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Warmer Homes And Better Air Quality - Without Increasing Electricity Use.

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Environment Canterbury's Clean Heat insulation and cleaner heating retrofitting scheme is producing a "trio of benefits" - improved air quality and warmer homes but without increased electricity use.

Environment Canterbury air portfolio chair Sir Kerry Burke says that a decade ago there was widespread concern that replacing open fires and older woodburners would lead to an increased demand for electricity that infrastructure could not support, leading to shortages.

Christchurch energy lines company Orion has undertaken a study of 3000 homes to assess electricity use before and after their Clean Heat retrofit. The Orion survey showed that of 3000 retrofitted houses, more than 60 percent had installed heat pumps, 23 percent low-emission wood burners, 15 percent pellet fires, and two percent installed flued-gas appliances.

"The surprising thing about the results is that across the 3000 homes, there was no overall increase in electricity use," says Sir Kerry.

"When people switched from open fires or wood burners, there was a two percent increase in electricity use for home owners who opted for a heat pump. However, there was a two percent decline for people who chose a solid-fuel heater, a three percent decline for pellet fires and a seven percent decline in electricity consumption if people switched to gas."

"Overall the impact on electricity use of changing to cleaner heating was zero. Insulation following the retrofit means homes retain heat better. Households that used to use open fires often supplemented their heating with inefficient electric heaters, which they no longer required."

Christchurch's air quality was originally among the worst in the country, but since the Clean Heat Project began in 2003, monitoring shows winter air pollution figures are now trending downwards.

"In past years, 30- 50 exceedences of the health-based pollution limit in a Christchurch winter would have been the norm. During winter 2009, only 12 exceedances were recorded in Christchurch, although weather also played a part in that record low figure," says Sir Kerry.

Through the Clean Heat Project, 15,000 homes have been retro-fitted with cleaner heating and insulation over the past six years and significantly improving air quality in Christchurch.

Polluted winter air, mostly produced by home heating has been identified as a key factor in respiratory illness and heart disease.

Adding to the health benefits from cleaner air, homes that can maintain a minimum temperature of 160 C are healthier as well as being more comfortable. As part of its Clean Heat programme, Environment Canterbury requires homes to be insulated so that people can get the maximum benefit from the energy they use and increase the warmth profile of their home.

"Warmth through energy efficiency is the third benefit that Clean Heat provides. We've undertaken a Clean Heat customer survey about the effects of insulation on their homes, and 80 percent of those surveyed perceive their homes to be warmer," says Sir Kerry.

Clean Heat operates throughout the year and options are also available in Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Ashburton and Timaru. People can call Clean Heat customer services on freephone 0800 329 276 or visit the Clean Heat website

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