Heat on house ratings
by Esther Harward - Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 30 March 2008

PEOPLE SELLING a house could be required to pay hundreds of dollars to prove its energy efficiency under a compulsory ratings proposal.

"Home energy ratings" are optional at present and cost between $300 and $450 through the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors.

Houses are assessed on building design and efficiency of water and space heating, and allocated stars.

The Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority will report to cabinet at the end of the year whether ratings should be compulsory.

The government's energy efficiency spokeswoman, Jeanette Fitzsimons, said this would depend on the success of a trial which is considering the quality of technical assessments, whether ratings could be challenged by homeowners and how easy the process was for homeowners.

Fitzsimons supported mandatory ratings.

"Overseas experience shows you only get about 1% of people selling their homes with a voluntary assessment."

Assessments told people how to earn additional stars, by investing in insulation and heat.

In Canberra, where energy ratings are mandatory, each star increased a house's value by 2%.

About 300 New Zealand homeowners have paid for an energy rating since the trial started in December. Another 50 have signed for interest-free loans and grants for insulation and heating under EECA's $23 million "Energywise" scheme.

Cash grants up to $500 or interest subsidies up to $1250 are offered for ceiling and underfloor insulation, hot water cylinder wraps, pipe lagging, low-flow shower heads, efficient lights and "clean heat" (heat pumps, modern wood and wood pellet burners or gas space heating).

EECA's $23m is enough for interest subsidies for 18,400 homes or cash grants for 46,000 homes.

Eligibility is restricted to one or two people on a combined income of $100,000 before tax, or three people earning a total of $140,000.

The offer applies only to homes built before 1978, when the Building Code made insulation mandatory.

Providers have been taking inquiries from people in homes built as recently as this year.

Fitzsimons said she knew of homes built five years ago without insulation, where builders and developers had cut costs and council inspectors had not done their job properly.

Poor insulation makes homes damp, cold, unhealthy and expensive to heat.

There are more than 300,000 houses built before 1978 in this category.


$1250 interest subsidy on a loan or a 10% cash grant of up to $500 (if people spend at least $1000). Eleven providers nationally cover most of the country. Contact them on EECA's website. Homeowners must first get an energy assessment through a provider. Most are doing it for free if people buy insulation or heat. These are a cheaper and more basic version of home energy ratings. Providers arrange loans with banks, finance companies or credit unions. The interest is paid by providers to lenders. Households pay the balance of the loan under terms and conditions set by lenders. An insulation and heat package for the average home costs $4500 (roof and underfloor insulation, hot water cylinder wrap and heat pump or wood pellet burner).