeks ago.

Eco Insulation, with offices in Albany, Onehunga and Otahuhu, is supplying and installing insulation packages worth an average $2500 to $3000, of which the Government is paying about $1300.

"The great thing about this scheme is that it's for everyone," Mr Apperley said. "The Average Joe on a fairly good income usually qualifies for about a 33 per cent subsidy from the Government on the insulation."

Fletcher Building, which makes and distributes Pink Batts, has increased production in Auckland to 24 hours a day seven days a week to keep pace with demand.

One insulation specialist said retailer Bunnings had posted out-of-stock signs in Auckland for Australian-made Bradford Gold, the rival insulation to Pink Batts.

Ewen Anderson, Fletcher's building products division commercial manager, said his company had forecast $10 million to $15 million annual operating profit increase from the Australian and New Zealand Government insulation packages.

Insulation sales were up 25 to 30 per cent and Pinkfitt, which installs Pink Batts, has taken on an extra 30 staff lately.

A Winz spokesman said the relationship with the insulation companies was a great example of how it could help businesses to find the right people.

* Target

The subsidy is aimed annually at:

2009-2010 27,500 homes

2010-2011 40,000 homes

2011-2012 52,500 homes

2012-2013 60,000 homes

Source: Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority.
Years are July 1 to June 30.