How many loads of washing did you end up drying indoors this winter? Two loads a week? Five loads? More? Depending on family size, the average Kiwi household was tasked with drying anywhere from 25 to 60 loads of washing this winter – much of which had to be hung indoors or put through the dryer.
While laundry is a bit of an unpleasant job no matter what the season, the implications of indoor drying over the colder months are probably worse than you think. Drying clothing, towels, sheets and other bedding indoors releases huge, unseen quantities of moisture into the air – and moisture in the home is bad news.
Why Moisture is the Enemy
Moisture can make your house feel cold and uncomfortable, and cause mould, mildew and other damage to your property and belongings – but more importantly, it can also cause or exacerbate respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
Research shows that people living in homes with moisture, condensation and mould are around 30% more likely to develop respiratory illnesses or asthma, so if you’ve never thought about the issues associated with damp before, now’s the time to assess your house for the health of your family!
Hanging your laundry indoors is one of the worst offenders – but using the dryer if it’s not connected to an outdoor vent is just as bad. Just think about the amount of condensation that appears on your laundry room or garage windows after you’ve throw your sheets through the dryer – all of that moisture has to go somewhere, and most of it ends up evaporating into the air you breathe at home.
Think your house is moisture-free? Indoor drying isn’t the only culprit in the fight against damp. Showering, cooking and general living can all create moisture inside the home. In fact, experts suggest the average New Zealand family may produce as much as 3500 litres of damp air inside their home every year.
Of course, it’s not remotely possible to eliminate the causes of moisture at home- but you can put ventilation appliances and systems in place to remove moisture and damp air as it occurs, and before it becomes a problem.
What is Ventilation?
Ventilation is about helping fresh air to circulate through your home – allowing moisture and airborne pollutants to escape, and fresh clean air to be drawn inside.
While regularly opening doors and windows to let fresh air in can help, it’s not always practical in winter – and typically isn’t enough to properly remove excess moisture and damp.
Instead, every home should have active mechanical/ electronic ventilation in place – such as extractor fans and positive pressure ventilation systems – to draw damp air out at the very least, and replace it with fresh, filtered air if your budget allows.
Current building standards ensure new homes are usually built with extractor fans in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms to combat moisture created through showering, cooking and using an indoor dryer. However, because homes built since the 1990s are much more airtight than older homes and have very low levels of background air leakage via gaps in windows and doors, problems associated with inadequate ventilation have become more common even in new builds.
To ensure your home is adequately ventilated, consider the installation of a positive pressure ventilation system, which may introduces fresh filtered air from outside or your roof cavity. If you’re looking at a system that draws air from your roof space, ensure you choose one that includes a filter, since those without have the potential to bring in dust.
There are a range of options available – from energy efficient systems that also transfer heat from your roof space, to centralised systems that actively measure moisture content and operate according to temperature and moisture conditions for the ultimate in climate control.
Which System is Right for Me?
If your home is older and doesn’t currently feature extractor fans, have these installed in any moisture prone areas such as your bathrooms and kitchen, and install a vent or extractor from your electric clothes dryer to the outdoors, where possible.
Regardless of your home’s age, it’s wise to consider investing in a positive pressure ventilation system. These systems range from just under $2,000, including installation, and in the long term have the potential to save you far more in energy bills and damage prevention – not to mention your family’s health.
Calling in a ventilation expert to assess your home and your family’s unique requirements is the best way to ensure you get the best system – and most cost-effective option – for you.