Winter condensation is a widespread problem.In winter we spend more time indoors, creating moisture from cooking, cleaning, washing and even breathing. When we're out of the house we leave it closed up for security.
Insulation adds to the problem. We trap the heat of living areas by keeping doors shut and using heavy curtains and carpets.
This all comes at a price. Warm air holds water better than cold air. Because it's sealed in, the moisture builds up then condenses on cold surfaces such as windows and walls.
The solution is simple – better ventilation. Making it happen is less simple.
If you're living in a draughty old Victorian villa, you shouldn't have too much of a problem with ventilation. But modern houses are much more airtight, so natural ventilation is minimal.
Extra heating is part of the solution, combined with water extraction near the sources. Rangehoods intercept steam from the kitchen; extractor fans are effective at drying out bathrooms. You could also consider a dehumidifier. While these can help control condensation, they’re expensive to run (up to $2.50 a day), often noisy, and must be run constantly. With a dehumidifier you are controlling the symptoms and not dealing with the problem. While not the ideal solution, dehumidifiers have their place.
Automatic Ventilation System: An automatic ventilation system is a better way of controlling condensation. Whichever way you attack the problem, remember it's even more effective if the amount of water released into the air is reduced.
Once you've taken steps to reduce moisture at its source, an automatic ventilation system is an effective way of reducing condensation. And it's much more convenient than having to open and shut windows.There are 2 main types of system:
Positive pressure or forced air ventilation systems work by blowing drier air into your house from the roof space above the ceiling or, in some types, from outside. They suit older houses with wooden joinery better than modern houses with sealed aluminium joinery – unless windows are opened or additional vents fitted.
Balanced pressure / heat exchanger ventilation systems extract warm damp air from living spaces and pass it through a heat-exchanger to heat up dry air which the system brings in from outside. This can fully meet Building Code requirements. They work best in more airtight, modern homes.
Which system is best depends on the design of your house, its floor area, the location, how much sun the house gets, the type of roof ... even the local climate.
Before you install any system, do some homework. We've outlined below how the different designs work and some of their pros and cons which should help you decide whether your house is suitable for any of the systems available. Consider what you want to achieve against the types of system – and also look for any extra features you might need to meet your particular requirements.