Prepare a Healthy Home for Winter
By Chris Davidson
BHB Respiratory Nurse Educator
A Healthy Home is one that is warm and dry. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that living areas should be between 18-21C and bedrooms no less than 16C with a relative humidity around 50-60%. There are four elements to achieving a healthy home; Ventilation, heating, controlling moisture and controlling heat loss.
These four things can help you and your family be healthier and ‘breathe easy’. There are a variety of things that can be done; some cheap and easy to do.
Ventilation – we need fresh air through the house every day, 10-20 minutes is long enough to change all the air in a house. Open windows wide at opposite ends of the house, or even better open all the windows, letting air circulate through the house.
Controlling moisture – Areas of high moisture; kitchens and bathrooms do best with mechanical ventilation ducted to outside i.e. extractor fans. Dry shower walls after use. Dry wet washing outside as this emits moisture into the air. Use pot lids when cooking. Try to avoid using unflued portable gas heaters. Wipe wet windows and treat any mould early. (see recipe above)
Heating – there is a lot of choice around the type of heating available; but the right choice depends on a variety of things. Where you want to heat, the design of your house, how often people are at home or using a particular area, the cost of the heating and ongoing running costs i.e. electricity, firewood, how well your house is insulated and so on. The cheapest heaters to run are generally the most expensive to purchase therefore heating choice is often a trade-off between the upfront costs and the long term running costs.
Controlling or Reducing Heat Loss – hot air naturally wants to move to cold air/outside therefore ensuring that warm air stays in a room and slowing down heat loss is key. It is harder and more expensive to heat a damp house. Ensure insulation in the ceiling is updated, and if possible insulate under the floor – it’s like wrapping your house in a blanket. Double glazing windows is very costly however one cheaper alternative is to use “bubble-wrap”. Cut the bubble-wrap to fit the glass part of the window and with a fine mist ‘stick’ it to the window, bubble-side to the glass. It creates another layer between the cold outside and the warmth of the house and should stay ‘stuck’ all winter. Draught stoppers under doors, draught-proof strips for windows, cat/dog flaps and under doors all help to prevent the warm air escaping. Curtains. The recommendation is to put curtains on all glass in the house. If the curtain track is too far out from the wall or there is no pelmet the gap creates a reverse convection where the warm air is sucked down from the gap at the top, hitting the cold window therefore the cold air is circulating back into the room from the bottom of the curtain. The curtains should drape onto the ground to prevent the cold air from the windows coming into the room. If there are gaps at the tops of the curtain tracks, you can use rolled up sheets, blankets or towels to block the gaps.
Chris has a wealth of knowledge in this area thanks to the Community Energy Network Home Performance Advisor training programme. If you think your home environment is impacting on your respiratory condition then contact us for a FREE respiratory assessment.