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In New Zealand, we have a problem with cold houses. "But it's a… - Tactical Ninja

Jun. 25th, 2015

11:38 am

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In New Zealand, we have a problem with cold houses.

"But it's a South Pacific island, how can that be?"

Well, exactly. Islands in the South Pacific apparently don't need no stinking insulation. Or so they thought when they started building houses here. What I can't work out is how they didn't very quickly realise that actually, we *do* need insulation. And double glazing. And preferably a form of heating as well.

Many houses in New Zealand are damp and cold. As in, damp enough to grow mould, and cold enough to see your breath rise inside. People have been dying from it.

Our house is one of these houses. It has no double glazing, no built in heating system, large windows, and is only insulated top and bottom. It's made of wood, and for the last week, the temperature inside hasn't gone above single digits.

16 degrees is the temperature below which health experts believe the cold will begin to affect health.

I heat the room I sleep in, but that's it. When I get home from work, unless I leave heaters running all day, the house is the same temperature inside as out, and it's not worth trying to heat it for the time I'm up, so I just turn on the electric blanket and a heater, and jump into bed.

In the morning, the windows are covered in condensation.

People love to tell us our house is cold, which is kind of like telling a fat person they're fat.

WE KNOW, believe me.

The thing is, it's a rental. If it were ours, it'd be double glazed, insulated, and have a heat pump by now. And we'd have cut down that goddamn pine tree that fills the gutters up with needles so they don't work properly too.

Our options are to tolerate it, convince the landlord to do something about it, or move.

By the way, this isn't a cheap rental, it's well over the average for our area. The housing situation in NZ is such that there are loads of people way worse off than us. The government recently refused to support the concept of a 'warrant of fitness' for rental housing, saying it'd push rents up.

News flash: rents are already up, and housing is substandard, and people are dying.

Anyway, we are privileged. There's no two ways around it. We have options that many people here don't. What I think we'll end up doing is:

a) clean the guttering (pointless but necessary for c)
b) get the house thermally imaged to see if it's leaking, which may explain how we've been getting respiratory problems due to mould spores in late summer
c) talk to the landlord about the results.
d) depending on result of c, either await improvements or consider moving.

I don't want to move. I love the location, the view, the layout, the garden - there's a lot to love about our house.

But it's cold, and that's making us sick.

Don't move to NZ unless you can afford to buy your own house and upgrade it to a standard suitable for living in, because chances are you'll have to, and landlords* generally don't.

* We are also landlords. The place we rent out is warm and dry, and we installed double glazing and thermal blinds to make it better. We are the exception rather than the rule, I suspect.

Comments:

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From:fbhjr
Date:June 24th, 2015 11:43 pm (UTC)
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I had no idea.
I know it is closer to the pole than most people elsewhere realize. But, I didn't know insulation wasn't common...
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From:tatjna
Date:June 24th, 2015 11:48 pm (UTC)
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In the mid-1990s they brought in laws requiring all new builds to be insulated and have double glazing.

There was a scheme running for a number of years that subsidised retrofitting of top and bottom insulation, but I've been in a couple of those houses now and it really doesn't make that much difference - it allows you to heat single rooms more effectively but the heat leaks out through the walls and heating the whole house is still impossible.

There are parts of the country where you might get away with no insulation, in the far north. But that kid that died last year was in Auckland. It still gets into single digits up there, and where I live in the middle, 8 degrees is common in winter. Further south, it's even colder. Which wouldn't matter if we had insulation and stuff.

I really don't understand why, in a country with so many goddamn sheep, they didn't fill everyone's walls up with wool. They just.. didn't. Maybe we're supposed to be hardcore, but I'm handing in my card right now. I want to be *warm*.
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From:fbhjr
Date:June 25th, 2015 12:47 am (UTC)
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I think you've got more than enough hardcore points in other areas to let that one go. Be warm in the winter!
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From:springheel_jack
Date:June 25th, 2015 12:01 am (UTC)
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wow, even the united states has warrant of fitness.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 25th, 2015 12:03 am (UTC)
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Apparently we're too staunch for healthy homes here.
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From:raincitygirl
Date:June 25th, 2015 12:13 am (UTC)
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Wow, I had no idea. That SUCKS!
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From:tatjna
Date:June 25th, 2015 01:08 am (UTC)
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It seriously does - and we in no way have it the worst.
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From:clevortrevor
Date:June 25th, 2015 12:56 am (UTC)
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I feel so vindicated, reading this! This was the WORST part of living in NZ for me. I was angry and cold the whole time, and I could never understand why, if everyone else was cold too, nobody would DO anything about it! It was like, everyone was so used to being cold, it just seemed normal. Several years ago I got an email from one of my old flatmates who had moved to England after I left. He said he'd gone back home to visit, and finally understood what I was talking about with the cold houses!

