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Cosy Homes - Out, Damned MouldCosy Homes - Out, Damned Mould!

As we head into winter, it's time to think about minimising – or ideally banishing – mould from our homes. Nelson Lebo, Eco Design Advisor with Palmerston North City Council, tells us how.

Mould loves damp, cool, still air. Therefore preventing mould in your home involves three main strategies.

  1. Eliminating or minimising sources of moisture
  2. Insulating and heating your home
  3. Preventing air from getting trapped

The main sources of moisture in New Zealand homes are cooking, showering, airing washing indoors, using un-flued gas heaters, and – for homes with raised timber floors – rising damp. So what can you do to minimise mould?

Fan-tastic: Properly installing extractor fans in your kitchen and bathroom can remove most of the moisture generated by cooking and showering. Unfortunately, many bathroom extractor fans aren't up to the task. If you have a below-par fan, try installing a 10-minute delay timer on the fan and/or installing a Steam Stopper or Shower Dome.

Out with gas: Avoid using un-flued gas heaters; any heater is better than an un-flued gas heater (particularly LPG portable gas heaters).

Banish the (clothes) horse: Avoid drying clothes inside and instead find an alternative that works for your family. Do you have a covered outdoor area you could use? A vented dryer? Could you hang clothes in your garage or shed with the windows open? Or how about going to the local laundry and using a dryer there?

On the rise: Rising damp can be a major source of moisture for houses built on piles. Addressing this issue effectively will involve installing heavy-duty polythene on the ground beneath your home and, where appropriate, improving drainage around the perimeter.

Insulate: In terms of heating, the best way to heat your home is to thoroughly insulate it. After that, the World Health Organisation recommends heating living spaces to a minimum of 18 degrees and bedrooms to 16 degrees. The most cost effective heaters are wood burners, flued mains gas heaters, pellet stoves and heat pumps.

Move … air: Mould often appears in bedrooms at the south end of a home in two main areas: behind furniture against external walls and in closets. In both cases the reasons are the same: the cold, damp air gets trapped there. During winter months, pulling furniture away from external walls (at least a hand-width away) and leaving closet doors ajar will help encourage air movement and discourage mould from growing...

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Issue: Autumn 2016