Bringing sustainability home
New Zealand houses are notoriously cold, damp and draughty, especially in winter. Nelson City Council eco building design advisor Richard Popenhagen explains the best tips and tricks to reporter to make your house warmer and more sustainable all year rou
Concentrating on insulation before anything else is a handy thing to do. If your house isn’t insulated in the roof and floor or if you want to upgrade the existing insulation,
Popenhagen recommends to look for a product with a high thermal resistance
(commonly referred to as Rvalue). Brand or type doesn’t matter much. He said having gaps in the insulation ‘‘really works against you’’, so make sure when you lay it it’s ’’nice and snug’’.
Popenhagen says a government grant of up to 50 per cent of the cost for underfloor and ceiling insulation is available in many areas of New Zealand but only for rental properties built before 2000 where the tenants are on a low income. ting hard on the floor, so touching the floor.
Any gap between the floor and the curtain will allow cold air into your room. Layered curtains are the best.
A test that could be done in winter is to pin a woollen blanket to the existing curtain or to the curtain rail, make sure it touches the floor, and sleep with it on for one or two nights. Popenhagen says often people find it makes a big difference in the temperature of the room.
Another tip from Popenhagen is to not sleep with your windows open and to not place your bed under your window. According to the World Health Organisation a living room should be at 20 degrees and a bedroom at 16 degrees for optimum health.
Sleeping in a room which is below 12 degrees puts extra strain on your cardiovascular system and below 9 degrees there’s a 25 per cent higher chance of getting a stroke or heart attack. other parts of your house.
Once you’ve finished showering, keep the fan on for a while longer to clear out all the moisture.
A properly ventilated bathroom has no fog on the mirror and no condensation on the bathroom window and ceiling. Once you’ve checked that’s the case, you can shut the window, turn the fan off and open the door.
Popenhagen says it’s better to dry your clothes outside, even in winter, as one load of washing that’s being dried inside keep 5 litres of moisture in the air. The more moisture there is in a house, the harder it is to heat it in winter.
Cooking accumulates up to 3 litres of moisture a day, so it’s important to turn your rangehood on every time you cook.
A tip for killing mould spores in the house; fill a small bucket with white vinegar for 70 per cent of the way, then dilute it down with 30 per cent of warm water. Put it on the mould and leave it on for 20 minutes, then wipe it off with hot soapy water.
The white vinegar kills the mould spores, whereas bleach only makes it look like it has disappeared but it’ll grow back. You might have to use bleach afterwards to remove the stains from the mould spores. LED lights are more expensive at first, but he says what you save in power will pay for the bulb in a year. If you can’t afford to refit all the light bulbs in your house, start with the rooms that are being used the most.
Replace your fridge and washing machine with an energy efficient version. Popenhagen says older fridges cost about $300 in power a year, whereas an energy efficient one could cost about $100 a year. A front loader washing machine is also better than a top loader.
Heat pumps or wood burners are the best forms of heating. Use a fan heater instead of an oil column heater if you need to, as the fan heater will heat your room three times faster. Don’t use unflued gas heaters because apart from expelling a litre of moisture every hour, they also push combustion products into the room which has very bad health affects.
Nelson City Council’s Richard Popenhagen with his sustainably built Atawhai home.
Popenhagen says even little changes can make a big impact on the warmth of your home.