Magical Winter Fixes
Ok, it’s cold outside – like 5 degrees, but the inside of the house isn’t any better, and we are all looking for those magical winter fixes! You know the ones that are sold to us through repetitive advertising claiming to fix all the problems – no more mould, goodbye condensation and hello heat!
And it’s interesting – it takes us to be living and breathing in the actual season to act on finding solutions to help us feel more warm, dry and comfortable in our own homes (or the opposite if we are in summer)! However, unlike overseas where you can go to your local hardware store and purchase fans during winter or heaters during summer, in New Zealand we are somewhat dictated by product suppliers pushing products that are relevant to the season we are in. We know every winter is going to be cold, why can’t we get prepared earlier? Let’s prep our house so it can perform at its best 12 months of the year! Let’s stop normalizing being uncomfortable in our homes and start improving the performance of our buildings.
So, it’s time to dig a little deeper into these sparkly objects that will supposedly calm our winter blues and leave us happy on the inside and comfortable on the outside. Here are our top four.
If we all had a dollar for every time we’ve seen or heard one of these ads – well, we could all move to a sunny island far away and never have to deal with winter. Except, we can’t do that because this is hypothetical, and well – Covid19.
These companies do in fact produce good systems – balanced ventilation systems, but the ones they sell the most of are the positive pressure systems that take air from the attic and redistribute through the house. The hard sell is that they claim to take advantage of the heat that is lost in your attic, however studies have proven that the actual benefit you get from sun heating up your house (from the attic) helps only maybe 3-5% of the year. So basically, it is a waste of time. So why do they sell so many? Because they are cheap for the supplier to buy and sell with an inflated margin. Basically, positive pressure systems are a glorified box with a fan in the attic which claims to solve all your condensation issues. Technically it is better than no ventilation system at all, but it’s not ideal – who wants stale attic air circulating through their home? And let’s not start on these systems in winter – why would we want chilly attic air being transferred throughout the house? It just doesn’t work.
So, what’s the actual fix?
There are good products manufactured by these companies, and a balanced ventilation system is the way to go here. Sure, having a ventilation system is better than nothing, but if you’re going to spend the money, spend it on a system that exchanges air and recovers heat rather than inflating your house like a balloon. But for best performance the house also needs to have high performance windows, insulation etc – the full building envelope, remember!
Window Squeegee Vacuum
For anywhere else in the world these are used for window cleaning, but not here in New Zealand! This is kiwi ingenuity at its finest (debatable) – in NZ we use these to scrape and suck up condensation! WILD. For the record, it works! But it’s the ambulance at the bottom of the hill approach – rather than stopping the condensation at the source. Don’t be fooled. For more information on how to combat insulation check out this our condensation article.
Once again, another ‘magical fix’ that does ‘work’. What is it? A shower dome is a clear plastic dome or cap that sits on top of your shower and traps the steam in the shower. As the heat and moisture rises towards the ceiling it hits the shower dome which is cooler than the inside of the shower. We know that condensation collects on cooler surfaces, so too does the heat/moisture from the shower. The excess steam and moisture out of the shower that is trapped in the shower dome is now forced to roll back down towards the drain, rather than settle in your bathroom. However, if you love a long hot shower the shower dome is not for you. This is not a comfortable way to shower – the steam is trapped in this area meaning your previously pleasant shower is now a very hot and very uncomfortable one. And there will still be heaps of moisture in your bathroom for a while afterwards. What’s the better option? A ventilation system/extractor fan in your bathroom – remember to keep this bad boy running for as long as possible (minimum 30mins post showering).
The old hummer. You can hear the humm even when you read the word, can’t you? Again, this works. But you’re fighting against the moisture by trying to drag the moisture out of the air rather than just expelling the moist air outside. How do they work? Dehumidifiers work the opposite way to a heater; they produce coldness (that’s a thing, right?) inside the box unit to collect the water out of the air. Inside the box is a fan that circulates the air, alongside that are cold tubes making the condensation happen, this then drips the moisture/water into the collection drawer. Warning! These units aren’t cheap! They use energy to take water out of the air, and it could use about the same as a small heater without the bonus of being warm. And then there’s the admin of dumping out the water multiple times a day! So, the preference over this would be to use heating and ventilation to solve the issue as we always recommend.
We’ve only uncovered four, there are many, many more! The takeaway here – let’s steer clear of the ambulance approach and tackle these performance issues head on!