During the colder times of the year dampness, draughts and a lack of insulation make our homes more difficult to heat. The World Health Organisation recommends that houses are heated to a minimum of 18 degrees celsius to provide a healthy and comfortable environment. Indoor temperatures below 16 degrees increase the risk of respiratory disease.
The University of Otago Wellington School of Medicine’s Healthy Homes study demonstrated a significant improvement in the self-reported respiratory health of families whose homes were retrofitted with a standard package of ceiling insulation, draught-stopping around windows and doors, under-floor insulation and a polyethylene covering over the ground under the house.
Once the houses were insulated:
they were drier and warmer
- people reported that their houses felt significantly warmer
- people in the insulated group used 23 percent less power than the control group – saving money as well as energy
- there was a significant improvement in the self-reported health of all the occupants
- there was a significant decrease in time off school for children and time off work for adults
- there was a significant and positive difference in the number of visits to hospitals made by adults between the insulation and control group
The team has now followed up with a new study looking at the impact of heating.
Heating study research
In the school’s study, poor quality heating mechanisms were replaced with flued gas appliances, heat pumps and wood pellet burners, which are more efficient and don’t produce emissions into the internal environment. (Unflued gas heaters are not recommended as they are known to generate significant amounts of moisture and nitrogen dioxide. Electric fan heaters are also not recommended.)
Preliminary results show that the better quality heating had significant benefits for children with asthma:
- People felt warmer
- Condensation was reduced
- There was less mould and fewer mouldy smells
- Levels of nitrogen dioxide were halved
- Nitrogen dioxide is associated with coughing in children with asthma
- Children reported less coughing and wheezing
- Children reported fewer episodes of colds and ‘flu
- Children reduced their days off school in winter and they had fewer visits to the GP.
So as you can see it is both important to have a well insulated house and a warm house. I can not stress this enough. We are warm blooded and we need to be warm or we will get sick!