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close up of  a lounge room
A warm, dry, energy-efficient – and healthy – place to live should be top of the list for you and your family’s wellbeing.

A cold, damp house is an unpleasant place to be during the winter months – and can it also be bad for your health. The risk of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and chest infections increases if your home is chilly and has high levels of moisture. Whether you’re building a new property or renovating your current one, it pays to think carefully about how to make it as warm, dry and healthy as possible for you and your family. Here are some helpful tips for creating a healthier home.

1. Plan ahead

Before any upgrades begin or building plans are drawn up, talk to your architect, draftsperson or builder about steps you can take and products you can use to make your home a healthier and nicer place to live.

Check out the Healthy Home Design Guide (healthyhomedesignguide.co.nz), a one-stop resource for designers, builders and owners who want to create a healthier, more energy-efficient home. Compiled by more than 70 New Zealand experts, it covers everything from windows to insulation and provides simple recommendations.

2. Get expert advice

Before you start any renovating, talk to an adviser about how your house could be warmer and drier. For example, Auckland Council has certified home-energy advisers who provide free consultations to residents and ratepayers, and Wellingtonians can sign up for a free assessment via Wellington City Council’s Home Energy Saver program.

Also look out for free workshops. Eco Matters (ecomatters.org.nz) is a charitable trust that holds interactive sessions during which sustainability experts provide inspiration and budget-friendly tips on how to create a healthy home.

3. Switch on your rangehood

These essential kitchen appliances are not just there to suck out food smells from your home – rangehoods also help remove moisture produced during the cooking process. According to research carried out by the University of Otago, cooking can produce up to three litres of moisture a day.

“If you’ve got pans simmering on a stovetop and lots of steam escaping, switching your rangehood on can make a noticeable difference to the moisture levels in your home,” says Tane Poulson of Monaco Corporation (which sells Everdure and Blanco rangehoods).

And that’s important, as high humidity in your home can lead to condensation, which in turn can cause damp, mould or rot.

Stove with silver extractor fan with a black kettle sitting on the stove top

4. Insulate your home

A crucial component of a healthy and energy-efficient home is good insulation. According to the Insulation Association of New Zealand, it is the single most effective measure you can take to keep your home warm in winter. Insulation in roofs, ceilings, walls and floors prevents warm air from escaping, resulting in your house heating up faster and requiring less energy to stay warm.

When your home is more energy efficient thanks to good insulation, you’ll save money on your power bills, too – insulation in the ceiling alone can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs.

5. Install a home ventilation system

Ventilation is also vital for a healthy home. Without it, moisture can build up, leading to mould and mildew, especially in areas such as bathrooms and laundries. Home ventilation systems (which work by getting rid of stale, moist air and drawing in fresh air from outside) are an effective way of helping to keep your home dry. They also help to maintain air quality and get rid of nasty pollutants that can take a toll on your health.

6. Invest in good heating

Heat pumps are an effective and cost-saving form of heating (and cooling); they’re the most energy-efficient method of using electricity to heat or cool your home. In fact, a heat pump’s heating output is three to four times the amount of energy it takes to run it. Instead of generating new heat, a heat pump hunts out heat energy present in the air outside and transfers it into your home, explains Troy Spence of Rinnai, which makes a range of pumps.

“Heat pumps are amazing pieces of technology,” he says. “For each kilowatt of electricity a heat pump uses, about four kilowatts of thermal energy is generated, which is around 300 percent efficiency."

“Even at ambient temperatures below 0˚C, they can continue to capture enough heat energy to warm your home,” he adds.

That’s not only good for the environment, it also means the amount of energy needed to heat – or cool – your home can be significantly reduced, resulting in a lower power bill.

7. Opt for thermal curtains

Your home can lose much of its heat through single-glazed windows**, so it makes sense to cover them so warm air stays in the room and cold air is kept out. Thermal curtains create a barrier that helps to keep the room warm in winter and cool in summer, making them an effective solution all year round and ideal for living spaces and bedrooms.

“As well as being great for insulation, they can also reduce light and noise,” says Mary Halliday of Smart Home Products.

In addition to fitting thermal curtains, pelmets help stop heat escaping upwards.

Tip: For a quick fix, roll up a towel and pop that along the curtain rail.

8. Use a ground moisture barrier

If you have a crawl space or basement under your house with a loose dirt floor, it’s going to produce moisture. Subfloor moisture can be one of the biggest sources of damp in some Kiwi homes. According to BRANZ (Building Research Association of New Zealand), as much as 40 litres a day can be produced under a 100sqm house, even if the dirt looks dry.

This moisture can rise up through the floorboards into the home, causing rot, mould, mildew and structural damage, as well as health problems. A ground moisture barrier, also known as an on-ground vapour barrier, is a polythene sheet that can prevent rising dampness when laid on the dirt under your house.

9. Include extractor fans in bathrooms

Ventilation is particularly important in bathrooms – steam from each shower or bath can add up to 1.5 litres of water to the moisture content of a home. If not extracted effectively, steam will very quickly create unhealthy – as well as unsightly – mould and mildew on ceilings, windowsills and walls. Install an exhaust fan in your bathroom to help.

10. Trim back vegetation around your home

When it’s shining, the sun is a wonderful source of radiant heat that can warm up your house. But if there are trees and other vegetation shading your windows, you won’t be able to make the most of it. To help make more efficient use of warming sunshine, consider trimming back any large trees and shrubs before you start building (if appropriate), or place windows where they won’t be blocked by vegetation.

For established homes, it pays to do regular outdoor maintenance. Invest in good quality garden tools such as loppers, clippers, secateurs and pruning saws, and use them regularly to keep trees, hedges and bushes near windows well-trimmed.

Person in plaid shirt trimming back hedge with clippers

*knaufinsulation.co.nz/home-owners/energy-efficiency/reduce-your-power-bill
**level.org.nz/passive-design/glazing-and-glazing-units

Some products are not available at all Bunnings stores, but may be ordered.

Keep the room warm in winter and cool in summer

Check out our range of thermal curtains.



Photo Credit: Getty Images, Ames

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.