Buying and renting tips

Whether you're buying or renting, it’s sensible to assess how warm and comfortable a potential home is, and how much your energy bills might be.

Insulation

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 installed. If you buy a home with sub-standard insulation, remember to budget for upgrades.

 Insulation

Heating

Used properly, a good heating system makes it easier and less expensive to keep your house warm - especially if the insulation is up to standard. Clean effective forms of heating include some heat pumps, modern wood or wood pellet burners and flued gas heaters.

 Heating

Dampness

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 builder or building surveyor. Make sure the inspection includes moisture content measurements to identify any hidden leaks and moisture problems in building materials.

 Dampness

 Ventilation

Winter sun

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, 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.

New Zealand sun charts - Victoria University website

Windows

In winter, heat can escape 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.

It's a real plus if you find a home with double glazing. It reduces heat loss, noise and window condensation.

 Windows

Water heating systems

Some hot water systems are more efficient than others - they’re cheaper to run and have less impact on the environment, for example solar water heating, heat pump water heating and wetback (wood) water heating.

 Water heating

Appliances

If the home you're looking at comes with appliances - a fridge, dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer - check whether they’re still in good working condition and are energy efficient.

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. Look for the ENERGY STAR® mark on qualified products and appliances - they are super energy efficient.

 Appliances

 ENERGY STAR

Buying and renting checklist

Use this checklist to give you an indication if a home you're looking at is likely to be an energy-guzzling icebox or a warm, comfortable, energy efficient home.