In the summer months you will probably find that ventilation isn’t much of an issue in your home. When the weather is warm and all the doors and windows are as open as often as possible the air quality in your home is unlikely to be a problem. However, if you’re one of the majority of people living in the UK, the winter months are a very different story.
If you find yourself chasing those pesky draughts and blocking up windows and doors as thoroughly as possible to conserve the heat in your home, you aren’t alone. While this may seem like sensible, blocking all air from entering and leaving your home can have a negative effect on the air quality. By stopping air from circulating properly it can cause bad smells, smoke and cooking odours to linger and may lead to damp and mould if the problem isn’t dealt within time.
When it comes to the ventilation of your home, it’s important to find the right balance: you want to make sure air can travel freely in and out of your property without wasting money by letting your precious heat escape and increasing your heating bills.
How important is good ventilation?
On average, a person at rest takes about 16 breaths per minute. This means we breathe about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year.
Good ventilation ensures that the air you breathe contains lots of vital oxygen, whilst removing indoor air pollutants like cooking odours, smoke, and carbon dioxide. Whilst this is good news for everyone in the household, it’s particularly important if you suffer from breathing problems like asthma, or if you suffer from allergies. A well-ventilated home can also have a positive effect on your mentality, with poor air quality having previously been shown to impair concentration levels.
Ventilation is especially important in the kitchen and bathroom, where too much moisture and heat in the air hitting cold surfaces causes condensation. If left unchecked this condensation can lead to problems with damp and mould. The average family produces a great deal of moisture every day from showers, kettles, cooking and perspiration. To avoid this building up (and to save you money on repair costs down the line) it’s important to ventilate your property.
It’s also crucial to ensure that there is proper ventilation in any room containing a gas appliance. All gas appliances need good ventilation, as without enough oxygen around to burn they can produce carbon monoxide. Old boilers need particular attention, as they suck air from the room and expel it outside, reducing the air quality of the room. The best way to address this is to either make sure that your boiler is regularly serviced, or to upgrade to a newer model.
Some quick ventilation solutions
The most obvious and immediate ventilation solution is to open windows as often as you can. Especially in the kitchen when you’re cooking dinner, in the bathroom when someone is bathing or showering, and also in rooms when you’re hanging clothes out to dry. To keep the cold, fresh from cooling down your entire home it’s important to keep the door of that particular room closed. This will also keep the steam in the affected room.
However, all other times apart from when cooking or bathing, try to keep as many internal doors open. This lets air flow freely and stops bad smells from lingering in one place. You can also help the air to flow by turning on a ceiling or desk fan. Turning on a ceiling fan can actually save you money, especially if you have high ceilings. It will blow the warm air that has naturally collected at the top of the room back down to ground level, allowing you to turn down the central heating.
You should also air out your home as often as you can. During the winter this might involve putting a coat on for a few minutes as you blast some fresh air through your home. Try to open your windows three times a day, ensuring that your central heating is off at the time. This simple activity will make a real difference to the air quality of your home. If your windows have vents, leave them constantly open. They will make little difference to the heating levels in your home, but will give stale air the chance to escape and allow fresh air to get in.
More long-term ventilation solutions
First and foremost, if you don’t already have one, install an extractor fan above your kitchen hob and use it every time you cook. The best option is an extractor that links up to an exterior vent, instead of simply recycling the air that it sucks in. If you feel like your kitchen is particularly humid you could run the extractor when you boil the kettle. Make sure you regularly clean and maintain your extractor fan as it can become clogged with grease fairly rapidly. Try to clean it once every few months with a degreasing solution and some warm water.
An extractor fan should also be installed in the bathroom. Run it whenever you’re in the room, especially if you have the window closed, to reduce condensation and get rid of bad odours. If you’ve had a particularly steamy shower, let the fan run for another half an hour after you leave the room. Like kitchen fans, extractor fans in the bathroom can become dirty and clogged. Clean the filter twice a year to keep your bathroom well ventilated and smelling fresh.
It’s also worth adding structural ventilation to your property. Vents from the main part of your house into the loft and vents in the roof can help guarantee air flow and stop problems like dry rot, which can be caused by warm air from other parts of the house settling in the loft. If you have a basement in your property, make sure it’s well ventilated too, as these areas are often dark and moist – a haven for mould. However, should you find your basement or roof isn’t well ventilated, avoid hammering at the structural parts of your home yourself as you could cause some serious damage; it’s best to call in a professional to save you money in the long-run.