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Cosy homes in winter could be bad for your health

Cosy homes in winter could be bad for your health


The arrival of winter sees us retreat indoors and turn the heating on full, but this tendency of ours can do more harm than good.  Kevin Gunn from Purmo Heating Products explains that many of us might be unknowingly putting our health at risk this winter, and recommends a proven cost-effective solution, widely recognised in Finland, which prevents this.

During winter, there’s nothing better than returning to a warm cosy home, but these surroundings may not be as comforting as you think.

Stuffy rooms without proper ventilation can be a breeding ground for toxic mould, which can lead to a number of allergic reactions including asthma. Indeed, there has been a marked increase in the number of asthma sufferers over the last 25-30 years. According to the latest studies carried out by Asthma UK in 2003/2004, 5.2 million people in the UK now have asthma. That is one in ten children and one in twelve adults. Worldwide, the UK fares particularly badly. In a survey of 13-14 year olds in 56 counties, the UK has the fifth highest prevalence rate for asthma.

Whilst Asthma UK attributes the increase in asthma in the UK to a number of causes, our domestic environments are a likely contributory factor. It seems that whilst improved wall insulation, double or triple glazing and draught exclusion in most homes makes them efficient to heat, they can also make them unhealthy to live in. These days, our homes can often be poorly ventilated. The absence of drafts of fresh air means that air becomes stale and full of airborne bacteria. The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) recommends that indoor air is refreshed at the rate of seven litres per person per second, but in the majority of homes across the UK, this is far from the case.

As we spend the majority of our time indoors, it is vital that heating methods are improved in order to ensure a healthier living environment. If opening a window to let fresh air in is not an option, then installing a clean-air ventilation system is an alternative way to improve your air quality, whilst heating your home at the same time. These devices are designed to look like a normal panel radiator, and deliver filtered and heated fresh air directly from outdoors. The ‘used’ air is extracted through an exhaust air vent and fan, and this also creates the suction needed to circulate the clean air throughout the room.

Such an air system can also have a positive affect on damp problems within homes. Excess moisture in the internal airspace can lead to ceiling and wall damp, and the steady degradation of the building itself. With an air ventilation system, the damp caused by condensation is either removed or reduced, and the air is dryer and cleaner. Moisture damage to our homes can be costly, but an air ventilation system which prevents or lessens the consequences of damp is a sensible investment for the future. These clean-air systems are also suitable for commercial premises because, due to ventilation being demand controlled, they are extremely energy efficient.

At PURMO we recognise the benefits of these clean-air ventilation systems. Our PURMO Air system is a proven cost effective solution in Finland, with issues of mould growth and airborne bacteria now resolved across the country.  Finland has also caught on to the opportunity of recovering energy from the exhaust air as it is expelled from the building. A heat pump connected to exhaust air fans can be powered enough to heat water and save money on heating bills.

A European Commission survey has reported that 13% of people over 15 in the UK have had asthma at some point in their lives, the highest figure in the survey of 16 European Union member states. Whilst Finland is not far behind, with 11%, it seems that they are at the forefront in taking measures to alleviate the problem. Like Finland, the UK must also consider the effects of improper ventilation, not just within our own homes, but hospitals, schools, and offices also. It is in our interest to maintain a healthy living and working environment, as well as take the appropriate steps to protect our buildings against damp. Perhaps it is time the UK took a crash course in Finnish engineering?

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