Know the law and the safety rules when working with insulation. Get a professional in if you are not certain you can manage the risks.

Foil insulation is banned

The installation or repair of electrically-conductive insulation, known as foil insulation, is banned in all residences including rental homes. Anyone who breaches the ban commits an offence and may be liable to a penalty of up to $200,000.

Safety warningDo not touch foil insulation without turning off the power at the mains first as there is an electrocution risk. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician. If you choose to remove foil insulation, hire a qualified professional.

Anyone who inspects foil insulation even after turning off the power at the mains must proceed with caution as in some instances the foil may still be live.

If the property currently has foil insulation that is in reasonable condition it does not need to be replaced. 

If the foil insulation is damaged this will need to be replaced with insulation that meets the new requirements.

EECA Energywise has advice on choosing an insulation installer

Checking insulation safely

If you can do it safely, get a step-ladder and peek through the hatch of your ceiling into your roof space to see if you have insulation.

Watch the video on ceiling insulation on the Energywise website (external link)

If you can do it safely, check your underfloor insulation to make sure it hasn't shifted over time, and that there aren't any gaps.

Watch the video on underfloor insulation on the Energywise website (external link)

If you're not sure of the location, type and condition of the insulation, seek advice from a professional insulation installer.

Safety first!

Before inspecting the insulation – ceiling and underfloor – make sure that the area is safe. The New Zealand Standard NZS 4246:2016 is free to access below.

Make sure the space is safe before you enter it. If you are entering the subfloor, turn the power off at the mains as there is an electrocution risk. Anyone who inspects foil insulation even after turning off the power at the mains must proceed with caution as in some instances the foil may still be live.

Take safety precautions – wear safety equipment, including gloves, dust mask, overalls, protective eye and footwear.

Be careful when using ladders and stepladders. Read the WorkSafe factsheet – Working with Ladders and Stepladders (external link)

Make sure that someone is nearby and able to assist if you need help.

Stand on the framing when you are moving around the roof space to avoid damaging or falling through the ceiling.

Make sure the required clearances are in place for items that get hot, such as downlights, downlight transformers and flues. Ensure that open downlights are free of potentially flammable debris such as loose fill insulation – if you find some debris, call a licensed electrician. More on this is covered in the New Zealand Standard NZS 4246:2016.

Things not to do

Do not touch foil insulation without turning off the power at the mains first as there is an electrocution risk. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician. If you choose to remove foil insulation, hire a qualified professional.

Don’t enter hot roof spaces – wait until it’s cool, and take a water bottle with you. Take frequent breaks out of the roof space.

Stay out of spaces where there are known health and safety hazards – e.g. asbestos dust, poorly installed electrical wires, or sewerage contamination. Get these sorted out first.

Don’t go into spaces that are too small or hard to exit.

Don’t fill required safety clearances, e.g. around downlights, over downlight transformers, or around flues or chimneys.

Don’t tamper with the electrics – if you think you’ve damaged something or a wire comes loose, call a licensed electrician.

Installing insulation safely

Landlords can install insulation themselves. But there can be serious safety risks to both landlord and tenant if it’s not done properly, including:

  • fire risk from ceiling insulation being incorrectly installed or moved to cover downlights, chimney flues, or other safety clearances
  • electrocution risk from stapling electrical cabling when installing underfloor insulation.

Landlords could also face insurance and liability consequences for faulty or negligent installation.

If you are not certain you can meet all the regulations including safety rules, you are strongly advised to contact a qualified professional insulation installer.

This reduces the safety and quality assurance risks, and professionals can often buy insulation in bulk and pass these savings on to clients.

EECA Energywise has advice on choosing an insulation installer (external link)   

If a professional insulation installer installs new insulation, ask for a certificate or similar to show that they have installed it in accordance with the Residential Tenancies Act regulations. Keep this with the maintenance files for the property.

Meeting the New Zealand Standard

Whoever is installing the insulation must do it in accordance with New Zealand Standard NZS 4246:2016 Energy efficiency – Installing bulk thermal insulation in residential buildings.

This gives guidance on the correct way to install insulation in an effective and safe way. It explains how anyone installing insulation should keep themselves safe and what safety clearances are required from downlights, chimney flues, roofing etc.

Download the New Zealand Standard NZS 4246:2016 Energy efficiency – Installing bulk thermal insulation in residential buildings [PDF, 6 MB]

Copyright in NZS 4246:2016 is held by the New Zealand Standards Executive. Standards New Zealand on behalf of the New Zealand Standards Executive has given permission to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (Tenancy Services) to provide access to the standard under copyright licence LN001211. The reader is permitted to view and print the 2016 edition of the standard free of charge (subject to printing costs) for your own use. You are not permitted to reproduce any part of it without prior written permission from Standards New Zealand unless your actions are covered by Part 3 of the Copyright Act 1994 (external link)

For queries about copyright please contact Standards New Zealand at copyright@standards.govt.nz.

Get a professional insulation installer in if you have any doubts about the existing insulation or whether insulation can be installed safely and effectively.