How do I check whether my house is healthy?
If you and your family are all in good health, don’t notice any musty smells or mould in the house, and feel warm enough in the winter, then it may not be necessary for you to have your house checked. But if someone in the house has a health condition (such as asthma), it seems difficult to stay warm enough or you have a problem with mould, then it is well worth thinking about.
You can visit the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority website for general information what a healthy home looks, feels and smells like. The website also has advice on ways to improve these aspects of your home, including actions that are free or inexpensive.
If you think your home needs to have insulation or a ventilation system installed but aren’t sure about the next steps, you can contact an installer for an assessment. Some city councils also provide access to health home checks, such as Wellington and Christchurch.
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I want to insulate my house. Is there funding available?
You can apply for 50% of the cost of installing ceiling and under-floor insulation of your house through Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority's (EECA's) Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme if you are a low-income home owner, or you are a landlord with low-income tenants.
To be eligible, the house must have been built before the year 2000 and:
- the home owner or main tenant must have a Community Services Card or a referral from the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Homes programme
- the income of the home owner or main tenant is just above Community Services Card level and someone living in the house has a health condition related to cold, damp housing
This funding is available until 1 July 2018.
For more information about eligibility for this scheme visit EECA's Energywise website.
If you are not eligible for funding under this scheme you have other options.
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How do I apply for Healthy Homes funding?
If you think you are eligible for a subsidy for insulation through the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes scheme, all you need to do is contact an approved service provider (you can find these on the Energywise website) to check whether they operate in your area and what you need to do to apply for the subsidy.
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What options are available if my home isn’t eligible for government subsidised insulation?
If you have a health condition or disability you may be eligible for help from the government towards the cost of your heating bills, buying a heater or firewood, and/or installing insulation. Visit the govt.nz website for more details.
Many local councils have loan schemes to help ratepayers get their homes insulated. Under the scheme, the council provides a loan (a rates advance), which goes towards the cost of insulation and/or heating. The ratepayer repays the money, plus interest, in instalments over a number of years over and above their normal rates payments.
Some banks also offer mortgage holders the ability to add the cost of home insulation to their mortgage, and you may be able to negotiate a waiver of the associated fees.
The participating councils and banks are listed on the Energywise website.
Another option is to save on the cost of installing insulation by doing this yourself. You can get advice on what’s involved by talking to a hardware retailer or other provider of insulation products.
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Do I have to get my house insulated before I can rent it out?
From 1 July 2019 all rental homes must have under-floor and ceiling insulation that meets the NZS 4246:2016 standard.
Before this date you must at least include a statement in the tenancy agreement which tells the tenant whether there is insulation in the building, where the insulation is and what condition the insulation is in. If you aren’t sure how to check the insulation in the house you can pay for an installer to do the assessment for you.
Find out more about your obligations as a landlord.
If you tenant is on a low income or has a health condition related to cold and damp housing, you may be eligible for a government subsidy.
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What are curtain banks?
One of the ways you can help insulate your home is to install fitted thermal curtains to all of your windows. If you are on a low income or have a chronic health condition, you might be able to get curtains for free from a curtain bank.
Curtain banks receive curtains donated from the community; they repair and line them with thermal backing and install them in the homes of low-income households and of people with chronic health conditions.
Curtain banks are run by various community organisations all over New Zealand. If you would like to obtain curtains or have old curtains to donate, search our online directory for “curtain bank” or contact your local CAB for help finding the curtain bank nearest to you.
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Should I be worried about the mould on my walls? What else should I look out for?
Mould growth in your home can affect your health and that of anyone else living there. Exposure to mould is associated with asthma and reduced resistance to illnesses.
Some of the signs that your house has a mould problem include:
- A musty smell indoors
- The clothes in your closet or drawers get mould or mildew on them
- Stains or water marks have formed on some walls or ceiling
- Wooden areas in your house are rotten
Mould is usually caused by damp conditions, so your main strategy for preventing mould growth is by tackling dampness:
- Make sure your kitchen, laundry and bathroom are well ventilated e.g. by keeping windows ajar (but secure against burglars) and installing exhaust fans
- Only use a gas heater if it has a flue going to the outside – burning gas produces moisture
- Keep the bathroom door closed when showering, to prevent steam from getting into other parts of the house
- Avoid drying clothes indoors except in a clothes dryer which vents to the outside.
- Keep furniture away from external walls
- Leave wardrobe doors ajar to allow airflow
- Check for under-floor dampness – there may be a blocked drain or guttering, vents blocked by soil or plants
- Put down a polythene sheet on the surface under the house, to prevent moisture in the ground from rising into the house,
- Look for leaks in the roof, external walls and flashing, and get them fixed
If you find mould in your home you should remove it. According to this Housing New Zealand factsheet, a cheap and effective way to remove mould is by spraying it with white vinegar (if you are cleaning a painted surface dilute it with an equal amount of water) and wiping it off with a clean cloth. Be sure to dispose of the cloth afterwards so you don’t risk re-introducing the mould elsewhere.
The key to a healthy home is to keep it warm, dry and well-ventilated. You’ll find tips for how to do this on the Energywise website.