Condensation streaming on bedroom windows on a cold morning is a sure sign that winter is on the way. As temperatures begin to cool, the warm air in our homes meets cool surfaces which cause it to lose the ability to hold on to moisture and result in condensation. Seeing condensation on your windows is a sign that your home ventilation might not be working as well as it could, but should it worry you?
Quite simply condensation is water. We produce water vapour through a lot of domestic activities such as cooking, bathing, and even breathing, and this is carried on the air until it finds a place to condense into liquid.
While condensation is “clean” water, it can become contaminated with bacteria if it is left to stand for a short period of time, but the bigger risks to health from condensation come when it is allowed to build up and soak into the underlying materials of your home.
On a window or a tiled surface, condensation doesn’t do much harm, and can be safely wiped away, but when it forms on a porous surface such as a plaster wall or wood, the condensation water soaks into the material and begins to create damp patches.
Damp can do damage to the fabric of your home causing plaster to crumble, wood to rot, and paint and wallpaper to peel away, but it also creates an environment where unpleasant household pests can thrive.
The two biggest health risks of condensation caused damp are mould and dust mites.
Mould can form quickly in damp areas, creating unsightly black patches on walls and ceilings. As it grows and matures, moulds release spores into the air which can be inhaled and are an irritant in your airways. Breathing in mould spores can cause headaches, breathlessness, and can be very harmful to people with a weaker immune system such as the elderly and young children.
While most moulds can be cleaned away easily with dilute bleach or special fungicides, some species such as Stachybotrys Chartarum also known as Toxic Black Mould release mycotoxins which are very harmful to health and need to be removed professionally.
Dust mite populations can grow quickly in damp areas where dust can build up. These tiny creatures consume household dust. Their waste can be picked up by the smallest movement of air and inhaled or come into contact with eyes. Common reactions to dust mite faeces are similar to other allergic reactions – a streaming nose, sore eyes, and shortness of breath – but they are also associated with causing asthma attacks, which makes dealing with dust mites a priority for anyone with underlying respiratory problems.
The most effective way of preventing condensation causing health problems in your home is to reduce the levels of humidity. Extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms are one of the most effective ways to do this. When the rooms are in use, the fans run and draw the moisture rich air from the room and expel it outside. This prevents moisture build up in the kitchen or bathroom itself, and also creates an area of negative pressure in the wet room which prevents the water vapour from escaping elsewhere in your home so that condensation cannot form in hidden areas.
Some modern extractor fans such as the EnviroVent Cyclone 7 feature a humidity sensor which detects high levels of moisture in the air and adjusts the power of the fan to remove the air more quickly. The latest extractor fans are highly efficient, and with current high energy prices might actually save you money compared to older, less effective devices.
If the problems with condensation or mould extend into rooms beyond the bathroom and kitchen, a whole house ventilation system may be more effective. Positive Input Ventilation systems (PIV) are a popular choice with householders and draw air in from outside to replace the stale or humid indoor air.
PIV systems include air filters for the air that is drawn into their central unit at roof height. This means that the air is free of particulates including pollen which can cause allergic reactions and affect people with respiratory problems. Systems such as ATMOS are highly energy efficient and gently distribute filtered around your home to push the moisture rich air and stop condensation for good.
Read More: 14 Ways to Reduce Condensation >
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