What you need to know about the heating standard
Keeping rental properties warm and compliant
For many years now, landlords and homeowners have been installing heat pumps into their rental properties based on the floor size of the house or the specific area that requires heating. But with the healthy homes’ standards now law and in full effect since 31 July 2019, the heating standard takes quite a different approach – and we’re finding it’s causing a bit of confusion.
The healthy homes’ heating standard aims to ensure that all rental properties have at least one fixed heater that meets a minimum heating capacity. The two main factors that govern compliance are a) the living room space where the heater is installed, and b) the required minimum heating capacity of the heater.
If either of these does not adequately meet the Government standards, then the rental property is not compliant with the heating standard of the Residential Tenancies (Healthy Homes Standards) Regulations 2019.
Here’s what you need to know about the healthy homes heating standard – what it means for your rental property and how you can ensure the property is compliant.
Healthy Homes’ Standards: the heating standard
The heating standard states that all rental properties must have at least one fixed heating device which directly heats the main living room to at least 18 degrees (recommended by the World Health Organisation) – and can maintain this temperature all year round.
The heater must be an acceptable type and meet a required minimum heating capacity (kW).
Determining the main living room
It might not be where you think
The first step to compliance under the healthy homes’ heating standard is making sure your heating device is situated in the main living room.
Under the standards, the term ‘living room’ not only applies to a lounge; it can also include other areas that tenants generally spend time living in everyday life like the kitchen, dining room or other areas like a rumpus or family room.
Living rooms can also include multi-use spaces like a studio apartment or open-plan lounge, kitchen, and dining room. If a property has more than one living room, only the largest living room needs to be heated. For many New Zealand homes with open-plan living spaces, this is where things can get a little tricky.
When determining which living room is the largest, you need to include any other space that is always open to the living room, such as an open-plan kitchen, hallway or stairwell, as well as the living room itself. If the spaces are not permanently separated by closed doors i.e. open plan, then the heater will need to go in whichever of those rooms is the largest – irrelevant of where your tenants would spend most of their time.
Calculating the right heating capacity
The output required to heat the largest living room area
Next, is figuring out how much heating you need to keep your main living room heated to 18 degrees.
Under the healthy homes’ standards, calculating the minimum required heating capacity (kW) for the main living room is determined not only by measuring the floor area, but also features that make it easier or harder to heat i.e. the home’s location, build date, insulation levels, double-glazing, and room layout – among other things.
House A: Property with multiple living areas
House A is a double-storey house with more than one living room. It has a ground floor lounge, an open-plan kitchen-dining on the first floor, and a sitting room on the second floor.
As per the healthy homes’ standards, because House A has more than one living room, the heater needs to be installed in the largest living room. In some situations, this means the heating may be required in a location that isn’t where the tenants or homeowners would prefer the heater.
For example, if House A’s kitchen-dining on the is larger than both the lounge and upstairs sitting room, the heater must be fixed in the kitchen-dining. It also needs to have the capacity to heat the kitchen-dining.
To heat the rest of the house, you can add additional heating devices however, as per the standards, the only one that is required by law is the heater in the kitchen-dining.
House B: Property with one, open-plan living area
House B is a single-storey house with an open-plan lounge, kitchen, and dining room. There are no other ‘living areas’ in the house. There are no doors or windows that close off the lounge, kitchen, or dining room to each other.
In this scenario, there is only one main living room. However, the heater will need to have the capacity to heat all three areas (not just where it is situated).
Seek advice from the experts – before installing heating
Because of the increased complexity around the heating calculation within the standard compared to what was previously used in the heating the industry, in some cases we’re finding that heaters are too small, and don’t have the required output to be compliant under the healthy homes’ standards. We’re also finding that some heat pumps are, unfortunately, located in the wrong place – where there are multiple living rooms, they’ve not been installed in the largest room.
Investing in heating can be a pricey investment for landlords, and heat pumps are in high demand.
We highly recommend speaking with a healthy homes’ standards professional before purchasing and installing heat pumps in your rental properties. This way you can be sure a) you buy a heater with the right capacity, and b) it is installed in the correct location.
If the property already has a qualifying heating device (heat pump, wood burner, flued gas heater or pellet burner) that is in good condition, but it doesn’t quite meet the required minimum capacity, there are options available to increase existing heating in some circumstances – without having to buy a brand-new heating source for the whole required heating capacity.
To find out how if your rental properties meet the healthy homes’ heating standard, give the team at Healthy Homes NZ a call today.