Our building industry can be product-driven by suppliers and the message about making your home healthy and warm can sometimes be much the same. Fighting words perhaps, but you could be wasting your hard-earned money on insulation, heating or dehumidifying systems if the home you are putting them into is sick.
There are two key elements that affect how your home performs and one is the condition of the home and the other is how you live in it.
The first step to having a healthy warm home is to make sure the building envelope is sound. That means the roof; walls and foundations are all in good order and are weathertight. Regular maintenance is the key to achieving this once you have got it all in order.
It’s about checking there are no leaks in the roof, no back flowing gutters down the exterior walls of the house, no leaking flashings around the flues and chimneys.
It means checking there is no rot damage around the windows or weatherboards letting moisture soak through into the internal timber and wall linings; no cracked, peeling or defective cladding that could be letting moisture in, all well clear of paths and grounds that can cause issues with the cladding, framing and foundations.
It also means checking the foundations are dry, well ventilated and free of debris, rot and boring insects, and don’t forget checking for leaking plumbing and wastes. And that list is just a “to begin with list”, but it’s a start.
If you also consider the last BRANZ Home Condition survey indicates that 73% of homeowners thought their homes were in good condition while only 42% were assessed to be good, you may want to get a professional in to do a maintenance survey to give you a sound starting point.
Issues or defects with the building envelope can allow moisture in causing rot damage and sickly moulds, or for it to be so well ventilated it will never be possible to heat anything other than the neighbourhood!
Once the building envelope is in good order you can start to look at the most effective ways to keep your home warm and well ventilated.
Modern homes will have insulation in the walls, ceiling, and underfloor plus double glazing. This can also make it airtight requiring it be sufficiently ventilated to regularly change out the air taking the moisture-laden air we create through breathing and living in the home out.
Older homes can generally be easily insulated in the ceiling and underfloor, however retrofitting the walls has to be done cautiously so as not to affect the cladding system or cause a bridge between the cladding and internal wall linings, which can all cause a whole host of other unhealthy problems.
Thermal curtains can help combat single glazing.
Ventilation must also be considered, as touched on before because just living and breathing in the home can produce up to 3 litres of moisture per day per person. Add into these unvented clothes dryers, showers, cooking, or a common culprit – clothes drying racks indoors and you can be putting buckets and buckets of water into the home. Opening windows daily and installing extraction systems into all wet areas will make a huge difference.
Once all these things have been considered and addressed, you are better able to then choose the best heating options for you and your home.
To have a healthy and warm home, start by understanding and sorting out the condition of your home and ensure you are living in it healthily, so that the money you spend on heating and insulation will be effective and wisely spent.