Upu Ioapo-Penatia has seen first-hand the damage an unhealthy home can cause. Over winter, her two-year-old daughter, Savarhn, was repeatedly sick with respiratory health issues believed to be caused by their cold, damp home. Savarhn developed a viral pneumonia and was later admitted to the ICU at Wellington Hospital.
Due to her medical history the two-year-old was referred to the Porirua East Housing Project which aims to improve the quality of homes in Porirua.
Through the Healthy Homes Initiative, the family got insulation, two heat pumps and thermal curtains installed. Upu later paid for a bathroom extractor fan to be installed.
“It helped to warm our home and to reduce our power bills, but we still had issues with mould and condensation,” says Ms Ioapo-Penatia.
Home ventilation company, DVS, got in touch with the family to offer them a ventilation system which was installed in their home a few weeks ago.
“We’ve noticed a huge difference since the install of the DVS ventilation system, there is no condensation on our windows and it actually helped with warming the whole house. Even our downstairs bedroom, which is usually the hardest one to heat, is warm,” she said.
The heat pumps and insulation improved the family’s living conditions but when the ventilation system was installed the whole house became warm and dry enough for Savarhn to recover in a healthy home.
“Savarhn used to get sick every second week before the ventilation system was installed,” says Ms Ioapo-Penatia.
Ventilation is the essential third leg of the “healthy homes” stool, alongside insulation and heating.
Recent New Zealand research conducted by The University of Otago, Wellington research, has found that almost one fifth of hospital admissions of young children with acute respiratory infections could be prevented if their houses were free from damp and mould.
Ventilation systems remain the most effective way to control moisture and condensation. They continuously replace moisture-laden, stale air, with fresher, drier air ensuring a dry and healthy home.
“DVS is committed to improving the quality of New Zealand’s housing stock one home at a time and we’re delighted we could assist the Ioapo-Penatia family in creating a healthier living environment,” says DVS Director, Peter Roberts.
The current standards for ventilation in rental properties require only openable windows and extractor fans in the bathroom and the kitchen. While such measures are a step in the right direction, Roberts says they don’t go far enough.
“Efficient wet area extractors do a fine job of removing significant amounts of water vapour but bathroom fans and rangehoods do not ventilate and control air quality throughout a home,” he says.
Extractor fans and a minimum area of openable windows are currently included in the New Zealand Building code which is how these measures have been included in the ventilation standard.
“This section of the building code was written in the mid to late-1980s and we strongly feel it should be updated to reflect if we are serious about improving New Zealand’s poor housing conditions,” says Roberts.