Never mind the cold, you have to keep the air flowing.
Climate crisis, disturbing politics, rising costs – this winter has nightmare written all over it. So the race is on to find any way possible to ease the pain. And the first call has to be making home more efficient, cutting the bills and helping the environment along the way.
Insulation and airtightness aren’t sexy or even exciting (unless you’re a building bore like me) but they’re an absolute godsend when the heating comes on. Our homes in the UK are amongst the leakiest in Europe. Not to mention making up 14% of our carbon emissions. So putting in that warm ‘blanket’ of insulation and blocking off the draughts is a high priority – reduced cost, cleaner air, less environmental damage, happier families, safer world….
Cut out fresh air at your peril.
In the course of daily life, one family will produce up to 15 litres of water per day – showering, cooking, breathing, drying clothes – the list goes on. And that moisture has to go somewhere. If it can’t get out of the building it’ll find any cold surface and condense. And that can quickly end up as mould which isn’t good for anyone.
So beware of any ideas for staying warm that miss out the importance of ventilation and changing the air.
Leaky houses have plenty of air – so no worries there – but it’s totally uncontrolled. To start with, it’s not always where you need it – draughts in the sitting room won’t help with steam in the kitchen. And they howl away whether you need them or not. And worst of all, where cold can come in, heat can go out, so they drain the house of warmth. It’s a conundrum – you don’t want it, but you can’t do without it.
You have to change the air in the house – there’s no way round that – so the answer is to control it without wasting energy. How you do that depends on the level of change you can manage in your house.
If you are blocking up draughts, sealing windows and putting brushes on your doors, then you need to plan ahead for times when you are willing to open a window or trickle vent for a short time. And that needs to happen at regular intervals.
If you are going for full retrofit with full on insulation and airtightness, then you need to think about ventilation systems – either full house (MVHR) or single room ventilation units – and choose products that include heat recovery.
Stay healthy and warm
It’s a delicate balance but it can be done. Take time to understand the interconnection between insulation, airtightness and ventilation before you start any changes and you’ll kiss damp, condensation and mould goodbye for one last time.