Lee Stones, category manager for Xpelair, looks at the factors which are driving a surge in the specification of heat recovery technology in the home – and what benefits they can deliver for Housing Associations.
As Building Regulations continue to move towards more airtight homes, Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems have become an almost default choice in new social housing properties – and an increasingly popular one in refurbishments too.
MVHR is ideal for the social housing sector because it is suited to smaller homes, flats or apartments where insulation levels are high. Available as a centralised, whole-house system or single room units, this proven technology extracts moist, stale air from inside the property and replaces it with fresh, incoming air. Crucially, it also uses heat from the outgoing air to warm the incoming air, and high efficiency systems can recover up to 90 per cent of the heat that would have been lost through normal extraction.
Systems inevitably run constantly in trickle mode and will boost when changes in humidity are recognised, for example when cooking on a hob or turning on a shower. Provided it is specified and installed properly, an MVHR system also ensures housing associations meet Building Regulations for new properties under System Four of Building Regs Part F, whilst also improving SAP ratings.
One of the most obvious benefits of MVHR is its energy saving potential and this is a key factor in the rise of its specification in the social housing sector. Using waste heat from the outgoing, stale air to warm fresh, incoming air can reduce heating bills, of course, and for those organisations with a large stock, it can deliver significant carbon reductions.
For the best results, MVHR systems such as Xpelair’s new Natural Air 180 – launching in January 2017 – can play a vital part in a whole-house approach to energy saving and carbon reduction.
Together with other energy efficiency measures such as glazing upgrades, cavity wall insulation or heating system improvements, it can help to increase comfort, reduce bills and meet overall sustainability targets across a provider’s housing stock.
Boost your IAQ
However, energy efficiency is not the only driving force behind the increasing specification of MVHR. We spend more than 90 per cent of our time indoors and whilst there is a global understanding of outdoor air pollution, few people realise that indoor air can be as much as 50 times more polluted than outdoor air.
Dust, pets and fumes from cookers or fireplaces, as well as drying clothes indoors and excess moisture from showering can all contribute to poor IAQ, which in turn can have a serious impact on our health.
The importance of IAQ should not be underestimated. Mould or condensation in the home can aggravate pre-existing health conditions such as asthma and eczema, whilst high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from everyday household items such as polish or air fresheners can also lead to symptoms including fatigue, rhinitis, dizziness, headaches, coughing and sneezing.
According to a YouGov consumer survey, conducted on behalf of BEAMA, 58 per cent of UK adults have experienced mould or condensation in their homes and 19 per cent of those claim to have suffered from a respiratory or dermatological condition. The remaining 81 per cent are considered to be at risk.
It goes without saying that social housing providers have a responsibility to their tenants and with a rising threat of litigation as awareness grows, it can have an operational impact too if standards are not met.
The key, of course, is to ensure adequate ventilation in the home, reducing the build-up of condensation, black mould and the spores which it releases. MVHR, providing a constant supply of fresh air, delivers an ideal solution.
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