Govt commitment to a Warm Home Standard call
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MONDAY 17 July 2006
17 July 2006
Eliminate cold, unhealthy homes – Government commitment to a Warm Home Standard called for
The misery of living in cold, under-heated and unhealthy homes should be ended for New Zealanders, with Government being called upon to commit to a minimum healthy indoor temperature standard.
Community Energy Action, a Christchurch based community energy trust is calling for political commitment to a Warm Home Standard, and action to ensure it is achieved.
Trust Chairperson, Ian McChesney, describes the principle of a Warm Home Standard as very simple – ensuring all our houses are capable of providing minimum healthy indoor temperatures in a manner that is affordable to its occupants.
“The recommended World Health Organisation minimum temperature for occupied living spaces is 18°C” says Mr McChesney. “However, higher temperatures are required for those more susceptible to the cold such as the elderly and infirm, and the very young - the British Geriatrics Society for example, recommends a temperature of 21°C in the living rooms of the elderly. We also need to ensure reasonable night time temperatures”.
“There is a yawning gap between these recommended temperatures and the reality in many homes” he says. “If we have a temperature achievement standard it means a commitment to achieving healthy outcomes for the whole community, by the best possible means, no matter where in the country you live. And as well as insulation, Government needs to assist with installing efficient and cheap-to-run heating systems”.
Community Energy Action is calling for this commitment as a means of refocusing effort around eliminating cold, unhealthy housing. Mr McChesney said that current government assistance, which was restricted to partial funding for insulation for a limited range of properties, is in urgent need of a complete rethink.
Mr McChesney said that two of Community Energy Action’s special projects – for new babies and the elderly – were trying to achieve the concept of a Warm Home Standard by providing assistance for both insulation and heating.
“We often encounter homes being poorly heated by electric resistance heaters and LPG gas costing 17-21 cents per kWh to heat by these means. By installing a heat pump, heat is provided at the equivalent of about 6c/kWh, with a far more efficient use of energy through both the heat pump and the insulation. The ability to increase heating to provide healthy indoor temperatures is also vastly improved.”
“Where we have been able to assist households into the twin package of insulation and heat pumps the resulting indoor warmth and living conditions have been transformed. But with no assistance available from government for heating, these projects rely on sponsorship and other arrangements”. Mr McChesney said that the sponsorship of projects by electricity companies – Orion, Meridian and Contact - while hugely appreciated, should be but the “icing on the cake” of such projects. “These projects deliver demonstrable, long term health and social outcomes and should be a core government responsibility”.
Community Energy Action, a charitable trust, was established in 1994 and is the longest running such organisation in the country. It recently passed the milestone of 10,000 houses in which it has installed energy efficiency measures.
“It’s a significant milestone to pass, but I would hate to think that it will be another 12 years before we achieve the next major milestone” Mr McChesney said.
Questions and answers about the Warm Home Standard proposal
Q. What is a Warm Home Standard?
A. The principle is one of affordable warmth for all by ensuring that all our houses are capable of providing minimum healthy indoor temperatures in a manner that is affordable to its occupants.
The original concept derives from a Winter Warmth Standard proposed by representatives of Age Concern Canterbury, the Canterbury District Health Board and Community Energy Action in 2004.
Q. Who will it apply to?
A. It applies to all New Zealand housing, old and newly built.
Q. Are you proposing this as a mandatory requirement on home owners?
A. That is not what we are proposing. Initially we want to see a commitment from government to this as an outcome to be achieved, and for government assistance to be focussed around achieving it.
Q. How realistic is the achievement of the standard?
A. Many homes currently will fall well short of achieving it. Retrofit insulation in some cases may be sufficient, while in other cases a more comprehensive approach requiring insulation and an efficient heating system will be necessary. It is really important that heating systems in the lower running cost band are made available because these provide the key to achieving affordable warmth. Heating systems providing heat in the 5-9c/kWh band include heat pumps, pellet burners and low emission wood burners.
Q. What do you want to see happen to make the Warm Home Standard a reality?
A. We believe that a working party involving community energy organisations, other community NGO's and government could sort out the details of a Warm Home Standard, and the measures to achieve it, relatively quickly. We believe that with government commitment, energy organisations and other parties will be enthusiastic partners to make it happen. This is a whole-of-government issue involving the health, welfare and energy sectors.