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Kiwis go cold and tough it out to save money

Media release

July 10, 2017

Kiwis go cold and tough it out to save money

Well over a third of Kiwis are toughing it out during the cold winter months to save money on their power bills, according to a new survey.

The latest HRV State of the Home Survey, conducted by research company Buzz Channel, has found 4 out of 10 people try to reduce their power bills during winter by using as little heating as possible.

Almost half of Kiwis said that cold, dampness and condensation increases the cost of heating their homes.

These cold and damp conditions were also responsible for worsening the health of adults (36%) and children (27%), ruining curtains, furnishings and carpets (37%), and the resultant extra visits to the doctor were increasing medical costs for a fifth of Kiwis.

The survey of 1040 respondents, which was commissioned by HRV and done in association with AUT Professor of Sociology, Charles Crothers, aims to gain an insight into issues facing New Zealanders in their homes.

Professor Crothers says people are being forced to live in colder conditions to combat high power bills with 35 per cent of respondents saying their winter power bill is “excessive” during the colder months.

He says heating costs hit renters far harder than home owners with almost half saying their power bill is excessive in winter and over half using as little heating as possible to reduce costs.

“New Zealand’s housing stock is substandard and while rentals need bringing up to standard, it’s key for existing houses to be brought up to standard and that new builds are made to a high quality. For example, only 60 per cent of those surveyed, and just 36 per cent of renters, had insulation in their homes, which is not great because that is where a warm dry home starts,” he says.

Far from ideal home and lifestyle

These findings are far from what New Zealander’s see as ideal home and living situations with almost three quarters saying they would like to live in an energy efficient home with sustainable elements, such as solar power. Just under 70 percent said they wanted to live in a warmer and drier home.

While turning the heater or heat pump on is the most popular way of staying warm (74%), this is supplemented by half of Kiwis wrapping up in a blanket or wearing shoes and socks when watching TV at nights.

Professor Crothers says energy efficiency and sustainability were high on people’s radar even though for most it was still a dream. Four in 10 people believe solar power is “the way of the future” but don’t have it installed at their homes.

A quarter of households have invested in energy efficient products or energy saving devices to help reduce heating costs. However, home owners are more likely than renters to have invested in these.

Fewer New Zealanders compared to last year have moved out of a house because of factors such as dampness, cold and mould (16%). However, says Professor Crothers, 63% of renters said they wanted to move out of the home they live in now compared to a third of home owners.

“There needs to be a sense of urgency around the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill, however the parliamentary process grinds on with the bill still at select committee stage. Housing is a leading issue coming into the election and while for some it is housing affordability that is an issue, for many it is the standard of housing we are living in that is most pressing.”

Sick homes, sick days

Professor Crothers says the condition of New Zealand homes has both social and health implications for occupants.

A fifth of Kiwis take more than five sick days a year, with 5% of the population – that’s around 230,000 people – taking more than 10 days off each year. For renters those numbers are even higher with 7% taking more than 10 sick days.

“Sub-standard housing can have a major impact on peoples’ lives because it uproots people from their long-term homes. It results in everything from children being forced to move to another school, through to cutting support from friendly neighbours and upsetting the sense of community people like to feel about where they live.”

Healthy home solutions

Awareness around the importance of what makes a warm and dry home remains strong with 93% considering insulation as “important” or “very important” when choosing somewhere to live or when renovating. Having a ventilation system is seen as “very important” or “important” by almost half of respondents, and a heat pump by 54% of people.

However, says HRV CEO Bruce Gordon, only 36% of renters had insulation compared to 73% of home owners and those in rental accommodation were less likely to have additional healthy home elements such as double glazing, a heat pump, or a ventilation system.

“Kiwis realise the importance of living in a warm dry home but the reality is many aren’t which means more still needs to be done to help people bring their homes up to a high-quality standard.

“While landlords need to be more accountable, improving the general state of New Zealand homes needs to be an ongoing push for the government and the property industry, and with the continuing house building boom it is imperative that we get these new builds right.”

*This survey was conducted by Buzz Channel with participants sourced from buzzthepeople online research panel of more than 20,000 New Zealanders. We surveyed N=1040 respondents who were between the age of 18 and 74 years. The margin of error on this sample is +/- 3.6% at the 95% confidence level.


Impact of cold, damp homes

• 38% try to reduce their winter power bill by using as little heating as possible

• Almost half said cold, dampness or condensation increase the cost of heating their home

• 35% said their winter power bill is “excessive” during the colder months

• Half of renters said their power bill is excessive during winter

• A quarter of households have invested in energy efficient products or energy saving devices to help reduce heating costs

• During winter, homes suffer the most from condensation (37%), followed by being damp and mouldy (34%), cold (33%), and draughty (33%)

• 36% agreed cold, dampness, mould and condensation worsens the health of adults living in the house. 37% said it ruins carpets, furnishings and curtains

• 93% consider insulation important or very important when considering somewhere to live or when renovating

• A fifth said cold and damp conditions were responsible for increasing medical costs and doctor’s visits

• 18% said dampness, cold, or mould in their home adds to the stress in their life

Current home vs ideal home

• 16% have moved out, or would have liked to have moved out of a home, in the last five years because it was cold

• Only 40% of Maori or Pasifika were home owners comparted to 68% Pakeha

• Almost three quarters would like to live in an energy efficient home with sustainable elements such as solar power and recyclable water

• Four in 10 people believe solar power is “the way of the future” but don’t have it installed at their homes

Sick home, sick days

• 79% of renters would rather be living in a warmer, drier, healthier home compared to 51% of home owners

• A fifth of Kiwis take more than five sick days a year

• 5% of the population – around 230,000 people – take more than 10 days off each year

• 7% of renters take more than 10 sick days a year

© Scoop Media

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