CREATING HEALTHY HOMES FOR KIWIS
We believe that everyone deserves to live in a home that’s warm, dry and comfortable. So we’ve put together an easy guide to making your home healthy.
Too many New Zealand homes are cold and damp and mouldy. That’s because they don’t have enough (or any!) insulation, there are gaps around doors, windows, floors and ceilings that let cold air in and warm air out, and there’s too much moisture inside, making it easy for mould to grow.
That’s no good for our health or our wallets. Draughty, cold, damp homes make respiratory (breathing) illnesses worse and cause allergies, particularly for kids and old people. They also cost a lot more to heat.
The good news is that there are lots of ways to make your home warmer and drier, whether you own your home, rent, or are a landlord. In fact, from 1 July 2019, the government is introducing new Healthy Homes Standards that mean all landlords must make sure the homes they rent out are properly insulated or have a heat source that will keep them warm and dry.
3 Ways To Make Your Home Healthier
There are three main ways to make your home warmer, drier and healthier (and your power bill cheaper too).
Read on for our easy guide to making changes.
1. Draught-Stopping: Keep Cold Air Out And Warm Air In
In many homes, air can leak in or out through gaps around windows, skylights and door frames, cracks between floorboards and at the edges of walls, through badly-fitted ceiling hatches and out of chimneys. Plugging up these gaps will reduce stop chilly air getting in, and warm air (that you’ve paid to heat) getting out.
- Stuff a rubbish sack full of balled-up newspaper and use it to plug an unused chimney. Make sure it’s easy to see so nobody tries to light a fire in the fireplace.
- Put draught-stoppers under doors and close them to stop cold air moving through the house
- Use draught-sealing tape around doors and windows to fix gaps
- Use silicone sealants to fill small cracks between floorboards, and putty or polyfilla (expanding foam) to fill holes in walls, wardrobes and cupboards (like unused holes for pipes or electrical outlets).
- Attach door brushes to exterior doors
- Put a big rug down over floorboards
2. Fix The Mould: Ventilate To Reduce Dampness
The air in our homes gets surprisingly damp from cooking, showering or drying laundry inside. When that damp air hangs around for days or weeks, mould can grow on walls, ceilings, curtains and stored clothes, and even inside walls where we can’t see it. Letting moisture out can be as easy as opening your doors and windows for 15 minutes every day. Even when it’s raining, outside air is usually drier than air that’s been trapped inside. But some areas need extra help.
- Bathrooms, kitchens and laundries - where there is a lot of steamy, moist air – need extractor fans. These should send the air outside the house, not into the roof space, which will create hidden mould and doesn’t comply with the Building Code.
- Dehumidifiers can help dry out bedrooms and living areas quickly. Do one room at a time, closing doors and windows, removing damp towels and pot plants, and closing off ensuites. Putting a heater on at the same time makes the dehumidifier work better.
- If the ground under your house is damp, moist air can rise up through the floors. Putting a vapour barrier - a big plastic sheet - over the ground underneath your house can reduce this.
- Never dry your laundry inside. Drying one load of washing inside can release more moisture into the air than a steamy shower. Dry clothes outside on a clothesline or clothes rack.
- If your wardrobes are damp, put a moisture absorber in the back to stop clothes getting musty.
3. Warm Up: Choose The Right Heat Source
The most effective way to keep your house warm is to make sure it’s insulated in the walls, ceiling and floors in the first place. Insulation is like wrapping a blanket around your house - it stops the heat from escaping quickly. If you’re investing in an expensive heat source like a heat pump, it’s important that your home is insulated, or you may end up spending a lot to keep it running.
- For small rooms that you can close off or only heat occasionally, like bedrooms, an electric heater may be the best choice.
- Match electric heaters to room size – small heaters for small rooms, big heaters for big rooms. Check out our guide to heaters here:
- Unflued gas heaters (with pipes fixed to the walls or portable) release toxic fumes and lots of moisture into your home. Experts recommend not using them.
- Open fireplaces release smoke into the house, and can lose a lot of heat through the chimney. But modern enclosed wood and pellet burners are one of the cheapest long-term heat sources, especially if you have access to free wood.
- Lots of heat is lost through windows, even when they’re closed. Double-layered and thermal-lined curtains are much better than window blinds at keeping heat in. Make sure your curtains touch the ground, and go up to the ceiling if possible.