Lesson Nine: Springing into Spring
Spring has officially sprung. So, what does this mean for our home? Do we need to spring-ready our home? Like our wardrobe, do we need to put our winter one away and make room for the new season? How do we know, and what should we know?
How does spring change the performance of your home?
Spring doesn’t necessarily change the performance of your home – if you live in a home that performs well in winter, chances are it will perform well in spring. Similarly, if your home doesn’t perform well in winter, it will probably perform much the same in spring – however it just might not be as noticeable.
Unlike other places around the world, we really only have two seasons in New Zealand – autumn/winter and spring/summer. As a country we heat our homes more than we do cool them (if we even have air conditioning or a cooling system). If the home doesn’t have a cooling system it is likely that windows and doors are being utilized to let ‘fresh air’ in, and while this is good, it isn’t always the best option as it invites pollens, allergens, dust etc. inside. The best solution for this is to build tight and ventilate right and invest in a balanced pressure ventilation system that filters the air as it provides ventilation and is highly recommended for anyone suffering from seasonal allergies
What sort of things should we be worried about in Spring?
Spring shouldn’t change our focus and expectations of home performance. Sure, in spring it’s warmer and sunnier outside, we tend to open windows and doors more, we dry washing outside instead of inside, and we leave the curtains open a little longer in the evening thanks to daylight savings. But our house should perform well no matter what season.
Unlike during the winter months, where we were required to provide heating all day to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the day, the sun in spring and summer months can usually provide that heat during the day. However, on those days that the sun isn’t shining, maintaining a consistent temperature between 18-25deg should still be important – for both the occupants and home performance, and this may require adding some heat during the day.
Is there anything we can do to keep allergies at bay, and reduce dust?
Both of these are answered by having a house that’s airtight with a balanced pressure ventilation system that filters air before bringing it into the house. You can run an air purifier to filter some of the contaminants out of the air, but if your windows are open anyway, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle as more dust and pollen just come in the open windows.
Is there anything we can do to keep flies away?
Without using an electronic system (something that plugs into a power outlet and rids bugs with either a low frequency or a smell), the best option is a screens, and opening the windows less (if you have a good ventilation system).
Solar gain – how does this work?
Solar gain is energy (heat) that is gained from the sun. This is used to warm up your house, however in summer months (or even on a sunny winter day) this can be far too warm when the heat gets trapped inside.
So, to remedy overheating from excess solar gain install shade outside your window.
Many houses have blinds installed on the inside of the home; however, because the blind itself heats up you can still feel warm inside. It’s treating the symptom rather than the source of the problem.
Exterior shade like blinds shuts out the light, which is not only great for sleeping, but also blocks the sun reducing solar gain. Other options for external shade could be shutters on the windows, or big plants/trees outside your window (however these can then be harder to mitigate in the winter months when you might want the solar gain).
My house is overheating, does my insulation help or hinder this?
Regardless of how much insulation you need, in the warmer months the focus should be:
- Blocking sun with suitable shading, or low e-coating glass
- Getting fresh (filtered) air in – ideally with a balanced pressure system
If you don’t have a balanced system, or installing is out of the budget (these can be costly), or if you’re renting, a fan can be placed inside a door or a window to blow air out of the house or in. Fans are your friends, especially if they’re used for moving air into and out of the house rather than just providing a breeze. If it’s hot or smelly inside the house blow the air out, and if it’s cooler outside blow the air in!
Ceiling fans are another option, they are relatively cheap and circulate the air combining the warm and cool air together – air movement is going to feel cooler (think slight breeze on a summers day).
Something that is not as common in New Zealand homes are screens on doors and windows. These are a great option as they allow for the windows to stay open without worrying about bugs.
Adding moisture might seem like a good way to cool your home, but don’t forget condensation still exists in spring and summer. Why is that? Because New Zealand isn’t a warm climate and we still experience cold nights! Not sure what that has to do with condensation? Check out lesson three: windows, ventilation + condensation
What about mould?
Yes, mould can still exist in spring or summer. Mould needs three things to live – moisture, heat and something to eat. So, when it gets warm, mould will actually grow better, and as you’ve just learned condensation can still exist in warmer months which means there is moisture!
Tip: while mould should always be cleaned/removed – do a big mould clean before spring and then aim to keep the house as dry as possible!
For more on mould check out lesson five: mould
So, there you have it – spring has sprung! While your medicine cupboard might already be well stocked with antihistamines and travel tissues, you can now prep your home for the warmer months ahead (oh and start preparing for next years’ winter)!