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Warm, dry homes - or rather the opposite - are a hot topic these days, so it's good to know there are many ways you can make your home warmer.

In New Zealand, our traditional wooden houses are famous for being cold and draughty by international Western standards, but the momentum to get them up to standard has been increasing in recent years, for both home owners and for property investors.

Insulating your home or rental property is not money down the drain because it is adding value to your property, not to mention complying with the Government Bill about insulating if you're a landlord.

Older homes are often being retro-insulated now, and there are many different ways to go about it.

There are choices to be made on insulation products, relatively cheap and easy things that can be done to make a noticeable difference, and also ways to get financial help with the job.

Home owners get help

Under the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme some people qualify for grants to pay for two-thirds of the cost of ceiling and underfloor insulation, and ground vapour barriers.

To qualify, you must own and live in a home built before 2008, and have a Community Services Card or SuperGold combo card, or own and live in a home in an area that's lower-income.

If you're not sure whether you live in a lower-income area, you can ask when you apply for the grant.

Alternatively, you may be able to get a referral from the Healthy Homes Initiative.

Community Energy Action is a Christchurch Charitable Trust aimed at helping vulnerable households but it will also provide services to households with upper income levels.

If you do not qualify for financial assistance due to your income being above the threshold, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has information on a range of payment options that will help get the job done.

These include paying insulation and heating costs as part of your rates bills or getting a bank loan.

EECA also has good information on insulating walls, ceilings, underfloor.

Christchurch earthquake properties

Community Energy Action provides advice and funding for insulating earthquake affected properties plus discounts for those that don't qualify for a Community Service Card, and shows a table indicating what needs council consent.

Consumer NZ has recently produced an excellent Winter Heating Guide chock-a-block full of tips to keep you warm, dry and healthy during winter. It includes everything from heaters, heat pumps, dehumidifiers, curtains and drapes and much much more! It's fantastic actually.

Rising damp or condensation?

A bad case of dampness and condensation in winter is no fun to live with.

It can make the house unpleasant and cause a mould related health hazard, devalue your home by causing wood rot and corrosion and hit your wallet with increased power bills through efforts to keep the house dry.

According to the ECCA's Energy Wise website, about 30 per cent of New Zealand homes are damp.

The average New Zealand family produces around eight litres of moisture in the home each day from activities like cooking, showers and breathing.

But dampness can also be caused by moisture getting into your house from outside, underneath or through leaky plumbing.

Find out more about identifying the source at Energy Wise.

In a damp house, you may be surprised by the amount of water that dehumidifiers suck out of the air.

What causes condensation?

It all comes downs to a balance between air humidity and ventilation inside the house, along with cold surfaces.

Condensation is effected by the level of moisture in the air, the temperature in the home and the surface temperature of the windows.

In older houses, there is often more ventilation due to less efficient sealing - this can mean less condensation but more draught.

Newer houses are so well sealed condensation can be a problem.

Besides a lack of ventilation from closed windows, excess air humidity can be caused by rising damp, or things like drying clothes inside, and unflued gas heaters.

Covering pots and pans and using extractor fans can help reduce the amount of steam created during cooking.

Changes to the Residential Tenancies Act

If you're a landlord, the countdown to the deadline for insulating rentals is on, with compliance required by 1 July 2019. According to the Healthy Homes Guarantees Act all rental properties will need to have up to standard underfloor and ceiling insulation where possible.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Improvement has a detailed PDF on the healthy homes changes.

Landlords offered Government discount

If tenants have a Community Services Card, landlords can apply to the Government for a 50 per cent discount for installing ceiling and under-floor insulation, which contributes to the Warm Housing initiative.

Article updated June 2019

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