Damp toolbox 3: Ventilation...why fresh air is so darned good
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The previous article looked at how people and their daily activities creates damp air in a home, and practical ideas on how to reduce the amount created.
This article explains the essential role of ventilation in getting rid of damp (and also polluted) air.
ALL experts strongly agree: Damp and air quality issues in homes can NOT be properly fixed without adequate ventilation.
They all agree that ventilation is essential to:
Bring fresh air in, remove stale air, and remove the many pollutants that are generated in a home.
Get rid of humid or damp air that can lead to black mould, damp, and associated health issues.
Air in a home needs to be completely refreshed far more often than currently happens.
Even for rooms that are not used much, ventilation is essential to avoid issues.
Although it is counterintuitive, ensuring adequate ventilation:
It generally improves indoor comfort.
Does not actually lead to worse problems in wet weather.
Is not expensive. I estimate around £60 a year as you will see below.
The following expert groups unanimously say ventilation is essential and most important way to address all indoor air quality issues.
Energy Savings Trust
Lung and Asthma charities
It is recommended that indoor air should be completely replaced with fresh air several times an hour.....far more than I think most people realise:
Bedrooms 2-4 fresh air changes every hour.
Bathrooms 6-7 fresh air changes every hour.
Kitchens 7-8 fresh air changes every hour.
Living rooms 6-8 fresh air changes every hour.
The above are the recommended figures. Current building regulations in the UK recommend a MINIMUM of around 0.6 air changes every hour or 15 times a day (depending on room size and type).
This is often not happening in practice with some homes as low as 0.15 air changes per hour. Many UK homes are not getting anywhere near enough fresh air into them.
These problems can affect ANY age of home, including modern homes.
And finally, this screenshot from the website of one of the dehumidifier manufacturers, Ebac.
Er...but what about...?
Isn't it crazy to increase ventilation as it means losing heat?
It feels counterintuitive and somehow wrong to actually increase ventilation.
Estimating the actual cost in increased heating if you ventilate is tricky, as homes vary so much. I can't find anyone who has tried to work this out.
I've had a go though, and I estimate the average cost increase for an average UK home to ventilate properly is somewhere around £3 per week. (See the nerdy section at the end for my explanation why).
This £3 per week:
Is comparable or cheaper than buying and running a dehumidifier for long periods.
Is a lot cheaper than keeping rooms warm or the whole home warmer to keep damp and condensation issues at bay.
Solves damp and indoor pollution issues.
Provides a more comfortable and healthier home with better air quality.
On social media in December I have seen many posts by people about how much they were spending on their heating each day. This was a cold month.
They ranged in general from £3 a day up to £10 a day.
So, £3 a week as an average additional cost for ventilation doesn't seem expensive as a comparison if it solves damp and condensation issues.
Other reasons why £3 isn't actually such a crazy figure:
If we get rid of damp air from a home the heating doesn't have to work so hard.
Damp air makes us feel colder than dry air, and so more likely to turn the heating on or turn it up.
Ventilation in the right ways generally improves comfort rather than making it worse. My supporting article here on draughts and ventilation explains why.
But won't ventilation let in damp air from outside?
It is commonly believed that if you have a window or trickle vent open when it is wet outside it will increase the levels of humidity and damp in a home.
The other article explains why this isn't the case most of the time. It also gives you some fabulous tools to help you be confident that I've not lost the plot.
Why I estimate the extra heating cost of ventilation at £3 per week
This is my method:
The Energy Savings Trust estimates that for homes with draughty from windows and doors, the energy cost of these draughts cost around £60 per year.
It is therefore it is perfectly reasonable to assume that if a home that needs more ventilation, that the cost of this will be a similar amount - £60. Spread over the five months or so of the year that heating systems are being used this works out at around £3 per week.
Even if I am wrong and it is £5 and not £3 a week, I think that is a reasonable estimate and a pretty cheap way of solving these problems.
I welcome any suggestions on methods of how to estimate this.
Things we ARE used to feeling or hearing about air quality
Most people will be familiar with the following:
The need to have a window open in the bedroom at night. This is something that 30% of people reported doing in this survey. This is actually an incredibly good way of keeping carbon dioxide levels down in a bedroom at night, which improves sleep quality.
The feeling of being in a warm room that feels 'stuffy'.
The feeling of being in a cool damp room where we might feel 'clammy' when it might not even feel that cold outside.
Feeling the need to 'get out and get some fresh air.
These are all indications of indoor air that is stale or too humid for comfort.
I would argue that the above observations show we regularly experience indoor air quality issues, and from a range of sources.
And finally some trivia.......
In Nordic countries it is part of their culture to leave babies outdoors sleeping to get proper fresh air. It has been shown they sleep longer and more deeply. They do this even in sub zero temperatures!
Quick links to the other main articles on this subject.
Where all the moisture comes from and how to stop it getting into the air in the first place
Dehumidifier product practicalities and what the experts say
Other supporting articles on damp:
The limitations of dehumidifiers at dealing with indoor air pollution
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