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Insulation can worsen unhealthy home issues


Tether Limited

18 December 2018

Kiwis cautioned that insulation can worsen unhealthy home issues

An air tight home does not equal a healthy home and may even exacerbate the damp, stagnant conditions that lead to mould, mildew and respiratory problems likes asthma and pneumonia among children and older adults in New Zealand.

CEO of healthy home monitoring technology company Tether, Brandon Van Blerk, said while Government making home insulation a priority is a good thing, over emphasis on insulation might actually make the problems worse.

“Good insulation should go hand-in-hand with adequate ventilation and air exchange because good insulation alone makes a home airtight, and that will lead to moisture problems and a build up of noxious gases, harmful particles like dust and mould spores and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).”

“A healthy home has the trinity of 1. Good insulation, 2. Adequate ventilation and 3. Efficient air exchange.”

Van Blerk said people living in an enclosed space will impact the environment with carbon dioxide just from breathing, cooking and heating, as well as chemicals from cleaning products.

“If those toxics gases can’t escape or are not scrubbed using air filters, then you have the build-up of a very unhealthy environment in the home; one that is a breeding ground for respiratory diseases, damp, mould and mildew.

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking a heat pump or air-conditioner solves the problem. All those units do is circulate the air, heat it or cool it, and distribute it into the home – they do nothing to scrub the home environment or clean the air,” Van Blerk said.

Van Blerk said one of the issues Tether has detected in working with landlords, “Is that tenants are rarely aware there is a problem – or they don't really understand it – until an issue hits crisis point because somebody is getting sick, or the growth of moss and mildew reveals itself.

“It may just be that the house is uncomfortable. Cold in winter and hot in summer. The tenants – or owner occupiers – feel sticky and uncomfortable. The landlord’s problem is that ventilation isn’t necessarily best practise when it comes to tenant behaviour.”

Unfortunately by the time a tenant complains or the owner-occupiers become aware of a problem, it is often too late because the effects of the damp, particle laden air are already apparent and expensive maintenance is required.

One of the first proactive actions tenants, landlords and owner-occupiers can take is to check and clean the extractor fans in bathrooms, whether they have filters or not.

“That dust and grunge you see on your extractor fan is what you’re breathing in,” Van Blerk said. “Your body gets rid of these particles by generating mucus. I would also suggest home owners buy an air scrubber – you can find them for less than a $100 in most places.”

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