Take a deep breath! There’s been much talk about the forthcoming Green Deal. Promising to be the largest refurbishment programme in the UK the Government has set high expectations with this ambitious scheme.
The idea behind the Green Deal is helping bill payers to make energy-saving improvements to keep their homes warm and cosy while reducing dwelling carbon emissions. People will be able to pay for some or all their work with the savings expected to be made on future energy bills. Meanwhile, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), a subsidy from energy suppliers, will provide extra help for those most in need and for properties that are harder to treat.
On paper this looks a great opportunity for households and installers alike. With the UK containing the oldest housing stock in the developed World, the Green Deal presents homeowners an excellent opportunity to insulate their homes as part of an overall energy efficiency package. However, ventilation must not be forgotten in this equation.
In New Build homes construction sticks to the ‘build tight, ventilate right’ ethos to provide energy efficient homes with good indoor air quality. When improving the air tightness of existing homes through insulation the same guidance should be followed to ensure adequate ventilation is in place to maintain healthy indoor air quality.
Good ventilation is essential in our homes. Research has shown indoor air can be up to ten times more polluted than the external environment because confined areas enable potential pollutants to build up. In fact, if care is not taken to ensure adequate levels of ventilation, in line with Part F of the Building Regulations, then high levels of humidity and growth in dust mite populations may occur, leading to potential health issues, such as asthma.
Meanwhile, if left unchecked high levels of condensation may also cause mould and unsightly damage to the fabric of a property. As a result, Green Deal Providers could potentially face both unhappy customers and expensive remedial costs if ventilation is not considered when improving the air tightness of a dwelling.
Where internal or external wall insulation is being installed along with cavity wall insulation or energy efficient glazing then continuous ventilation should be considered as part of the overall refurbishment package. Continuous Decentralised Mechanical Extract Ventilation (dMEV) systems are an effective and affordable solution with low running costs of typically less than £2 a year. Designed to work with the natural air infiltration, continuous ventilation systems control the air path through the home. As a result, they prevent the migration of damaging humidity and pollutants, providing effective near silent energy efficient ventilation.
With the increase in double glazing and insulation in refurbishment projects over the last few years the UK has already witnessed a rise in the problems associated with poor indoor air quality and condensation. Unless ventilation is recognised as an essential accompaniment to the forthcoming Green Deal then there looks set to be a further growth in these problems.
Sara MacLean is a writer and runs MacLean Comms, a low carbon PR Consultancy. MacLean Comms combines PR expertise with an in-depth knowledge of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, green technology, construction and sustainability.