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Kiwi homes are simply too cold in Winter – the World Health Organisation tells us one in two Kiwi homes aren’t as warm and dry as they should be, and that has a big impact on our health. Despite the obstacles, there are lots of cost-effective ways to make your place healthier, more comfortable and easier to heat.
Why we need healthier homes
A warm, dry home is healthier, more comfortable and easier to heat. Kiwis face lots of obstacles on the road to improving our indoor environment, but the good news is there are some simple things we can do to make things better.
Our country has a real problem when it comes to keeping homes healthy. Many of our houses are poorly insulated, with single glazed windows and general dampness.
Studies show unhealthy homes are having a big impact. In fact, 1,600 New Zealanders die every year over Winter because of the effect of poor quality homes on our health. It’s a sobering statistic, and it’s because a whopping 50% of New Zealand homes aren’t up to scratch.
What’s causing this?
Our homes are simply too cold over Winter - World Health Organisation guidelines suggest maintaining a minimum temperature of 18°C, and sometimes even warmer for elderly or very young people. The Kiwi mentality of just throwing on a jersey and carrying on isn’t cutting it anymore.
There are a few key reasons why Kiwi homes are so unhealthy, including poor insulation, ventilation, glazing, and heating. Poor insulation is a major contributor, because it makes it much harder to keep the heat in when you want it and keep it out when you don’t. Therefore, maintaining a consistently warm temperature in Winter becomes really difficult and can lead to skyrocketing electricity bills as home owners use heaters to compensate.
Another big factor is dampness. Excess moisture in the home leads to mould, which is particularly bad for respiratory health. This is especially important as one in six Kiwis suffer from a respiratory condition – the highest rate in the developed world.
Finding solution & taking precautions
There are several ways to tackle this problem. Here are a few things you can do inside the house:
- Dry washing outside. Line drying your washing outside on a sunny day or using a dryer can make sure moisture doesn’t build up inside. Make sure your tumble dryer has an external vent to pass the moisture and humidity generated by tumble drying, and not to mention the dust, into the outside air.
- Use extractor/exhaust fans in bathrooms to release excess steam and moisture outside. A Rangehood extractor fa is critical in your kitchen, not only to expel excess smells but also excess moisture from cooking steam.
- Ventilation - Ventilation is important for a healthy home. A healthy home should have windows that can be opened in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom are also necessary for reducing dampness.
- Allow cross ventilation when possible, leaving windows and doors open to let the wind carry out excess moisture. Air purifiers are great to use in bedroom, especially when someone is at home ill to prevent the spread of airborne germs
- But avoid Draughts - Draughts contribute to lower household temperatures in Winter. This can cause spikes in your energy bill. To reduce draughts, unused fireplaces should be blocked off. Minimising gaps or holes in doors, floors, walls, ceilings, windows and skylights also helps to contribute to a draught-free, healthier home.
- Insulation - Good insulation makes houses easier and more cost-effective to heat. It stops heat escaping easily and keeps the home drier and less prone to mould. Ceiling insulation should be at least 12cm thick and will ideally be thicker than the height of the ceiling joists.
- Use a heater to keep interiors warm; this prevents mould from growing – we have a range of heater types – would be good to explain the latest technology benefits
- Heating - A healthy home should have one or more fixed heaters that can directly heat the main living room to a minimum of 18°C. As a rule of thumb, between 100W and 150W is required for every square meter of area in a typical NZ home, and so a small living room with 10 - 13m2 area will require a 1.500 kW heater.
- Use a dehumidifier when using along with the heater to take out moisture from the air and prevent mould from growing.
- Keep furniture away from walls; a 10 cm gap can prevent mould from growing behind it
To help you assess your home, we will be selling a $10 Hygrometer in our stores this winter which can help you determine the temperature and humidity levels in your home on any given day.
These will be available in stores from mid-June. All the proceeds go towards our community partners, The Salvation Army, Plunket and Variety, helping those in need to ensure their homes are warm and dry this winter.
Simple Ways to Lower Energy Bills Series: Appliances
Information courtesy: Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority (EECA)
Winter brings many additional expenses and we know everyone is watching their household energy bill this year. Your household appliances could be quietly consuming a whole lot of energy and inflating your power bills. However, you might be able to fix that with some simple tweaks.
Here are a few common appliances you use every day and how to save energy and money:
Computers & Office Equipment
If you have a basic computer setup at home – a monitor and a CPU – you probably spend roughly $50 a year to run it.
That may not be a huge expense but by choosing more energy efficient products you can also ensure your machines run cooler and last longer.
What you can do:
- Turn off all equipment at the wall as soon as you’ve finished working. Use a power extension board with a switch so you don’t have to struggle to reach the socket behind your desk, for instance
- Set up power management on your computer. This lets your computer go into sleep mode rather than showing a screensaver when you’re away from the screen
Heaters are widely used as one of the main ways to warm a home. It is important to consider the amount of heat you are requiring, the sizes of the spaces you need heated and the running costs of the heater.
Running costs vary depending on using the heater correctly and how well the appliance is maintained.
What you can do:
- Turn your heaters off when you don’t need them - rather than leaving them on when you’re not there, this includes your heat pump.
- Set your heater thermostat - aim for 18 to 20˚C.
- Many heaters are only big enough to heat one room - so close doors and in the evening pull curtains.
- Use a heater directly in the room you want to heat - and keep the door shut (unless you have central heating).
Did you know that running a warm wash instead of a cold one makes your washing machine use 10 times more power? This is because most of the power used by your washing machine is goes into heating the water.
Saving energy begins with choosing the right washing machine for you but if you’re not planning to change, there are other small steps you can take.
What you can do:
- Switch to cold washes. Unfortunately, most machines have a default setting of warm when it comes to water temperature but changing it can mean heaps of savings
- Do full loads. Wait for your laundry basket to be full rather than doing several smaller loads
- Group clothes by type, soil level, colour, etc. Wash mildly soiled clothes in cold water and really dirty ones like a pair of overalls in warm water
Dryers are power hungry appliances, literally! However, they can be useful especially during the wet months of the year. By using it wisely along with a clothesline, you can save over $100 a year.
What you can do:
- Don’t use one when the weather is good!Ifyou have a backyard or another suitable space, dry your clothes outside on a clothesline. It costs nothing and is great for the planet
- Avoid overloading
- Clean the lint filter regularly
- Group clothes by weight. Heavyitems like denims take longer than lightweight clothes to dry so dry them separately
- Vent to the outside. If you have a vented dryer, make sure the vents face outside
- Avoid line drying inside. The moisture can make your house damp
By switching to an energy efficient dishwasher, you can save as much as $60 a year on power bills.
What you can do:
- Load fully (but don’t overload) before running a cycle
- Use the eco option. If your machine has an eco option, use that as your default and every now and then, run a regular/hot cycle to remove any grease build-up
- Rinse in cold water before loading your dishes in the dishwasher
- Clean regularly. Use soapy water and a brush to clean the filter and check the spray arms
Fridges & Freezers
A good energy efficient refrigerator can bring down your electricity bill considerably. Even if you pay a bit more upfront, you will save much more in the long run.
What you can do:
- Don’t put hot food in. Allow food to cool down before storing it
- Avoid opening the door too often. And don’t leave it open for long either
- Position in a cool area. Don’t keep next to the oven or in direct sunlight
- Bin fridges over 20 years old. Older models are less energy efficient and may contain chemicals that are harmful for the environment.
- Clean the coils at the back and keep dust away