Is­sues that cause cold and damp

Matamata Chronicle - - Winter Warmth -

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.

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