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Bathroom ventilation: a steamy subject

We’re lucky to live in an age of abundant hot water piped direct to our bathrooms. Previous generations had to carry water inside from a well or pump and heat it on a fire. No wonder the family bath was only used once a week, or less.

The price of our clean, well-scrubbed existence is steamy bathrooms. This is a definite nuisance when it fogs the mirrors and windows. However, the problem of damp bathrooms goes far beyond the inconvenience of not being able to see your reflection in the mirror when shaving or applying make-up.

Every hot shower pumps a large volume of water into the air, which remains there until it condenses on surfaces or somehow escapes to the outside. A damp home is harder to heat and brings significant health risks, with increased levels of asthma attacks and respiratory issues. Add mildew to the mix, and you’re looking at a seriously nasty problem.

The good news is that it’s a problem that’s easily solved.

Combat steamy bathrooms with home ventilation

A 2005 BRANZ survey of New Zealand houses found that most bathrooms relied on windows for home ventilation. This depends on people leaving windows open and creating draughts – something many of us are understandably reluctant to do, especially during winter.

Many newer homes have bathroom ventilation fans. These must be ducted to the outside, not just the attic, so the moisture is cleared from the house. By switching on the fan whenever a bath or shower is taken, and leaving it running for at least five minutes afterwards, much of the moisture will be removed. It’s smart to leave the door open a crack if possible, so the fan can draw in fresh air as it extracts the damp stuff. The exhaust fan will need to be cleaned once or twice a year.

For a truly holistic solution, you can go a step further and install a sensor controlled home ventilation system. This does away with the need for individual bathroom ventilation fans as it manages the air quality inside the whole house.

The system is automatically controlled by sensors, which push dry air from the attic down through ducts into every room. Easy to install, these systems use naturally heated air from the roof cavity to replace chilly, moisture-laden air below.

There’s no need to open windows, switch fans on and off, or install multiple extractor fans in different bathrooms. And no one will be left hot under the collar by a bathroom that’s constantly steamed up and sprouting patches of mould.