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Farewell to foil

Foil insulation can no longer be specified under the Acceptable Solution H1/AS1 for Building Code compliance.

The Fourth Edition of H1/AS1, which became effective on 1 January 2017, specifically excludes the use of foil insulation.

The previous version (which ceases to have effect on 30 May 2017) permitted 100 mm draped foil as floor insulation on suspended floors with closed perimeter.

The use of foil underfloor insulation had reduced considerably in recent decades. BRANZ for many years has specifically recommended that it not be used. However, surveys indicate that it was still used in a few cases.

Retrofitting or repairing foil insulation under houses has been banned since 1 July 2016. People using staples or nails to attach the foil to timber members have sometimes accidentally pierced a live electrical cable. There have been five electrocution deaths and one non-fatal shock reported in New Zealand as a result.


Poor maintenance of rental housing

Rental properties were twice as likely to be rated “poorly maintained” compared to owner-occupied houses in the latest BRANZ House Condition Survey.

The BRANZ House Condition Survey has been conducted roughly every 5 years since 1994. In 2010 rental properties were included for the first time, and a gap was found between the maintenance levels of owner-occupied and rental properties, with the maintenance of rental properties being noticeably poorer. Analysis of the latest (2015/16) survey data has found the pattern again.

Of the 560 houses examined, rental homes overall were in poorer condition both inside and out. The gap between rental and owner-occupied was widest for interior linings and fittings and exterior doors and windows. A slightly higher prevalence of mould was seen in rental properties.

The study report with the details of the survey can be downloaded here.

A photovoltaic and electric car boom may leave the poor worse off

If PV generation and electric car use grows but electricity pricing structures don’t change, poor consumers may suffer.

A new report has examined potential social impacts of solar panels, electric vehicles and batteries, and in particular the impact on household power bills. One of its key findings is that “poorer consumers are likely to be worse-off on average, if existing electricity pricing structures are retained and there is significant uptake of new technology…

“Under current pricing structures, households that install solar panels typically see a fall in their power bills that is much larger than the true level of cost saving. This creates a cost shortfall that will be ‘shifted’ to other consumers – mainly onto households without solar panels.”

The researchers examined power usage for over 100,000 households, looking at this against socio-economic data to estimate the impact of cost shifting.

“In a scenario where existing electricity pricing structures are retained and there is 50% uptake of solar panels, we expect power bills for the poorest 10% of households to increase by around $60/year on average, whereas the wealthiest 10% of households will enjoy average bill reductions of ≈ $160/year.”

In some cases, the poorest households would see increases of $350/year in their power bills.

The authors suggest that New Zealand adopts an electricity pricing structure better aligned with the actual cost of supplying electricity. Prices would better reflect the costs around customer’s individual electricity use profiles.

The report is the third and final report in the series Electric cars, solar panels and batteries in New Zealand. The first report considered potential greenhouse gas emission impacts of the technologies, the second considered the costs and benefits for consumers and New Zealand. Concept Consulting Group produced the reports, with support from electricity companies and Consumer New Zealand.

All 3 reports are available here.