Living in a cold, damp home is wasting lots of energy. Reduce humidity and condensation are the alternatives by increasing energy efficiency and reducing health risk, what can homeowners do?
Cold and Damp Homes
Problem of Humidity and Condensation
Humidity and condensation
Especially during the cold season you not only feel the chill in your home but you can see the water from condensation, mould on curtains, walls and windows.
Fact is apart from higher air humidity in winter that condensation is a symptom of human habitation. Often older homes suffer from those symptoms for two reasons;
· Houses with poor levels of heat retention
· Insufficient heating and/or home ventilation methods
The good news is that homeowners can reduce dampness and humidity inexpensively and easily.
Badly treated properties you can smell and mould growth or rotten timber tell the story. If you have been on house hunting, you might have seen absolutely disgusting situations. However, it must not be like that taking related health risks and wasting so much energy to heat damp housing. The common fix to paint over mould and fungi is not any help.
Another sign of high moisture content are borer holes in wooden floors, doors, windows, and not to forget weather boards.
Dampness and moisture damage in these days
When looking at moisture damage you need to distinguish between leaky homes with built-in defects (water or moisture ingress) and cold or damp homes suffering from condensation. The solid built houses from the past, where generations of families have grown up in, suffer nowadays from moisture damage - what is the problem?
Lifestyles have changed.
In bygone times family members at home kept the fire going and the house was heated. Nowadays everyone has a day job and homes with bad heat retention cool down.
Modern cooking, showering, washing and drying clothes inside drive up indoor humidity and result in condensation on walls, ceilings and single glazed windows.
After work heating cold houses requires lots of energy for drying out the dampness and moisture levels especially by using inefficient heating methods and lack of ventilation.
Three key ingredients for a healthier home
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Looking at the full picture, I want to say upfront that the specific and construction of a building need case by case different solutions to meet people’s lifestyle. To summarize:
· For sufficient heating of your specific house you need to differentiate between radiant heat and convection heat (heat distribution in two different ways; radiant heat (you feel warmth on your skin exposed to the heat source, sun or fire) or convection heat (air circulation as heated air rises up to the ceiling, cools by moving down and heats up again).
· Poor heat retention (insufficient insulation, single glazing, draughty doors and windows), E.g. A poor insulated house would feel warmer if the heat source creates radiant heat and convection heat.
· Lack of air exchange and ventilation (In cold houses people don’t open windows, the results are damp homes with moisture problems. Cold air carries less moisture and condensation on ceiling, wall and window is like rain falling from the sky.
Dealing with dampness and humidity
For reducing the dampness you need to find the source of water in the air and condensation> Easy the check:
· Water locked ground, check for leaking pipes and storm water under your house
· Faulty roofs and gutters, blocked and overflowing spouting cause lots of water ingress
· Vapour and steam from human habitation (showering, cooking, pets and indoor plants or all of these causes together)
The easiest part is to deal with these three human caused problems. If you have underground dampness you can cover the space under your houses with PVC foil and allow ventilation. We did it in two homes with fantastic results.
How to measure the humidity in your home?
To measure the level of humidity a hygrometer can display temperature and moisture content of air. Suitable monitoring devices for your home you can buy cheaply at any electronic stores.
Humidity is measured per percent as relative humidity (RH), the amount of moisture in the air related to the maximum amount the air can hold at that temperature.
Warm air can hold more moisture than cool air— the explanation for condensation.
Condensation is easy to spot:
· Wet walls and ceilings, water damage on window sills
· Mouldy rooms and musty smells
· Allergic reactions and breathing problems
Unfortunately if you can’t resolve the source of humidity, there is not a cheap and simple fix. When your home needs an upgrade combine three different directions:
· Invest in heat retention (insulation, double glazing)
· Install a regulated heating system
· Combine heating and ventilation