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While making homes as air tight as possible has energy benefits, it also has the potential to increase condensation. Paul Harrington, Head of Residential Sales at Elta Fans Building Services, explains why installers should turn to intelligent ventilation strategies.
A major issue for all landlords, but especially those with socially-rented properties, is that of keeping energy costs down without sacrificing the comfort of their tenants. Increasingly, this has meant making homes as air tight as possible in a bid to keep out the cold and lower the running costs associated with heating properties.
However, this has reduced fresh air circulation, leading to condensation and ultimately to issues of mould and damp. It is the responsibility of installers to help address these problems, since they are in a position to make recommendations to housing providers and tenants about how best to resolve them.
Condensation season is the period in which homes become affected by fogged glass and water droplets on cold wall surfaces. It typically occurs during the colder months of the year, caused by warm air inside the home rising, and then suddenly cooling as it comes into contact with colder walls and windows. This forms water droplets and, in poorly ventilated rooms, can lead to a type of mould which can cause serious health issues, as well as having a damaging effect on the building.
There are certain types of activities that increase condensation such as drying clothes, running a bath, or boiling a kettle. Of greater concern, however, is the fact that many tenants who are on low incomes cannot afford to turn their heating on. This means that in months when the air outside is too cold to ventilate naturally, homes become a hotbed for condensation.
Fit for purpose
More recently, however, the latest Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, has made it easier for tenants to address landlords on factors threatening their property’s safety. Having come into force in March this year, the act determines whether a property is fit for human habitation by considering, among other factors, damp and ventilation.
It is a landlord’s obligation to routinely check for mould, and this has been brought into greater focus in recent years with increased attention being paid to indoor air quality. Given that condensation issues typically start to present themselves from September onwards, the summer months are the perfect time to put an effective ventilation strategy in place.
Traditionally, positive input ventilation (PIV) units have been the preferred method of ventilation for social housing providers. They are capable of delivering fresh air into homes at a low upfront cost by using a small fan to take in external air and distribute within a building. Given that they have been used for years, installers will be familiar with these systems.
PIV has been successful for a long time, but the technology within it has remained virtually unchanged, despite significant changes in the structures they are required to ventilate. This means that while homes become more insulated, and more moisture is kept within the building, traditional PIV units cannot keep pace, making condensation, damp, and mould, increasingly prevalent issues.
Even where PIV manages to deliver enough fresh air to combat condensation, it can often have the unwanted effect of increasing heating bills. This is because many systems now feature an electric heater, which increases the temperature of the air being introduced into the home. If the heater is inefficient, it can consume as much as 500W. This defeats the purpose of having the ventilation system in the first place and is the reason that technologically superior PIV systems are so important.
PIV units which include more advanced features equip landlords with the ability to improve tenant comfort and limit mould-related damage to structures, without increasing running costs. Modulating technology, which is capable of automatically adjusting air flow according to the temperature and moisture content of incoming air, ensures ventilation is as efficient as possible.
Elta Fans’ SANO Intelligent PIV with Eco-LoFlo uses this technology, drawing in external air and passing it through a filter before it enters the home. As the air passes through the filter, it increases in temperature by utilising otherwise unused energy – such as from solar gain or heat loss in the home.
Technological advancements mean that landlords don’t have to choose between thermal comfort and ventilated homes. By recommending intelligent PIV systems, installers can help to combat the effects of condensation while minimising running costs.