Warm Home

Family Health Diary

Aim for a warm, dry home

Keeping your home warm over winter makes it a much healthier living environment for you and your family.

Cold and damp are common asthma triggers, with asthma attacks more frequent in winter months. Being too cold can also reduce resistance to infection and cause some conditions, such as arthritis, to play up.

The New Zealand 2015 House Condition Survey carried out by BRANZ (an independent research testing and consulting company) found that over 50% of New Zealand homes were not heated properly, had poor insulation and problems with damp. But there are solutions at hand, some more economical than others, and help available if you need it. Now is a good time of year to get prepared, and ensure your home does not put your family’s health at risk.

Why insulate?

Home insulation is the surest way to improve your health and power bill, as shown in a study carried out by Otago University.

As part of the study, selected houses were donned with ceiling and under-floor insulation, draught-stopping around windows and doors, and polyethylene-covering over the ground under the house. The results were warmer drier homes, which improved the health of the study group who reported less sickness and less time off work or school.

Check your house to see if you have good insulation by having a look in your ceiling and under your house. If there is insulation, is it intact, without gaps and are there any patches of damp? This will help you decide whether you need to seek help or fix the problem yourself.

Condensation – how to detect it and get rid of it

There are so many ways moisture can get into your home and build up unnoticed until those tell-tale signs of dampness appear: a musty smell, patches of colouration on the walls and ceiling from watermarks, and mould in your wardrobe or mildew in the shower. You can take easy practical steps to prevent this.

  • Keep moisture out by fixing any leaks or broken windows and making sure your clothes drier is vented to the outside
  • Get rid of moisture by wiping down windows and walls daily
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture content in the air and an extractor fan wherever moisture is generated like in the shower or kitchen
  • Keep your house well ventilated using an air circulation system or just by opening the windows whenever you can.

Heating options

There are plenty of options for heating your home and they all have their pros and cons in terms of efficiency and cost (check out the estimated cents per unit of heat below):

A heat pump is efficient, with good heat control and even distribution of heat throughout the room, and although expensive to install it has the lowest running costs over other heating options.
Cost: 5-9 cents per unit of heat.

A log burner generates a lot of heat but it is not easy to control the heat and the room will be cold until the fire is going well; also burning wood is not environmentally friendly, but is a cheap way to heat your home.
Cost: 10-11 cents per unit of heat.

A wood pellet burner is efficient with good heat control and produces lower carbon emissions than logs because the pellets are made out of waste wood products, which make this a cleaner more environmentally friendly option, although slightly more costly to run than a wood burner.
Cost: 13-19 cents per unit of heat.

A gas heater is easy to run and can use piped natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or LPG in a bottle, but you will need a proper flue to prevent build up of toxic gasses; this is a clean form of energy but also relatively costly to run.
Cost: 14-22 cents per unit of heat.

Electric heaters like a fan heater or radiator are cheap to buy but costly to run.
Cost: 24 cents per unit of heat.

Central heating like under-floor heating is efficient for distributing heat evenly but heat can be lost if the floor is not insulated and can be expensive to run. Pipes carry water or air around the house that is heated by gas or wood burning.

These indicative running costs were taken from www.energywise.govt.nz

Tips for a cosy winter home

Use a thermostat and timer on your heater, that way you will make sure your home is warm when you want it to be but does not fall above or below recommended temperatures.

Make sure your curtains are lined to help keep drafts out and warmth in.

Fix any broken windows, seal any cracks or holes and block any gaps where drafts can get in, such as under doors; a draft excluder can be an effective way to prevent drafts.

Cover bare floorboards or tiles with rugs to help keep your feet warm.

Use warm colours to add a feeling of cosiness to a room, such as red, orange and gold using throws, rugs or even flowers for added cheer.

Banish mould this winter

Mould is a form of fungus that thrives in a cold damp home. There are many different moulds that will live in your home if you allow them to, causing health hazards when the spores are inhaled, particularly for anyone with respiratory problems like asthma; they can also cause allergies. A particularly nasty mould is the black mould which can cause irritation to the lungs and should be treated with great care. If you see patches of mould remove it at once with a mould cleaner like vinegar or mild bleach; also using an air purifier or filter will help remove mould spores from the air.

It is important not to let the indoor temperature fall below 16.5ºC, which would feel uncomfortably cold as well as promoting mould growth, so the best way to eliminate the problem of mould in the home is to keep your home warm and dry throughout winter.

Get help this winter

Help is available to winter-proof your home, if you need it. The EECA Warmer Kiwi Homes Grant provides 80% off the price of insulation and heating for eligible homeowners.

Did you know?

  • The World Health Organisation recommends that a healthy home should be heated to a minimum of 18ºC
  • Temperatures lower than 16ºC increase risk of respiratory disease
  • Around 35% of your energy bill goes towards heating your home and if your home is not insulated properly much of the heat is lost and the cost wasted
  • 40% of heat generated in the home can be lost through an uninsulated ceiling and 10% through the floor
  • Regular use of a dehumidifier can reduce humidity levels to 30-50%
  • Around 8 litres of moisture per day can be generated in the home from everyday activities such as cooking, showers and breathing
  • About 12% of the country’s total energy is used in the home
  • The amount of electricity used by the average house adds to the carbon footprint by emitting 1.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

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