If you want to help keep your whānau healthy this winter, make sure your home is warm and dry.
Many homes in New Zealand are damp, cold and unhealthy. In winter, they are an average of 6°C below the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum indoor temperature of 18°C.
However, having a warm, dry home helps protect your family from getting sick. And everyone having their own bed, with plenty of space around each bed, means germs such as strep throat (which can lead to rheumatic fever) are less likely to spread.
Here are some simple top tips to keep your home warm:
1. Insulate your house
Insulation in the roof and under the floor keeps your house warm and dry in winter. If you’re on a low income, you may be able to get financial help through the Ministry of Health’s Healthy Homes Initiative. Some local or regional councils offer insulation deals and the Winter Energy Payment is available for some people. Insulation is also now compulsory in all rental homes.
2. Have snug-fitting curtains
Having snug-fitting curtains helps keep your house warm. There are several curtain banks that provide good quality, secondhand curtains. Make sure you open your curtains in the morning to let the sun’s heat in and close them just before sunset to keep the cold out.
3. Draught-proof windows and doors
Check there aren’t any draughts coming in through any windows or doors, as this will make your house cold. A draught stopper across the bottom of a door (or a rolled up dry towel) helps keep the cold out.
4. Reduce condensation
Condensation, or water that’s collected on windows and walls, makes your home damp and can cause mould to grow. A damp house is also more expensive to heat. To reduce condensation:
- put lids on pots when cooking
- use an extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom or open a window
- dry your clothes outside (or in a garage or carport).
If you do have condensation, wipe it off each morning with a towel.
5. Get a good heater
Electric heaters are cheap to buy and safe to use. A heat pump with a thermostat is also a good option as it keeps the cost down. Portable or unflued indoor gas heaters release dangerous toxins and increase moisture.
6. Air your house
Make sure you air your house out every day in the colder months. Open the doors and windows and let the fresh air in to help dry out your home.
7. Get rid of mould
If you see mould, get rid of it as soon as possible. Mould grows in damp and wet places and can cause health problems. You can use a bleach solution or white vinegar to remove it.
8. Have separate sleeping spaces
Overcrowded sleeping conditions allow germs to spread much more easily. Try to sleep everyone in their own beds with as much space as possible between their heads.
- Healthy environments Auckland Regional Public Health Service, NZ, 2019
- Warmer, drier homes Ministry of Health, NZ, 2020
- Healthy homes initiative Ministry of Health, NZ, 2020
- Funding for heaters and insulation Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, NZ
- Types of heaters Gen Less, NZ
- A renter's guide to a warmer home Consumer, NZ