If you want to know what problems lurk inside New Zealand homes, talk to someone who’s seen a lot of them. Jeremy Wilson is a consultant with Harrisons Home Energy Solutions, advising homeowners on the issues they face with damp, unhealthy houses. It’s fair to say that a lot of these issues aren’t going to be solved by installing a few bathroom fans.
We asked Jeremy to share his experiences in helping families create healthier homes through better house ventilation.
What’s your background and how did you become involved in home ventilation?
I renovated houses and I’ve also worked with some of the other companies in the home ventilation field.
I’ve noticed some big changes over the last few years. We are starting to build our houses better, and the better we build our houses, the more need there is for a ventilation system as the house has no natural air movement. With some families producing up to 30 litres of moisture per day, it has nowhere to go but into the walls and carpet.
What changes have you noticed in the market since you became involved?
As a result, our kids’ health is getting worse. This is mainly because of damp housing with high dust mite levels and unseen mould behind wallpaper. Also, the normal Kiwi house is hard to heat so people only heat one room, which is not good for health.
New Zealanders are becoming more and more aware of these issues, so there’s a growing demand for effective ventilation.
What’s the most unusual home or building you’ve installed a ventilation system in?
A Lockwood house with no ceiling. The homeowners were really happy with the job and how the system is drying their house.
I’ve seen some real horror stories. With dust mites, you might have 1,000,000 per square metre of carpet.
What sort of problems have you encountered in unventilated homes?
It’s common to see houses that are really hard to heat in the winter even with a lot of heaters. One house I went to had been left unvented with tenants in it for a long time, and was ready to have a renovation with a bulldozer. The rot in the house was so bad that most of the windows were falling out, there was black mould everywhere and the bathroom was a living thing.
Will a ventilation system make much difference to power bills?
Not a lot as the system only runs on 65 watts. That’s less than a light bulb – about $5 a month.