Staying warm and dry

Heating and ventilating your flat properly is important for your health!

The World Health Organisation says that inside temperature should be at least 18 degC and ideally not higher than 21 degC. At 16 degC and below the cold can start to affect the affect the respiratory system, at 12 degrees C and below it can affect heart function. It’s the temperature of the air you’re breathing that makes a difference so you’re better off putting your money into heating the whole room rather than putting your money towards heating just a bed with an electric blanket.

The relative humidity inside should ideally be between 40% and 60% if you’d like to test this you can borrow a hygrometer from OUSA Student Support. Mould thrives at 70% humidity and above – this is dangerous to your health and will make your landlord unhappy. Damp living conditions contribute to respiratory illnesses and make pre-existing conditions like asthma worse. Damp air is also harder to heat so it will add more to your power bill.

Sometimes excessive moisture is due to the condition of the house but there are things you can do to reduce moisture and it’s your responsibility to do so. Here’s some ideas:

  • Keep heat inside. Heat is drawn to gaps it can escape through so use these hacks to keep warm air in;
    • Curtains are your friend and they’re a lot more effective if they are lined and are the right size. If your curtains aren’t up to scratch you might be able to get free curtains from the Dunedin Curtain Bank. If you want to increase the power of your current curtains get some cheap sheets from an op-shop and pin them to them to the back of the curtains for extra lining.
    • Stop draughts, scope out the gaps where heat could escape, cover gaps in doorways with a door sausage, use foam or rubber strips/storm guards, block up open fire chimneys with plastic bags filled with newspaper. Remember to talk to your landlord before installing any fixtures that can’t be removed easily.
    • Add extra insulation by placing rugs over draughty floors and use bubble wrap as a substitute for double glazing – cut it to size and adhere to the window by spraying water onto the glass and covering it with the bubble wrap. You can also buy transparent sheets for windows at hardware stores.
  • Moisture management and ventilation. Mould loves damp, still air;
    • You should encourage airflow through the house, hot spots like the bathroom and kitchen should at least have windows that open and ideally an extractor fan, clothes dryers should be vented to outside.
    • Cover pots with lids and keep the extractor fan on when boiling water.
    • Avoid drying clothes inside this can release 2-5L of water into the air.
    • After you shower close the bathroom door and open the window. Leave gaps between the furniture and walls/curtains to allow airflow and use a bed base.
    • If you find any mould spray it with a solution of 30% water, 70% vinegar (you can pick one for free from OUSA Student Support) leave it for 30 seconds and wipe it away with a cloth. 
    • Ventilate well every day, open the house right up for 15 minutes so the damp air inside can be replaced with the dryer air outside. The best time to do this is usually in the morning when the air is dryer.
  • Effective heating;
    • There are lots of different heaters out there and they’re all good for different things, check out energy wise for the pros and cons of different types of heating.
    • Heating your flat properly will help to prevent you from getting sick in winter and doesn’t have to be too expensive if done properly.
    • The use of heaters is also something you could talk about in your flatting agreement.