Over the past decade and longer, our industry, along with the wider construction sector, has been working hard to make sure that the product we all install keep as much heat inside the home as possible. On the most part to great success.
Most things that go into homes now are far more efficient at keeping heat inside than they were a decade or so ago. Windows and doors have made huge advances in this field. Problem is, I think we’re now in danger of going too far.
What about the ventilation?
Think about the list of works a home owner can do to their property if they have a home that isn’t a new-build to make it more energy efficient:
- new windows and doors
- loft insulation
- cavity wall insulation
- new boiler
- solar panels
- ground source heat pump
- upgrade to better radiators
That’s not the end of it. Most of those measures are designed to either keep heat and energy inside the home, or create it. And that’s fine. Energy costs aren’t cheap, they tend to go up every year, so you can understand why there has been such a push to keep those bills down by investing in home improvement works.
But, on my travels to home owners I am finding increasingly that more and more people are suffering from damp. To be fair, I ask them how often they open their windows, often it’s not all that much, to which I tell them that they have to open their windows a lot more to be able to ventilate the house properly.
The problem is, home owners, like all of us, have habits. Many will not prefer to have their windows open as more often than not we don’t have the weather to warrant them being open, or even locked on the night vent. Not every has trickle vents fitted either. So asking people to change their habits isn’t going to happen.
In reality the problem we have is that we’re doing everything we can to stop homes leaking out heat, without the same amount of consideration given to ventilating the house properly as well. We’re fill cavity walls with insulation. We’re packing lofts with mega thick insulation too. We’re installing bigger and better radiators. New windows and doors keep in more heat than ever before. Where is all this hot, moisture-holding air going to go? The answer is into the walls.
I fear that we have overdone it on the energy saving thing, and focused too little on ventilating homes just as well.
Damp a future problem
I do believe new windows and doors are contributing to the problem. However, windows and doors can always be opened to help let cooler, dryer air into the home, so at least there’s a work around should home owners be wise enough to make sure they ventilate.
But as I have said, most do not. One of the biggest contributing factors, at least from what I have seen when dealing with home owners, is cavity wall insulation. In 2017 the BBC carried a story on their website explaining that there was a huge problem brewing in Wales where cavity wall insulation had been installed to tens of thousands of homes, even though most of them weren’t actually suitable for it to be installed. Home owners were then finding major damp problems arising down to the insulation. One of the problems being that poor installation was leading to voids in the wall, creating cold spots for damp to then penetrate.
The wider issue here is that cavity wall insulation is just one of an array of home improvement works that when added together can make it hard for a home to be well ventilated. There are millions of home that have been retrofitted with the bullet pointed works above, I fear that in the years to come home owners are going to start complaining on mass about damp in their homes.
This is where I think our industry, and all those involved with energy savings products, should also be talking a lot more about ventilation to home owners. Whilst it’s all well and good being nice and cozy in the winter, being too warm and keeping the hot moist air in for too long does no one any favours. We need to speak more about the benefits of opening windows and doors on a regular basis to help keep the air flow in homes more healthy.
Night latches on windows are there for a reason. Home owners need to be using them, at least while they’re in the house. Trickle vents, if people have them, should also be used. I appreciate that they don’t look great for the most part, but they do a job.
So whilst we all quite rightly tout the benefits of energy saving windows and doors, as well as other energy saving measures, just as much emphasis should be put on making sure homes are ventilated properly to help prevent future problems with damp and other issues that may arise from not ventilating homes well enough.
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