Housing is one of the key social determinants of health. Adequate, affordable housing is a basic human right. Many homes in New Zealand are old, draughty and cold which leads to poor health outcomes.
We spend much of our time indoors so the home environment is very important for our health. Cold, damp and mouldy houses impact our health in several ways. It is recommended that indoor temperatures should be above 18°C and above 21°C for infants, elderly and the sick. At 16°C it is harder to breathe which affects our respiratory system and below 12°C our heart function can be affected. Damp housing can increase the risk of asthma onset and can make asthma symptoms worse.
Any intervention that makes a house warmer, drier or safer has the potential to improve physical and mental health. The key strategies for keeping a warm home are insulation, ventilation, heating and tackling dampness. We have produced a brochure that summarises some simple and cost-effective steps for keeping a warm, dry home.
- Make sure you have two-layer curtains that fit close to the window with no gaps
- You can close off the gap at the top by laying a rolled up towel or sheet across the curtain track • You can close off the gap at the bottom by attaching velcro strips to the curtain and wall underneath the window sill and pressing them together at night
- Bubble wrap makes inexpensive double glazing when securely taped to the window pane. For subsidies on ceiling and underfloor insulation, which may be free, contact info@cosyhomes. org.nz for Otago or firstname.lastname@example.org for Southland.
Dry it out
- Dry clothes outside, in the carport or garage, or at a laundromat, wherever possible
- Clothes drying inside puts up to five litres of moisture into the air per load. Damp air is more expensive to heat
- Wipe down condensation on windows every morning and hang the cloth outside to dry
- If mould does form, spray with a mixture of 70% white vinegar and 30% water, let it sit for 2-3 minutes, then scrub with a cloth to kill it. Bleach doesn’t kill mould!
- Use extractor fans or open windows when cooking or showerinh
Air it out
Ventilate your home for 3-5 minutes per day in the winter by opening windows and doors on opposite sides of the house. Aim for the sunniest part of the day but skip it on rainy or foggy days.
Warm it up
- Keeping the air warm in your home while sleeping at night helps prevent health issues
- Oil column, convection, micathermic and panel heaters are all good heating choices for a bedroom. Look for heaters that have a built-in thermostat and a timer. Your family should be sleeping at 18C
- Use draught stoppers under the bedroom door and be sure you have snug-fitting, two layer curtains on the windows to keep the heat where you want it.
Insulation makes your home easier to heat and healthier to live. Insulation can keep the heat inside in winter and out in summer. If you own your home, you may be eligible for insulation funding through the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme. See the eligibility criteria on the EECA energywise website.
The SDHB are working with the Cosy Homes Trust to advocate for improved housing standards around the Otago region. The Cosy Homes Trust is available for anyone who is interested in understanding how to have a warmer, healthier home and they facilitate the pathway for owner-occupiers to apply for subsidised ceiling and underfloor insulation under the Warmer Kiwi Homes scheme.
The SDHB has published the healthy homes brochure with helpful information on keeping a healthy home. See the Health homes brochure in related content below.
Email Jordana at Cosy Homes Trust (Otago) (email@example.com) for more information on healthy homes education and to see if you, as a home-owner, may be eligible for subsidised insulation.
For more information on the link between housing and health, please contact Public Health South.