The importance of good ventilation in winter and summer

George Kafantaris

Winter is heating season, and when we run the heater in our homes we tend to keep our windows and doors shut to help keep the heat in and the cold out. But don’t forget, we’re also keeping out the fresh air.

While this might save energy and money, if you never exchange the air inside your home for fresh air, it can get stale and potentially lead to health issues.

Warm damp conditions are the perfect home for moulds and dust mites, contributing to the development of asthma as well as eczema, itching, and respiratory problems. And the colder months are not the only culprit; don’t forget those hot, humid conditions that often come with summer rain.

Condensation is the most common form of dampness and will eventually lead to mould growth. It is most noticeable in winter because there is a large difference in temperature between the inside and outside of the home.

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are emissions from household chemicals and furnishings that can become toxic in high concentrations, with negative side-effects much more common in properties without adequate ventilation. Homeowners can take steps to protect themselves and their families by constantly introducing clean, fresh air from the outside to dilute and control VOCs in the home.

Some sufferers of seasonal health conditions such as hay fever and pollen allergies have noticed improvements in their condition when an effective ventilation system is fitted.

Fortunately, there are a number of simple ways you can mitigate these risks and help protect your family all year round.

The simplest and most obvious way to improve indoor air circulation is to open your windows and door, even if it’s only for short periods of time. And while you have the windows open, run the main exhaust fan in your home to help pull out old, stale air. Just 15 to 20 minutes is enough to make a difference. In summer, make the most of cross ventilation. Windows or vents placed on opposite sides of the space give natural breezes a pathway through the structure, circulating air and promoting passive cooling.

Install or use existing exhaust fans, especially in the kitchen and bathroom. These will improve ventilation and remove contaminants from the air. Also remember to vent the bathroom after you have a hot shower; either open a window or leave the exhaust fan running for a while.

Use your ceiling fans; traditional fans can ensure that the air continues to circulate. Window fans are especially useful for this purpose.

A humidifier can provide comfort during the winter months, but use it only in rooms that have sufficient air flow to ventilate the room properly and prevent moisture issues. A dehumidifier can effectively reduce moisture levels, though it will increase your energy use.

Effective ventilation will contribute to a more comfortable, energy efficient and healthy home. By controlling moisture and encouraging fresh air into your home you are helping to create a better environment for your family.

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