Ventilation and Heating - The Healthy Home Dream Team - 03/06/2016
When you think winter, what comes to mind? Cold, damp, flu, and allergies? Wouldn’t it be nice if your thoughts of winter were warmth, comfort and health? New Zealanders have a particularly Spartan attitude to winter – grin and bear it, chuck another layer on, use a hot water bottle - basically anything other than investing in a decent heating system that will make your home a winter haven instead of an ice box. In fact, the average New Zealand home sits at 2-4 degree lower than the World Health Organisation’s recommended temperature. Not only are homes colder, but they’re damper, prone to condensation, mould and moisture build up, which can be uncomfortable, unsightly, and can also aggravate respiratory illnesses such as asthma, and common allergies.
Ventilation systems are an excellent way to prepare your home for heating. They won’t heat your home by themselves, but they will bring fresh, clean outdoor air into your home replacing damp and stale air that sits in an unventilated home. This fresher and drier air will make it easier to heat with a suitable heating system, like a heat pump, or heat transfer system.
How ventilation systems work - why they can’t heat a room in winter by themselves.
Ventilation systems cannot heat a room in winter by themselves for a few reasons. Sure, adequate ventilation can make your home drier and make heating more economical, unfortunately, it won’t do the job of creating warmth itself. So, how does a ventilation system work? Firstly, there are two different types of common home ventilation systems: positive pressure/roof cavity heat transfer systems, and balanced pressure heat recovery systems.
The former are the most common type available here in New Zealand. They force filtered air from your roof space into the house through single or multiple ceiling vents but their efficacy is dependent on the air tightness of your home.If you’ve got a draughty house the chilly outdoor air can migrate back into the roof cavity so the ventilation system is just circulating cold air. However, if air tightness isn’t a problem for you home, positive pressure systems are an excellent way of providing adequate ventilation, keeping moisture, mould and dampness, condensation and other nasty winter side effects at bay.
Benefits of a properly ventilated home
While ventilation is not enough to singularly heat your home, when combined with a good heating system it is beneficial for not only warmth and dryness, but for a wealth of other things too. Not only does a damp home feel cold in winter, it also encourages the growth of mould which not only looks unappealing and promotes bad odours, but has also been linked to a raft of health and respiratory problems like asthma and allergies.
In New Zealand, the average home produces 30 Litres of moisture per day! If you don’t have adequate ventilation, that moisture quickly turns to condensation and mould. If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance you’re living in one of the 46% of New Zealand homes that suffer from condensation, or one of the 35% of New Zealand homes that have visible mould. Certrain strains of this mould, like Stachybotrys Chartarum (SC), have toxic properties called mycotoxins that are directly linked to respiratory illnesses. SC is a greenish black mould that you’ll most likely find on fibreboard, wallpaper, and the paper covering of gypsum wallboard. If you have visible mould in your home, it’s time to take action quickly.
Remember though, mould doesn’t have to be visible for it to be present. If your home is damp and unventilated, there’s a high chance there’s mould present but you just can’t see it. If there is a damp odour present in your home, it’s likely that mould accompanies it, so get it checked out.
Speaking of odours – if you find that certain smells like cooking, pet or chemical odours aren’t just going away by leaving a window open, the right ventilation system will force those smells outside and replace them with fresh, clean air.
Ventilation and Heating working together to produce a healthy environment.
They don’t call it the winter blues for nothing. Health is a key concern in winter; not only are our immune systems lower and more susceptible to illnesses when we’re cold, but our desire to jump out of bed and enjoy the sunshine are diminished when it’s cold, damp and dreary. Having a home that’s free of condensation, that is dry and warm makes a huge difference to your enjoyment of winter. The best benefit of a well-ventilated home is that while it isn’t enough to heat your home on its own, it makes it easier to heat. Plus, a drier home retains heat better than a damp one. Using adequate ventilation and heating in tandem means a warmer, drier, safer home and less expenditure in the long run.
Choosing a heating system that provides warmth throughout your entire home and is energy efficient too is key to sustainable long term heating. Gas heaters, while they provide direct warmth, actually increase moisture content in homes; column and fan heaters are expensive to run. Home heating systems like heat pumps, heat transfer or heat tablets are all great ways of maximising winter comfort effectively and at an energy efficient rate.
Ventilation removes stale, germ-ridden air and replaces it with the fresh stuff, which can then be warmed using a heat pump or similar heating system. You’ll breathe better, feel better and you might even look forward to your next winter.
If you are really committed to sustainable heating, and a healthy home, consider making your house a ‘passive’ one. Passive house criteria include airtightness, temperature regulation and reducing energy costs. This is a relatively new concept in New Zealand, but imagine a future where all houses were cosy, warm and healthy – it seems absurd to think that they’re not!
Efficiencies of heating drier air vs damp air.
Heating alone might be a temporary fix, but it doesn’t remove the toxins from your home that increase your risk of getting sick in winter, like ventilation systems do.
Humid or damp air has a higher heat capacity than drier air. This means you’ll wait longer for your home to heat up, and will also be paying more for the added time it takes to heat the place up. This doesn’t just apply to air – if you have a damp home, then all your furnishings, clothes and other belongings that fill the space have a colder surface temperature. This means that they too will take longer to heat up – nobody likes putting on a damp coat or sitting on a cold couch!
While a few minutes might not seem like a big deal – think about what this will save you in the long run. A few minutes every day during winter could equate to a chunk of your monthly power bills.
Another plus side to heating dry air is that it feels good! The feeling of sitting in a warm house that’s heavy with moisture, or even the feeling of being humid in summer, is stifling and uncomfortable. Warm and drier air is nicer to inhale and feels more natural than hot and humid air. You won’t even know it’s winter outside when you combine good ventilation and heating.
Ventilation + Heating, Better Together
If you want a comfortable, warm home this winter, and for every winter to come then investing in adequate ventilation and heating is one of the best decisions you can make for you and your family’s health. Understanding that using ventilation and heating systems together is the best way to effectively heat your home and keep it a healthy environment is essential.
There are a few key ingredients to a warm home: ventilation, a good heating system, insulation and air tightness. If you tick all these boxes then you’re on the road to enjoying a warm winter, free of mould, dampness, condensation and a lesser risk of asthma and allergy symptoms being aggravated. Efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to home ventilation and heating systems are really important to consider for you and your environment.
While ventilation won’t heat your home alone, it is a vital component to making your home as warm and healthy as it can be, reducing dampness, mould, odours and moisture, for a cleaner, drier home that welcomes winter.
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