With the colder months approaching, and an energy crisis in full swing, most UK households are asking whether it's safe to run their house colder than usual. Certainly, the prospect of escalating bills is something that most of us want to manage as tightly as possible, but the fact is, a cold house can be bad for your health, especially if your health is already compromised in some way. Let's take a closer look.
Why is a cold house bad for your health?
When the temperature within a house drops below 16 degrees, there is a heightened risk of respiratory illnesses. This is mainly because cold temperatures tend to go hand in hand with damp, and this can lead to a number of issues. For example, a damp home very often leads to a mouldy home, and this can cause serious issues with respiratory conditions, auto-immune conditions, breathing issues and toxic mould syndrome. There is also a real physiological stress of a cold environment for people who are elderly, unwell or for babies and young children.
Why is cold linked with damp in a home?
People living in a house always produce moisture - we breathe out a litre of moisture every day as adults! Daily activities such as cooking, drying laundry and showering also release condensation, and this gathers on cold surfaces and can lead to mould growth. This is even more of a risk when a home doesn't have adequate ventilation. Most homes have some degree of mould, but healthy people tend to be able to withstand its effects. However, if mould spores begin to multiply unchecked, and if cold temperatures affect the immune system and leave people vulnerable, the risks of catching a respiratory disease, or having an asthma attack, increase.
How warm should my home be?
The World Health Organisation recommends that homes are heated to at least 18 degrees internally, and ideally to 21 degrees if elderly people or babies are present.
Why are homes currently cold?
The main issue for billpayers this winter is the cost of energy. For many people, their homes are also poorly insulated or have insufficient heating systems, particularly if properties are older and without double glazing or wall insulation. Many people are looking for ways to improve the warmth of their homes. For example, some are opting for DIY solutions such as reflective panels behind radiators to maximise heating efficiency when central heating is switched on. Others are using ceramic heaters, wood-burning stoves and heated blankets, rather than whole-house heating systems. Some people are focusing on using dehumidifiers to remove moisture from the air and to raise the internal temperature. However, these systems can be heavy on electricity usage and expensive when installed across different parts of the home.
Cost-effective investments for heating your home
If you can afford to make investments in your home heating this year, the return - in terms of your health, comfort and well-being - can be excellent. A warm and dry home will also invariably have fewer problems with damp and mould, especially where warmer temperatures are combined with adequate ventilation. Underfloor heating is a surprisingly cost-effective investment for a warmer and more comfortable home and is also cost-effective to run. Underfloor heating produces warm, stable and consistent heat without fluctuations. Here are some of the main benefits it can offer:
1. Low maintenance costs
Once fitted, underfloor heating rarely needs any kind of maintenance, whether it's water-based or electric. It must be installed to BS EN 1264 standards, and once so, it will usually come with a guarantee of around 25 years.
2. High efficiency
Underfloor heating tends to be more cost-effective and efficient than a traditional radiator. The flooring itself tends to retain heat very well, unlike radiators which immediately cool down once they are switched off. Underfloor systems tend to be used at a lower temperature but left on in the background where they provide a more passive degree of heat.
Anyone who has experienced the comfort of a heated floor will tell you that it's a wonderful experience! Underfloor heating systems offer consistent heat around the room, unlike convection-based radiators that tend to create warm and cold spots in the home. The lower-level temperatures and consistent operation of underfloor heating mean that you get to enjoy a beautiful cosy space, and you can walk around comfortably without footwear too if you wish - something which is proven to be very beneficial for your health.
Underfloor heating helps to prevent pests such as dust mites because these pests prefer damp and cold surfaces. This makes underfloor heating ideal if you have asthma or other types of respiratory illness. With traditional radiators, dust mites and other pests can find cold corners in which to breed and make their homes.
Many underfloor heating systems used to be installed under stone or wood, but today's systems can be fitted under nearly all surfaces. These flexible systems use their own thermostat too in each room so you can adjust them for maximum efficiency.
6. Good looks
When you install an underfloor heating system, you don't need unsightly radiators around the room and you can also arrange your furniture in the way that you like without having to worry about blocking off radiator heat. This is a great space saver and helps to explain why underfloor heating systems are now built into so many new-built homes.
7. Potentially environmentally friendly
It's also worth noting that today's underfloor heating systems can be powered with environmentally friendly energy sources such as ground source or air-source heat pumps, which are perfectly suited to the 'always on' and lower temperatures of underfloor heating systems. They can also be powered by solar PV panels and needn't be operated with fossil fuels at all, depending on your setup.
Enjoy a warm, healthy home today
In short, if you want to ensure that your home remains warm and comfortable, safe and healthy and free from pests, mould and dampness, then an efficient, modern underfloor heating system could be a wise investment for the longer term.