Eco changes bring warm feeling

00:31, Jul 11 2014
Palmerston North City eco design adviser Nelson Lebo

Nelson Lebo's job at the Palmerston North City Council is helping people make free, low-cost and economically sound changes to make their homes warmer, drier and healthier.

What gives the eco design adviser real job satisfaction is knowing the changes also save money, and are better for the planet.

Seven weeks into his role, he does several healthy home consultations a week, and advises people renovating or designing new homes.

Lebo is an organic market gardener, and has turned "the cheapest house in New Zealand" in Castlecliff, Whanganui, into a solar eco-home with average monthly power bills of $25.

He has written about it in a newspaper column, and last year worked voluntarily doing energy audits on 80 homes, and talking to community groups.

That effort earned him a nomination for a Pride of New Zealand award.


He is a scientist and researcher, with a PhD in science and sustainability education, and looks for "win-win-win" solutions.

"I'm a concerned citizen on the planet Earth, and I'm a researcher, so I'm data-driven."

Faced with commuting from Whanganui, he reshaped his job so he can visit people's homes on late nights, Mondays and Thursdays, stays over, and has Wednesdays off.

That's four trips a week instead of 10 - "In terms of being eco thrifty, I've done as well as possible".

Two of the target groups Lebo helps are young families and superannuitants.

"They are the most vulnerable groups, and spend the most time at home."

Georgie and Patrick Reinhart, who have two daughters and a baby, had already invested in some double glazing before seeking Lebo's advice.

They were surprised there was still no room for complacency about heat loss through windows. As well as drawing the curtains earlier, they are going to install an extra layer of close-fitting curtains.

The next project will be to replace recessed downlights so gaps in the ceiling insulation can be filled.

Neville Strong recently moved into a 1970s house, where he intends to grow old and get it warmer.

He learnt that better curtains could be as effective as expensive double glazing.

The next tasks will be sealing off the ground under the house, underfloor insulation, extra ceiling insulation and venting heat from the living areas to the bedrooms.

"My instinct was just to double glaze - now that's probably the last thing."

Manawatu Standard