Letters from July 2017


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Overused modem?

The modem our telco gave us when we signed up died after 2 years. I contacted the telco and it claimed how long modems last depends on how much use they get. The company said it would only replace the modem if it was still within the 12-month warranty period. So I have to buy another at my own cost. Does this not come under the Consumer Guarantees Act? LYNN STRAUGHEIR

WE SAY: You should get more than 2 years’ use out of a modem. If supply of a modem was part of the agreement you had with the telco when you signed up, you’re entitled to ask the company to replace it. If it won’t play ball, we recommend contacting the Telecommunication Disputes Resolution scheme. The scheme is free.

Warping laminate

Our daughter purchased a house in June 2015. A timber laminate floor had been laid in April 2014. It has warping and bubbling in several places. The retailer that installed the flooring said the product warranty only applied to the original end user of the product and was not transferable. It also said this was “industry standard”. This means, according to the supplier, she is not covered by the warranty. Yet it is described as a lifetime structural warranty against gapping, peeking, splitting, and warping, and has a 35-year water, fade and stain warranty. This seems an unreasonable anomaly given the flooring is only 3 years old. What are our daughter’s rights? A MEMBER

WE SAY: As your daughter is the second owner of the flooring, she won’t have rights against the retailer. But regardless of what the warranty says, she may be able to claim against the manufacturer (or the importer if the flooring wasn’t made here) under the Consumer Guarantees Act. We suggest your daughter get an expert opinion to confirm if the problem is with the flooring product or with its installation. If the flooring isn’t of acceptable quality, she should approach the manufacturer for compensation. However, if the flooring hasn’t been installed correctly, or has been installed in a house with conditions that may have unfavourably affected the flooring (the house is too damp or too dry), then she won’t be able to claim.


In 2015, I bought a digital camera, a camera bag, an extra battery and a memory chip. The deal came with an existing battery and a battery charger. The camera is fine but the charger has stopped working (there is no problem with the batteries). I took the charger back to the retailer and explained it had stopped working. The retailer commented it no longer sold battery chargers separately and so could not replace mine. I told the store the battery charger should, under normal use, be expected to last as long as the camera. To no avail, I was directed to another store to purchase a charger at my cost. Should the battery charger last longer than 2 years? And should the retailer have to fix or replace the charger, or offer me a refund? BERNARD BATEMAN

WE SAY: The charger should certainly last longer than the time you’ve had it and, in fact, you’d expect it to last the life of the camera. Assuming it’s only been used as intended, we’d expect the retailer to replace the charger under the Consumer Guarantees Act. We’d suggest you point this out to the store and ask it to reconsider its response.

Rural vs urban burners

We live on a 3-hectare property and are permitted to run a “rural” fire (more likely to burn overnight). I am considering replacing my old fire with a Kent Tile Fire (rural). Have your studies into wood fires discovered a difference in the efficiency and power output of “rural” as opposed to “urban” fires? ROB BROWN

George Block, Consumer technical writer, says: The advantage of rural woodburners is their ability to burn for long periods at a low level. You can turn down the damper control before going to bed and, as long as the fire is well-stoked, it’s likely to be smouldering in the morning.

However, by limiting the amount of air available for combustion (which is what you’re doing when you turn down the damper) you’re making the fire burn much dirtier than when it’s in full flame. National Environmental Standards require all woodburners on sections smaller than 2 hectares to be at least 65% efficient and discharge less than 1.5g of particle emissions per kg of fuel burnt. Modern “clean air” urban woodburners achieve this performance by consuming their fuel load quickly. However, this also means they can’t keep burning overnight.

What does this mean for the emissions, efficiency and power output of rural burners? They generally have higher heat outputs than clean-air burners as they are bigger fires, meaning they are able to handle a bigger fuel load — the Kent Tile Fire has a heat output of 20kW, suitable for heating an area up to 260m², or about 5 rooms. The efficiency of a rural fire (i.e. the proportion of wood converted into useful heat) is often well above the clean-air limit of 65%, especially if it’s burning on low as the fuel lasts longer.

Its emissions will be significantly higher than the 1.5g/kg urban limit, but this is less of an issue in rural areas because of the lower population. That said, some regions where rural air quality is an issue require woodburners on any size property to meet clean-air standards.


I’m doing a school science project, focusing on the health benefits of installing retro-double glazing in older homes. I researched how the simple process of replacing old, single-glazed windows with double glazing can reduce health problems experienced in winter by families living in substandard homes. To research this project, could you please estimate the cost of double glazing a standard 3-bedroom villa. I know there are a massive number of factors influencing this estimate, so I would be happy with a rough price range. KAIA CASSAIDY

George Block, Consumer technical writer, says: Estimating the cost of retrofitting double glazing to a home is difficult as it depends on the size and number of windows and the type of frame.

The cost of retrofitting a double-glazed window to a single frame can range from $300 to $1000. Old villas are more likely to have “double-hung” windows, which are more difficult and costly to double glaze. These will cost up to $1000 per frame.

A 3-bedroom villa might have a window in each bedroom, 3 windows in the living room, 2 in the dining room, 1 in the kitchen and 1 in the bathroom, giving 10 windows overall. If they’re all big, double-hung windows, then the whole house could cost as much as $10,000 to double glaze. If they’re smaller, or the house has fewer windows, it could be a couple of thousand dollars cheaper.

On top of the cost of glazing, you’ll have to factor in installation costs, which will vary depending on the company.

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