Qualified electrician Stephen Mann of Multi-Phase prefers batt insulation to foil.
Qualified electrician Stephen Mann of Multi-Phase prefers batt insulation to foil.

Installers hit as scheme gets axed

THE booming home insulation sector in the Clarence Valley has come to a standstill following Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s decision to axe the government’s Energy Efficiency Home Program on Friday.

The Minister’s announcement put an end to the controversial home insulation program that has come under increasing criticism following the death of four insulation installers, dozens of house fires and safety concerns.

Mr Garrett revealed a new and improved ‘Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme’ would replace the insulation program, but it wouldn’t come into effect until June.

In the meantime, the program’s sudden closure has had an immediate impact on insulation installers in the Clarence.

Last week Craig Allen from Access Insulation in Yamba had at least 20 jobs lined up for his four installers but after Friday’s shock announcement those jobs have all fallen through.

Craig said the scrapping of the scheme would make it hard for the company to afford to keep its employees, but they would try.

“We’re going to hold onto our guys for as long as we can,” he said.

“It’s going to cost us money but we don’t want to let anyone go ’cause we know they’ve got families.”

Craig said the company still had steady work installing insulation into new homes so he hoped they’d be able to afford to keep all staff on deck until the revised insulation program began.

The criticised insulation program may have come to an end, but Mr Garrett said he would continue his bid to ensure all homes installed with insulation under the program were safe.Last week the government announced it would cover the costs for homeowners with foil insulation installed in their roof to have electrical safety inspections carried out by local electricians.

But qualified Clarence Valley electrician Stephen Mann from Multi-Phase said there was no way he would put his name to a safety inspection where foil insulation had been installed.

“The only way I’d certify a house with foil insulation was if it was totally removed,” he said.

Mr Mann has a range of concerns with foil insulation, including the way it is laid out on top of down lights, cables and other electrical equipment.

He said it made it impossible for an electrician to check electrical work without rolling it up and then having to effectively re-install it.

He was also concerned that foil insulation could become live at any time through a range of realistic scenarios, including a mouse chewing through a wire or someone standing on a junction box under the foil.

In his experience, Mr Mann said, as long as foil insulation was installed in a ceiling, it would always pose a safety concern, even five or ten years down the track.

Yesterday, Mr Garrett extended the subsidised safety and risk checks to 15 per cent of homes with non-foil insulation installed under the program, where there were significant concerns about safety.

A government hotline will also come online tomorrow for households concerned about the safety of their insulation.Until then people can call 1800 808 571 for advice and information.

The Solar Hot Water Rebate Program was also scrapped on Friday.

A revised solar hot water program will be established under the new household Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme, alongside insulation.

Households will be able to receive a $1000 rebate for ceiling installation of solar hot water systems, and $600 rebates for heat pump systems.

The rebates for solar hot water systems and heat pumps will be available for systems installed from today.

However the new ceiling insulation rebate won’t be available until June, at which time householders – rather than installers – will claim the $1000 rebate directly through the Medicare system.

The Government will also introduce a new registration scheme that will require all installers to re-register, pay a cash bond, meet training and skills requirements and provide certified quality assurance and occupational health and safety plans.

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