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Buying and renting

Whether you're buying or renting, it really makes sense to think about how warm and comfortable a prospective home will be, and how much the energy bills might be.

On this page:

Does the home have enough insulation?

What type of heating system does the home have?

Is the home damp?

Will the living areas get enough sun in winter?

How big are the windows, and which way do they face?

Are the windows double-glazed?

What type of hot water system does the home have?

Are the appliances energy efficient?

Does the home have enough insulation?

Insulation has a big impact on how warm, comfortable and healthy a home is to live in.

Nearly 50% of New Zealand homes don't have enough ceiling and/or underfloor insulation[1]. It's fairly straightforward to check whether a home has adequate ceiling and underfloor insulation and, if it hasn't, whether it can easily be put in - find out how to determine if your insulation is adequate on our pages about ceiling insulation and underfloor insulation.

Remember to budget for insulation upgrades if you buy a home with sub-standard insulation.

What type of heating system does the home have?

An appropriate heating system that's used properly makes a home much easier and affordable to heat properly - especially if the insulation is up to standard.

Clean effective forms of heating include some heat pumps, modern wood or wood pellet burners and good flued gas heaters. Avoid unflued gas heaters. Find out more about home heating.

Is the home damp?

A damp home can be an unhealthy living environment. Find out if a home is damp by:

  • Checking for signs like musty smells, mould or water stains on walls, ceilings or under carpets and dampness under the house.
  • Looking for extractor fans (externally vented) in kitchens and bathrooms, which are important for managing indoor moisture effectively.
  • Getting the house inspected, before you buy, by a suitably qualified and experienced builder or building surveyor. Make sure the inspection includes moisture content measurements to identify any hidden leaks and moisture problems in building materials.

Note that a ventilation system isn't an indicator that a home has no dampness issues - sometimes these just mask the problem. By looking for the root of the dampness problem it can often be fixed so dehumidifiers and ventilation systems aren't needed. Find out more about ventilation and dampness.

Will the living areas get enough sun in winter?

Rooms with unshaded windows on the north-facing side of the house get more heat and light from the sun, making them warmer and more pleasant to live in during the cooler months.

Remember that the sun's position is lower in winter than in summer, so objects cast longer shadows. Look for any objects that may shade your northern windows in winter.

If you're really keen to see whether an object will shade the house, you can work it out using a sun path diagram from Victoria University's Centre for Building Performance Research.

How big are the windows, and which way do they face?

In winter a lot of heat disappears through windows that aren't sized properly for the direction they face - even if they're double-glazed.

Ideally, windows should be moderately large on the north-facing side of the house, small on the east and west sides, and even smaller on the south side.

Find out more about windows designed to use the sun.

Are the windows double-glazed?

Double-glazing reduces heat loss and noise from the outside. It also significantly reduces window condensation. Most homes don't have it, but it's a real plus if you find a home that has double-glazing.

What type of hot water system does the home have?

Some hot water systems are more efficient than others, so they're cheaper to run and have less impact on the environment - like solar water heating, heat pump water heating and wetback (wood) water heating. Find out more about hot water heating.

But even with standard electric hot water heating, there are lots of things you can do to get more out of your hot water.

Are the appliances energy efficient?

If the home you're looking at comes with appliances - like a fridge, dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer - check whether they are still in good working condition and if they are likely to be electricity guzzlers.

A few things to look for are the condition of the fridge seals, approximate age of the appliances, and whether the clothes dryer is vented to the outside (unvented dryers release a lot of moisture into the house).

For the most energy efficient whiteware, home electronics, heat pumps, office equipment, and efficient lighting, look for the ENERGY STAR mark.

If the appliances don't have energy rating labels on them and you want to find out what their energy use is like, you may be able to look them up online. Find out the brand and model and look for it on the joint Australian/New Zealand energy rating website.

Related tools

Image of lounge with various lightingHow energy efficient is your home?

Step-by-step tool to help you identify opportunities for energy savings in your home. Use this tool now»

Related links:

Notes:

[1]EECA estimate based on figures from BRANZ report E466, and the number of homes insulated under EECA-administered retrofit programmes.