Is your home a haven for bacteria?


EcoAir provides tips for warding off illness this winter

As flu season sets in, it is essential to take steps to minimise the risk of infection. For some of us, this may mean getting the flu jab. For others, it may involve stocking up on vitamins and supplements or adjusting diets with the aim of boosting our immune system.

There are also important measures we should take to ensure the environmental conditions in our homes (or offices) are optimised in order to prevent the proliferation of microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses.

Sally Fok, co-founder and MD of EcoAir, one of the leading suppliers of air treatment products in the UK, reveals why it is crucial to check for excess moisture in the home, and provides tips on how to restore humidity to optimum levels in order to ensure a healthier winter this year.

“Airborne microorganisms thrive in humid conditions” says Sally. “The survival and breed rate of bacteria and viruses will escalate as soon as humidity levels rise above 60% and this level of humidity is not at all uncommon in UK homes during the colder wetter winter months, especially in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, or garages.

“By turning on the heating and closing doors and windows during winter, we significantly reduce air circulation, causing moisture generated inside to become trapped indoors. Moisture from rain and melting snow can also enter our home through windows, floors or walls – particularly in older buildings. In the meantime, condensation of moisture on cold surfaces such as windows, ceilings, floorboards and walls, due to the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, is a major cause of trapped excess moisture in all homes throughout the winter.

“The most essential measure to reducing humidity in the home, and thus reducing exposure to bugs and germs, is to ventilate. Good ventilation – especially in winter – will allow excess moisture to escape and is key to warding off illness. Open windows and use vent fans every time you are cooking and after taking a shower or bath. Allowing the air to circulate is a quick way to release trapped humidity.

“For those looking for a more immediate and controlled solution, a dehumidifier can successfully restore and maintain the correct moisture levels in the home. Dehumidifiers work by extracting moisture from the air, therefore preventing the growth of microbes. Once humidity levels in the home are brought down to below 60%, airborne bacteria and viruses will not only stop breeding, but will struggle to survive.  To control heavier cases of condensation on windows, it is advisable to bring the humidity down to 40% during the winter months.

“Desiccant dehumidifiers are particularly effective in reducing the risk of infection from airborne viruses or bacteria. As well as reducing the level of moisture in the air, they instantly kill any microorganisms that pass through the unit due to the internal heat. A dehumidifier with desiccant technology doubles up as an air purifier, killing any allergens, toxins and microorganisms that may be present in the air.

“As well as drying the air and preventing the breeding of bacteria, a dehumidifier will also help to cut energy costs. The higher the humidity, the harder it is to heat a home, which leads to higher energy bills. Once the moisture in the air has been reduced, our home heating systems will work much more efficiently as it takes less energy to heat less humid air.

“Dehumidifiers are also widely used to dry laundry quickly indoors – many have dedicated laundry modes – and are far more cost-effective than using tumble driers. Damp laundry in the home will not only add significantly to the home’s humidity levels but also provides a moist surface that bugs and germs will be drawn to.

“Moisture levels can be measured by using a hygrometer (or humidistat). Any reading above 60% and it’d be strongly advisable to take steps to address the problem. A high reading indicates that not only your health may be at risk, but the excess moisture could also be causing significant and costly damage to your home. It’s important to test all living spaces; it may be that the excess moisture only occurs in specific rooms.”

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