I hope you're able to do something about the problem. It's not right to be cold in your own home :(
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From:tatjna
Date:June 25th, 2015 01:08 am (UTC)
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Seriously, when people from countries like Canada and Sweden are saying they've never been so cold, there's a problem.

As far as doing something about it, kiwis have been well trained in apathy - our government ignores us, essentially, and has for the last 30 years.
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From:mundens
Date:June 25th, 2015 03:13 am (UTC)
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I worked with a guy from Moscow when I lived in Christchurch. He said they were used to -10 degree or more temperatures for two months of the year, and he said he'd never been as cold as he was in Christchurch as well.

One can work around it. I have low wattage panel heaters that I leave on in at least two rooms of the house all the time in winter. which means the interior of the house is always noticeably warmer than outside, and never drops below zero. If I didn't, books and other things would be ruined! I also run whatever heaters I need to keep warm on top of that when I'm home

But it costs on the power bills, so not everyone has that option.
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From:richaarde
Date:June 25th, 2015 01:18 am (UTC)
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Getting landlords to make their rental properties livable is a universal struggle. It's ridiculous.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 25th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC)
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Health and safety is seen as a compliance cost rather than a human right. It's messed up.
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From:m_danson
Date:June 25th, 2015 04:00 am (UTC)
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I am not moving to NZ. I am more reliably warm in Canada.
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From:khaybee
Date:June 25th, 2015 04:10 am (UTC)
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Our house is markedly warmer since we removed the chimney. I'm excited to see what insulating the walls will do, but that is in the future.
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From:meathiel
Date:June 25th, 2015 09:12 am (UTC)
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Oh wow ... this sounds horrible. I'm freezing just reading this.
Here in Germany it's a law that you have to insulate properly if you want to rent out ... It's not as strict if you live in your own property.
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From:tatjna
Date:June 25th, 2015 09:15 am (UTC)
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Germany does a lot of things that
I wish New Zealand did. :)
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From:jaelle_n_gilla
Date:June 25th, 2015 09:26 am (UTC)
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I've always wondered the same thing for American houses. I mean, south, and warm and all that, but if you have the air-condition running all day long, insulation isn't exactly a bad idea either.

Sounds like you should be living in your own place instead of renting it out ;-)

We live in a brick/stone house from the 70s. German houses are generally stone, no matter the age. Ours has poor insulation except on the roof (which we put in) but stone keeps the same temperature for a day or two. It's nice in summer when it's blazing hot outside and our stone house stays nice and cool. And as is customary in Germany we don't have air-condition for those few days or weeks a year where you'd really need it.

Thank gods someone put double glazing in before we bought it, too.
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From:kotturinn
Date:June 25th, 2015 12:08 pm (UTC)
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That is - impressive in a mind-boggling kind of way. I thought the UK specialised in sub-standard dwellings (especially if rented and even more especially if rented to the 'lower orders'). I really thought NZ would have been more enlightened.
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From:warriorsavant
Date:June 25th, 2015 08:15 pm (UTC)
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First off, that seriously sucks.

It's odd at first glance, but "kinda" cold climates have more injuries & deaths from cold than seriously cold climates: Canada has far fewer than UK; in the US Florida actually has more than Maine. It isn't really odd, in that in very cold climates, people dress for, build for, and expect, serious cold. In "kinda" cold climates, they tend to underestimate the killing power of cold. Sounds like NZ has inherited the UK attitude on not heating and insulating. Canada had the socio-political heritage, but it's way too cold in most of the country for that to be an option. Either dress and build for the cold, or die en mass.
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From:downwardlashes
Date:June 26th, 2015 05:53 am (UTC)
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Dang, that sounds SO much like where I live, minus the cold. But the damp and the mold, and the old houses that were seemingly built by idiots who knew NOTHING about the area. Plus there not being enough places to rent and the few places there are are hugely overpriced, especially considering that most of the rentals are moldy dumps anyway. I daydream about building a brand new house with fancy things like heat and windows that face the right direction, and no mold. We live in a two bedroom apartment but have stopped using one bedroom altogether because it's become inhabitable. But we can't afford to move, so...
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From:belenen
Date:July 1st, 2015 06:00 am (UTC)
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wow, that sounds unbearable. :-( cold and damp is what my hell would be like! I hope you can get some better treatment from your landlord.
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From:kehleyr
Date:July 9th, 2015 04:51 pm (UTC)
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Man... what a horrible situation!
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