November 14th-20th 2011 is Indoor Allergy Week, and national charity Allergy UK is taking the opportunity to highlight the rise in the number of people who are experiencing allergic reactions to their own homes.
Allergy UK reports that one in three adults in the UK suffers from an allergy of some sort, and that of these people at least 12 million are affected by triggers within their homes. Dubbed ‘home fever’, Allergy UK claims that the phenomenon is on the rise and says that people often mistake the symptoms (runny nose, sneezing and scratchy throat) with that of the common cold and so never address the root cause of the problem.
According to Allergy UK, there are two main culprits; the house dust mite and mould.
House dust mites survive well in mattresses, bedding, carpets and furniture and thrive in poorly ventilated, humid atmospheres. Research carried out in February 2010 showed that dust mites were a trigger for around 45% of allergy sufferers, however 18 months later new research has revealed that this figure has rocketed to 58%.
With the cost of heating increasing, many householders are becoming more reluctant to constantly heat and ventilate their properties, meaning that moisture produced from day-to-day activities such as cooking and bathing becomes trapped inside the building. This leads to high humidities and condensation forming on cold surfaces, providing the ideal living and breeding conditions for the house dust mite.
The key to erradicating or vastly reducing the number of house dust mites is to control relative humidity (RH). At a RH of around 45%, house dust mites cannot breed or survive, so in reducing humidities to this level the active population in a property will decline significantly. Various pieces of equipment, including dehumidifiers, can be used to manage humidity levels, however propertECO recommends the use of a positive input ventilation (PIV) or ‘positive pressure’ unit.
These units draw clean, fresh air into the property and disperse it through vents. The introduction of ‘extra’ air into the property forces the existing damp, stale air out and provides continuous air exchange. The fans can contain a heater to gently heat the fresh air before dispersing it, or certain versions include a heat-recovery unit, that will transfer heat from the outgoing air into the incoming air. These units are much cheaper to run than dehumidifiers and require little maintenance. In fact, many users report that their energy bills do not change or even decrease when a PIV is installed as drier air can be heated much more efficiently than damp air, therefore heating bills are reduced.
As well as controlling house dust mites, by reducing relative humdity a PIV will also cure condensation problems. Condensation forms when warm, damp air hits a cold surface. When the air cools rapidly, it release its moisture, leaving beads of water on the surface. Condensation can lead to rotting of timber window frames and skirting boards, but the most common complaint that occurs as a result of condensation is mould growth.
Moulds require high levels of surface moisture to survive, and a surface that is regularly covered in condensation provides this condition. Allergy UK reports that allergic reactions to mould are also on the increase; 23% of allergy suffers’ symptoms were triggered by mould in 2010 compared to 31% in the most recent research.
If humidity levels are reduced, either through increased heating and natural ventilation or via the installation of a PIV system, mould should not occur.
propertECO’s Thermalogix system can also be used to minimise the potential for mould growth on cold external walls. The outside walls of a building are usually the coldest, particularly North-facing ones and are therefore the most likely to be affected by condensation and mould growth. Thermalogix is a cream applied externally to walls that improves their insulation properties and reduces heat loss, thus keeping the wall warmer.
If you are suffering from ‘home fever’, or you know of someone who is, don’t ignore the symptoms; improve the conditions in your home and improve your health. Contact propertECO today to find out how we can help.