Issues that cause cold and damp
Many existing New Zealand homes, especially older homes, are cold, damp, draughty and expensive to heat. In many cases this is due to a small number of common issues.
A lot of our houses are badly designed. Simple things, such as making the most of the sun, haven’t been included.
Many used in the past resulted in very draughty houses. It’s pointless trying to heat a house when every room has a breeze blowing through it.
Deferred home maintenance is all too common in our country and causes a wide number of problems, including dampness and mould problems due to leaking claddings, storm water and drainage issues or blocked sub-floor ventilation.
The lack of insulation in New Zealand homes is a major energy and health issue. Home insulation only became mandatory in 1978, so homes built before then often have no, or substandard, insulation. Some insulation also degrades over time so even if your house has been insulated in the past, it may need to be upgraded.
An estimated 750,000 New Zealand homes have substandard ceiling or underfloor insulation – that’s nearly 50 per cent of all our homes.
Insulation also needs to be installed carefully to work properly.
Badly installed insulation will only work half, and probably a lot less, as well as it is supposed to.
Learn more about insulation.
Moisture and mould problems are common in New Zealand homes, due to substandard construction, insufficient insulation and ventilation of crucial areas and people not knowing what they need to do to control moisture in their homes.
Too much moisture inside a house is unhealthy, particularly for people with respiratory problems.
In any house with a damp problem it is always best to fix the cause of the problem rather than treating the symptoms with a ventilation system or a dehumidifier.
Many homes don’t have adequate heating and the heating they do have is often inefficient – open fires are a good example.
Open fires can make your house colder overall.
Research shows they can be detrimental to your health and the health of people who live in the area around your house.
Our poorly insulated, draughty houses and their lack of effective heating have also contributed to the development of a culture of underheating. Our homes are often at temperatures well below World Health Organisation guidelines. While we brag about our ‘‘Put another jumper on’’ attitude the resulting health problems are costing us and our children dearly in sick days off work and school, and in healthcare.
It is no coincidence that we have such high rates of respiratory illness, especially among children.
Fourteen per cent of children between two and 14 years old, and 11 per cent of all New Zealanders aged 15 years or older, have been diagnosed or had symptoms consistent with asthma.
These are some of the highest rates in the world.
During winter the temperatures of living areas and bedrooms of many New Zealand houses are well below the World Health Organisation suggested minimum of 18C .
More than 75 per cent of New Zealand homes have insufficient ceiling insulation and 70 per cent where the floor could be insulated, have no underfloor insulation at all.
The good news is, there are steps you can take to make your home more comfortable, warmer and healthier – and to help you make the changes you might qualify for government funding.
First – sort your house out so you can heat it properly and efficiently
Do basic repairs and maintenance – for example fix broken windows or any holes in walls. Stop draughts and seal gaps and cracks. Check to see if you have any dampness in your home, work out what is causing it, and fix the problem. Insulate your house as well as possible. Second – develop a home heating plan Work out which areas of your home need to be heated. Calculate how much heat these areas require.
Third – work out the heating type and fuels that best suit your home
Heat pumps are highly efficient, cheap to run and give very good heat control. Log burners are cheap to run, put out a lot of heat and work without electricity but have less control over heat output.
Pellet fires are cheap to run, have good heat control but generally need electricity to work.
Flued gas heating is easy to run and the cleanest fossil fuel option.