Healthy home

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The factsheets, case studies and articles in this section are all about achieving a healthy home.

Research shows that home environments and occupant health are intrinsically linked. That’s not surprising. We spend a great deal of time indoors - 75-90%. For those most vulnerable - infants and the elderly - time spent indoors is often greater.

But many New Zealand homes are downright unhealthy. Home health depends on three main aspects: air quality (levels of pollutants,  particulates, and toxins), moisture levels and temperatures. Many New Zealand homes fail to meet minimum World Heath Organisation (WHO)  standards in at least one of these areas.


Air quality

Of course, there are air pollutants everywhere. But those inside are 1000-times more likely to be inhaled than outdoor ones. Pollutants include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), respirable particulates,  gasses, fungi, bacteria and dustmites.

VOCs come from the chemicals in construction materials, furniture,  paint, carpets and household products. They are highest after a home has been built or renovated. While many are in low concentrations, together they can form a potent cocktail of harmful compounds, causing nose and throat irritations, respiratory problems and also cardiovascular disease.

Gasses like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone are present in high levels in some New Zealand homes, especially those with gas heaters (35%) that are not vented to the outside. Gas cookers, open fires and vehicle emissions from attached garages are also responsible. These gases reduce immunity, cause coughing and sneezing,  prolong the effects of colds and flu and result in more, and more severe, asthma attacks. Even small amounts of carbon monoxide cause tiredness and clumsiness, loss of concentration, nausea, dizziness and headaches.


High moisture levels:

  • encourage the growth of moulds, fungi, dust mites and mildew-  almost half of New Zealand’s homes (45%) are mouldy. Mould and fungi,  like dustmites, are proven to exacerbate respiratory illnesses like asthma. While mould is inevitable to some degree, it multiplies fastest in damp, poorly insulated and badly ventilated houses - the majority of our homes fall into this category.
  • make your home harder to heat which can also contribute to health problems for you and your children, and make your power bills higher  


Unhealthy temperatures

Our homes are also cold - unacceptably so, according to WHO. Research shows that many of our homes are as much as 6°C colder than the minimum temperatures recommended by the World Health Organisation for good health (18°C in living rooms in the evening and 16°C in bedrooms overnigh).  Quite simply, people in cold homes are more likely to get sick.


  • 10-Oct-2018 (Publication )

    Managing mould (PDF 170KB)

    Beacon Pathway and the Home Performance Advisor programme

    Advice to householders on managing mould, based on the latest research and best practice.

  • 03-Jul-2013 (Publication Factsheet/5)

    Heating: Unflued Gas Heaters (PDF 64KB)

    This Beacon factsheet covers why unflued gas heaters are both dangerous and not cost effective to use.

  • 03-Jul-2013 (Publication Factsheet/10)

    Keeping Heat In: Overview (PDF 55KB)

    This Beacon factsheet covers passive solar design, draught proofing, insulation and windows.

  • 03-Jul-2013 (Publication Factsheet/4)

    Healthy Indoor Air (PDF 68KB)

    This Beacon factsheet covers eliminating the sources of moisture in the home, and ventilating to get rid of moisture and indoor pollutants.

  • 03-Jul-2013 (Publication Factsheet/27)

    Keeping Heat In: Windows (PDF 95KB)

    This Beacon factsheet covers double glazing, secondary glazing, curtains and pelmets, and simple steps to prevent heat loss through your windows.

  • 03-Jul-2013 (Publication Factsheet/26)

    Keeping Heat In: Insulation (PDF 200KB)

    This Beacon factsheet covers insulating the thermal envelope, what an R-value is, types of insulation, and questions to ask when considering insulation options.

  • 03-Jul-2013 (Publication Factsheet/25)

    Improving Your Cold Damp House (PDF 31KB)

    This Beacon factsheet covers steps to address cold and damp, and whole house heating or ventilation systems.

  • 03-Jul-2013 (Publication Factsheet/32)

    Whole House Ventilation Systems (PDF 35KB)

    This Beacon factsheet covers positive pressure or roof cavity ventilation systems, balanced pressure or heat recovery ventilation systems, and what to consider before you buy.

  • 03-Jul-2013 (Publication Factsheet/21)

    Choosing Sustainable Materials (PDF 54KB)

    This Beacon factsheet covers what sustainable materials are, sustainable sourcing, and assessment sheets for sustainable building materials.

  • 01-Jul-2013 (Publication Case study/26)

    Huntsbury Homeowners Enjoy Warmer Healthier Home (PDF 242KB)

    Covers the benefits of upgrading during earthquake repair for Huntsbury homeowners in the Build Back Smarter project.

  • 01-Jul-2013 (Publication Case study/25)

    Retrofitting Double Glazing: Lois' Kitchen and Toilet Windows (PDF 329KB)

    Covers the choices Lois made in retrofitting double glazing to her kitchen and toilet windows.

  • 01-Jul-2013 (Publication Case study/24)

    Retrofitting Double Glazing: Lois' Bedroom Windows (PDF 136KB)

    Covers the choices Lois made in retrofitting double glazing to her bedroom windows.

  • 01-Jul-2013 (Publication Case study/23)

    Retrofitting Double Glazing: Vicki's Sash Windows (PDF 216KB)

    Covers the choices Vicki made in retrofitting double glazing to her sash windows.

  • 01-Jul-2013 (Publication Case study/22)

    Retrofitting Double Glazing: Lois' Sash Windows (PDF 81KB)

    Covers the choices Lois made in retrofitting double glazing to sash windows.

  • 01-Jul-2013 (Publication Case study/20)

    Renovating for Baby (PDF 335KB)

    Covers how one household turned a cold study into a warm healthy baby's room.

  • 01-Jul-2013 (Publication Case study/19)

    Hot in Summer, Freezing in Winter (PDF 288KB)

    Covers the steps a Gisborne household took to improve the performance of their old villa.

  • 01-Jul-2013 (Publication Case study/18)

    Cooling Down in Auckland (PDF 278KB)

    Covers how one Auckland household tackled summer overheating.

  • 01-Jul-2013 (Publication Case study/16)

    Improved Heating in Papakowhai Renovations (PDF 152KB)

    Covers how more efficient heating combined with full insulation led to healthier indoor temperatures and energy savings in Papakowhai Renovation case studies.

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HSS High Standard of Sustainability® benchmarks for a healthy home:

  • 18°C in living areas in the evenings
  • 16°C in bedrooms overnight
  • 40-70% humidity in living areas in evenings
  • 40-70% humidity in bedrooms overnight

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