Bring­ing sus­tain­abil­ity home

The Leader (Tasman) - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -


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.


Popen­hagen says the right type of cur­tain would help in­su­late your house even more. Win­dows are the weak points in any house and a lot of heat ex­its through there. Make sure your cur­tains are sit­ting 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.


Popen­hagen says of­ten peo­ple don’t ven­ti­late their house at the right time, or for the right amount of time. It’s best to open the win­dows for 15 to 20 min­utes in the mid­dle of the day, when the air out­side is at its warm­est.

If you are not home dur­ing the day, then open­ing the win­dows for 5 min­utes in the morn­ing be­fore you leave will do. Liv­ing in a damp house with con­den­sa­tion and mould can have a se­ri­ous ef­fect on your health.

In the bath­room you need to shut the door as soon as the bath is be­ing run or the shower is on. Put the bath­room fan on as well and then crack the bath­room win­dow a lit­tle. This will clear the mois­ture out of the room.

Don’t keep the bath­room door open while show­er­ing as the mois­ture will es­cape and travel to 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.


Popen­hagen says heat­ing hot wa­ter amounts to a third of the an­nual power bill for an av­er­age home. A ‘‘biggy’’ is show­ers, with high pres­sure show­ers burst­ing out be­tween 30 and 38 liters per minute. A 20 minute shower equals to about 600 liters of hot wa­ter go­ing down the drain.

Chang­ing shower heads to a wa­ter ef­fi­cient type or putting in a flow re­stricter can lower the flow to about 9 liters a minute, a huge sav­ing on both wa­ter as well as en­ergy to heat it.

An­other tip Popen­hagen gives is to re­place all the light bulbs in the house with LED lights. A nor­mal light bulb has around 1000 hours, whereas a LED light has a life of about 30,000 to 50,000 hours. 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.

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 round.


Popen­hagen says there’s two types of so­lar sys­tems; one is so­lar hot wa­ter and the other one is so­lar power to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity. He says hav­ing so­lar hot wa­ter only ‘‘stacks up’’ for large fam­i­lies us­ing lots of wa­ter.

For small fam­i­lies or cou­ples it’s not that eco­nom­i­cal.

Us­ing so­lar power to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity has its down­sides too, given that at present there’s no way of stor­ing the gen­er­ated power to use at a later time.

So un­less you’re mostly home dur­ing the day when the sun is out and you run the wash­ing ma­chine, dish­washer and lights at that time, there’s lit­tle ben­e­fit to in­stall so­lar pan­els at present. Ev­ery house needs to be ac­cessed on a case by case ba­sis.

As an eco build­ing de­sign ad­vi­sor for Nelson City Coun­cil, Richard Popen­hagen is avail­able to do free con­sul­tan­cies in your home, for up to two hours. For more in­for­ma­tion ring him on 03 546 0251.


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.

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