14 Aug 2019

South Auckland charity warming homes with bubble wrap

From Checkpoint, 5:40 pm on 14 August 2019

A charity in South Auckland has come up with a novel and cheap way to warm cold homes this winter.

Workshops run by Kootuitui Ki Papakura educate families on ventilation, insulation, heating and mould removal. People can then ask for a house assessment, followed by installations of bubble wrap, full-length curtains, draught-stoppers and seals.

The mahi, that involves a dozen men and women from Kootuitui, as well as Housing New Zealand, started Wednesday morning in good order in Rahera Cameron's three-bedroom house in the suburb of Papakura.

Charity chief executive Angela Gattung said the bubble wrap acted as makeshift double glazing.

"We're installing some low-cost solutions to make their house warmer, drier and healthier," she said.

A thermometer showed the coldest room was 14.5 degrees, and everyone was waiting to see some magic.

They cut the bubble wrap to the right size, sprayed the windows with a solution made from 70 percent white vinegar and 30 percent water, then applied the material.

The wrap would stick to the windows for the whole winter, Ms Gattung said.

The short curtains had also been replaced with full-length ones.

Jan Piahana, the charity's whanau engagement facilitator, said the temperature for a warm and healthy room should be 18 to 20 degrees.

The thermometer reading rose to 16.3 degrees in the room that was measured before, not long after bubble wrap put up, and curtains changed.

"Rahera should be able to close the door and the curtains and keep the warmth in. You can heat the room for an hour, and it holds the heat for the rest of the night," Ms Piahana said, adding that cost for heating would also be cut down.

Double-sided draught stoppers, some made by volunteers, have been put under the door.

The volunteers said draught excluder strips, or what the group call "v-seals" worked well to stop cold air from coming in.

The temperature continued to rise, and reached 18.5 degrees in an hour-and-a-half after the installation was completed.

Whānau volunteer Millie Moerua said the materials were easily available at hardware shops.

"The idea of this installation was to be simple so that our whānau can share their knowledge, but the main component to have this installation is understanding the behavioural practises that needs to come with it," she said.

Ms Cameron attended a workshop a few months ago.

"Every morning I wake up and wipe the windows down, and open up all the windows and doors to air it out. After that, I close it all up."

She said her children would be happy to see the change.

"They'll be so excited coming back home. 'Mommy, mommy what's on the windows?' Leave it, it's bubble wrap. 'Can we pop it?' No, we can't. That's to keep us nice and warm."

Kootuitui works around five south Auckland schools. Since it started its warm, dry and healthy homes programme in 2018, it has seen more than a hundred people attend workshops.

It has overseen installations for 55 families and brought changes to homes with nearly 200 children.

Ms Gattung said an installation like this cost $1000 to $1500, but it's provided for free to the family.

She said they appreciated the donors who kept their work going, which included the Hugo Charitable Trust, the Todd Foundation and the Theresa Gattung Trust, the Papakura Local Board and The Southern Initiative.

"That will improve the health of the people living in the homes, so that's the adults and the children. When we improve children's health, we get children to school every day," Ms Gattung said.

Housing New Zealand senior tenancy manager Bobbie Jo said it was an "awesome initiative, and the tenants love it".

"Kootuitui provides a lot of education around how to properly ventilate your home. Today I learnt about the bubble wrap and curtains too," she said.