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  Insulation

New Zealand studies have shown that thermal insulation delivers improved comfort and health for house occupants and/or reduced energy bills by reducing heat loss.

Heat loss through an uninsulated house.jpg

Figure 5. Typical heat loss through an uninsulated house. 

Roof space 

Up to 30-35% of heat loss from a dwelling can occur through an uninsulated roof. Installing and topping up insulation in the roof space is therefore one of the most cost-effective solutions for improving thermal performance.

The 2015/16 House Condition Survey found 39% of homes had at least 120 mm insulation covering at least 80% of the accessible roof space area. 120 mm is the minimum recommended by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.   

Just under half of houses surveyed (47%) had less than 80% coverage of insulation in the roof space or less than 120 mm-thick insulation (Figure 6). 

Depth and coverage of insulation in roof.jpg

Figure 6: Results on the depth and coverage of insulation in the roof space [Source: BRANZ House Condition Survey 2015/16].

Damaged or poorly fitted insulation can have a substantial impact on its efficacy in reducing heat loss. Around half of houses had at least one defect with insulation in the roof space that could reduce its effectiveness. Defects included gaps in insulation (31%) and insulation settling (22%), not fitted properly (16%) and displaced (11%).

Subfloor insulation 

The subfloor is another area of the house that can offer substantial benefits in home performance if properly insulated.

The survey found that in properties that had an accessible subfloor (around two-thirds of all houses surveyed) nearly one-fifth had no insulation or insufficient coverage, while 43% had good coverage of bulk insulation.

A further 18% of subfloors had foil insulation (12% of all houses surveyed). Foil performs far less effectively as an insulating layer. The install or repair of foil in existing homes was also banned in New Zealand in 2016 due to health and safety concerns associated with its electrically-conductive properties.

These findings highlight the potential opportunity for improving the thermal performance of a large proportion of the housing stock by fitting or upgrading insulation of the subfloor.  

Subfloor insulation

Status of subfloor insulation.jpg 

Figure 7. Results on the status of subfloor insulation [Source: BRANZ House Condition Survey 2015/16].

Overall retrofit opportunity of roofs and subfloors 

The survey suggests that around 47% of houses (740,000 dwellings) could benefit from additional insulation in the roof space and 19% (290,000 dwellings) could benefit from additional insulation of the subfloor. Combined, the results suggest over half the housing stock (53%) could benefit from retrofit insulation in the roofspace and/or subfloor. 

Potential for retrofit.jpg 

Figure 8. Potential for retrofit: (Figures may not sum due to rounding) [Source: BRANZ House Condition Survey 2015/16]. 

Insulation in rental properties

There was little difference overall in ceiling insulation levels between owned and rented houses, although a higher proportion of rentals had no insulation in the roof space (6% vs 2%). 

New requirements for ceiling and underfloor insulation in rental properties must be met by July 2019.   

The 2015/16 House Condition Survey findings suggest that around 35% of rentals (approximately 190,000 dwellings) may need to upgrade insulation in the roof space and/or subfloor to align with the new requirements. This includes: 

  • 11% (60,000) rentals needing subfloor insulation only
  • 13% (70,000) needing roof insulation only
  • 11% (60,000) needing to upgrade both roof and subfloor insulation.  

Housing condition
Maintenance
Heating
Ventilation and moisture control
Mould and damp
Comparing 2015 results with 2010
2015 survey report and Warm, dry, healthy report 

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