The World Health Organization recommends a minimum indoor temperature of 18°C – ideally 21°C if babies or elderly people live in the house. The average daily indoor temperature in the winter for most New Zealand houses is just 16°C.
Comfort and health come in hand in hand – when you live in a warm, comfortable environment your health will improve. Studies by Stats NZ showed that 1/3 of homes lay outside what is determined by the Building Research Association of New Zealand, to be a comfortable indoor temperature (rated 20–25oC). See the study here. Something important to note: the temperatures recorded during this study were taken between late morning and late afternoon (in the kitchen or living areas). We would expect during the night, temperatures would drop further and more than just 1/3 of homes would be deemed “uncomfortable”.
It is a known fact that many NZ households will heat their living areas and neglect their bedrooms. Many elderly and children are sleeping in temperatures below 16°C. 45% of those living in these homes said they could see their breath inside during winter. These conditions can exasperate any pre-existing health conditions as well as compromise your immunity.
There is an equal amount of homes overheating during the Summer and experiencing internal temperatures of above 25°C. When we overheat, we can become dehydrated, lathargic and dizzy. Your ability to perform tasks can become impaired as your body is working overtime to cool itself.
Heatpumps are a temporary solution.
Heatpumps and other forms of heating are a solution to this problem, however they are only a band-aid covering what is a much more serious issue. Once a home has experienced a cold and damp environment, this moisture gets trapped within your walls and is very difficult to irradicate. Moisture within your walls can create mould and fungi, affecting your insulation performance and furthering the dampness of your home.
By using a heatpump you will be able to achieve comfortable living temperatures BUT the heating normally isn’t sufficient to warm your entire home and as soon as you turn off your heatpump, your indoor temperature will begin to drop drastically. This is because the majority of “uncomfortable” homes are not air tight – they leak like a sieve and mimick the outdoor temperature. All of the money you spent on power trying to heat your home literally goes out the door.
The actual solution:
Building an Energy Efficient or Passive Home safe guards you from the effects of cold environments and overheating. By upgrading your insulation, creating an air tight building envelope and using mechanical ventilation you can easily maintain a comfortable indoor temperature of 18-25°C.
Upgrading your insulation will give your walls, ceiling and floor a higher R Value (thermal resistance) meaning the cold (or heat) from outside has a harder time making it’s way into your home. By making your home airtight (with a waterproof/airtight barrier such as the ProClima system) you further prevent any moisture / cold air from entering your building envelope. You will still need a heater to bring the air tempertaure to a comfortable level, but once that temperature has been achieved, it can be maintained effciently using a Mechanical Ventilation / Heat Recovery Unit. These units ensure all areas of your home are kept the same temperature, the fresh air coming into your home is filtered (and heated using the energy extracted from the air pumped out of your home) and all moisture is irradicated.
Further to this, you can design your home with reduced thermal bridges. Thermal bridges are a component of your build that are not insulated and therefore conduct energy – these can be anything from lintels to metal brackets. By reducing the amount of thermal bridges there are in your home, you are limiting the opportunities for heat to escape from inside your building envelope. Upgrading your windows will also make a huge difference in heat transfer and reducing moisture.