To un­der­stand Homes­tar, the best way is to do the myHomes­tar test at homes­

Element - - Healthy Homes -

It should take at least 20 min­utes, de­pend­ing on how of­ten you get up to in­spect some fea­ture of your home. The test stopped be­ing free on Au­gust 1, and now comes as part of a $15 an­nual sub­scrip­tion. The Homes­tar sub­scrip­tion can be con­sid­ered an in­vest­ment, as it in­cludes ac­cess to up­dates, ex­tra ad­vice and prod­uct dis­counts if you de­cide to act on the rec­om­men­da­tions. The first box asks me to “name this prop­erty”. Sub­scribers can test mul­ti­ple properties. What shall I call this one? Dun­freez­ing? Grey Lynn Cas­tle? The next page cap­tures ba­sic in­for­ma­tion about the prop­erty, start­ing with house type from a menu of use­ful pho­tos – I click on villa, then clam­ber out­side with a tape to mea­sure the size. It comes to about 110 square me­tres, which is nor­mal for a three-bed­room house of the pe­riod. A mod­ern three or four bed­room home is of­ten greater than 150m2, which is some­thing to con­sider in the de­bate over af­ford­abil­ity. Now we get to the en­ergy cat­e­gory, which is worth a quar­ter of the points. I ex­pect to get ham­mered. As of this win­ter the main space heater is a flued gas heater, which is good – they don’t like un­flued gas and open fires in this test. Hot wa­ter comes from a con­tin­u­ous flow gas heater. Are hot wa­ter pipes in­su­lated? I’m not sure, so look un­der the house. There’s a pipe with a loose and dirty sort of fi­brous strip wound around it. I’m not sure if it’s do­ing its job. I click “don’t know”. Light bulbs are a mix of old and new style. Homes­tar en­cour­ages low en­ergy flu­o­res­cent or LED light­ing for at least 75 per cent of the house. The fridge is more than 10 years old – en­ergy ef­fi­ciency in ap­pli­ances has in­creased markedly in the past decade. In to­tal I get just 14 per cent of the pos­si­ble points. The next sec­tion goes to health and com­fort – win­dows, ceil­ings, walls, floors and damp­ness. Does the house gen­er­ate any elec­tric­ity from re­new­able sources such as so­lar pho­to­voltaics, wind or hy­dro? No such luck, and no in­cen­tives ex­pected any time soon from En­ergy Min­is­ter Si­mon Bridges. Af­ter all, gen­er­at­ing your own could threaten the share price of mixed own­er­ship model power com­pa­nies.

“The Homes­tar sub­scrip­tion can be con­sid­ered an in­vest­ment...”

The ques­tions about win­dows just re­mind me how cold it can be stand­ing in the sun­porch at night, but thick drapes would hide the view, which is the point of hav­ing so much glass. I’m not climb­ing into the ceil­ing to check the Batts, but I’m guess­ing that with 20 years of set­tling they would be down to less than 100mm, with no cov­er­age of the fram­ing or joists. The done thing now is to have a con­tin­u­ous thick cover of in­su­la­tion up top. The ex­te­rior walls are tim­ber framed and weath­er­board with­out in­su­la­tion and the wood floor­ing is unin­su­lated. The wa­ter sec­tion in­cludes ques­tions on rain bar­rels, grey­wa­ter sys­tems, dou­ble flush toi­lets, and wa­ter ef­fi­cient shower heads. I scored zero. I got 100 per cent for waste man­age­ment though – big ticks for the Hun­gry Bin worm farm and the com­post heap. Does the house have a home op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance man­ual? It’s a home, not a rock­et­ship, but if I want to cre­ate a home user guide cov­er­ing the op­er­a­tion of the house and main­te­nance sched­ules, there is a tem­plate on the site. How much of the land­scaped area di­rectly around the house is planted with na­tive plants? Mag­no­lias don’t count as na­tives. What’s the fuss about na­tives any­way? Why should the house be more green for hav­ing some shrub wrenched away from its sub­alpine habi­tat? Which of the fol­low­ing is 10 min­utes walk from house? I tick bank, bus stop, cof­fee bars, li­brary, su­per­mar­ket, ev­ery­thing but the marae which is 20 min­utes away. That’s what liv­ing in Grey Lynn is about. Now the mo­ment of reck­on­ing. I push the but­ton for the re­port: “This house has achieved a rat­ing of 2 stars un­der the Homes­tar Res­i­den­tial Rat­ing Scheme. “It is pos­si­ble for this home to achieve a higher star rat­ing, ex­cept that it is cur­rently be­ing held back by a manda­tory min­i­mum per­for­mance level in the core is­sue of over­all warmth and com­fort (specif­i­cally the abil­ity for the house to achieve healthy win­ter-time tem­per­a­tures with­out us­ing ex­ces­sive en­ergy). To gain a higher star rat­ing ad­dress this core is­sue first, and then re­assess the house once the changes have been made.” At 2 stars my Grey Lynn villa comes in at half the aver­age but only slightly be­low the build­ing code.

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