Protect your investment

HRV Group explains to landlords how vital it is that ventilation systems are serviced regularly

The summer was good, glorious in fact. So glorious that we should accept the winter that is coming right? Whatever the autumn and winter season has in store for us, one thing never changes – our transition to the ‘condensation season’ This is the time when moisture levels in properties reach an all-time high. Streaming windows, the minimal opening of windows and doors as to not let the cold in, or the warm air out, drying clothes indoors… the list of activities adding to moisture generation in the home is endless. Did you know that a family of four can create up to 24 pints of moisture per day from cooking, showering, boiling the kettle, hanging clothes to dry and breathing? Given all of these activities and changes that come with the end of the summer, the need for effective ventilation in the home is crucial. As landlords, you should be considering how your property will be protected against issues such as condensation and mould as we move into the winter of 2018/2019.

What is the purpose of ventilation?

You can’t see air, but a ventilation system is one of the most crucial services needed in your home – right up there with your heating system. Ventilation systems come in a range of different types and sizes, but ultimately, they have two main purposes:

  • To protect people from the effects of moisture, pollutants and airborne particles in the air e.g. carbon monoxide, radon, VOC’s, carbon dioxide
  • To protect the building from degradation caused by moisture e.g. mould, damp, wet rot

In 2012 it the English Housing Stock Survey reported over five million homes were suffering with mould, condensation and damp. Six years later, the issue continues, and landlords continue to spend considerable amounts of money dealing with mould, damp and in extreme cases, tenant actions relating to indoor air quality and health impacts. The issue is that it’s often too late when the lack of ventilation, or lack of effective ventilation is realised. While the lifestyle of tenants is a contributing factor, occupancy levels, insulation improvements like double glazing or cavity wall insulation, and age and type of property all have bearing on the way air moves around a home and the level of ventilation required. And of course, if there is a ventilation system and it’s not used, turned off, or not even working effectively you may already be on the back foot.

What ventilation strategies are available?

As a landlord, protecting your property, your investment and your tenants is fundamental. You can choose from a range of ventilation strategies including:

  • Intermittent kitchen/bathroom fans
  • Continuously running fans
  • Central extract
  • Positive pressure
  • Whole house heat recovery ventilation

Each with their own benefits and suitable for varying property types, the drive toward continuous ventilation however has been significant in recent years mainly due to increase thermal improvements to properties via the government schemes for cavity wall and roof insulation. Basically – if you insulate, you must ventilate!

Don’t just fit and forget

Once you have an effective strategy it doesn’t end there. Ventilation systems work in slightly different ways, but ultimately, they are extracting air, and some are supplying air as well e.g. heat recovery ventilation system (likely to be found in new build apartments and houses). Air that is passing through the ducting and the system (either extract air or internal air) is often full of particles such as dust, debris, pollen as well as pollutants we can’t see with the naked eye – perhaps NOx from car engines if the property is located close to a busy road. These particles are passing through the ventilation system and over time rest or stick to the internal components, leading to clogging. This is also happening in the duct work connected to the system. With a heat recovery ventilation system, there are a set of filters which are managing the removal of dirt and debris to protect the motor and the heat exchanger and crucially filtering incoming air as well. These filters are quickly and easily clogged as well. Whether there are filters in the system or not, you can’t just fit and forget. Ventilation systems like boilers that are providing a crucial service in protecting the building and its occupants need to be maintained to ensure they are doing the job they are supposed to.

What happens if the system isn’t checked or serviced?

A clogged, dirty and unmaintained ventilation system can result in issues such as:

  • Reduced airflow performance, which leads to issues with condensation and mould and an uncomfortable ‘stuffy’ feeling inside the home
  • Increased noise levels as dust and debris build up causes resistance and air ‘fights’ against it, leading to people turning the systems off, which isn’t good
  • Energy wastage simply by the fact that the system is still working, but it’s not doing the job it’s supposed to

All of the above result in one single thing for landlords – complaints. As time goes on, poor, ineffective, or no ventilation can impact both the health of the building and the health of the tenants. What needs to be maintained? The most important aspect of ventilation is that it is doing the job it is supposed to do. Clogging, dust and debris can impact performance by up to 18 per cent over just 12 months. This means the system is running, but is not effective and risks of mould and condensation are increased. Each ventilation system has maintenance and cleaning requirements. A system such as heat recovery ventilation has a number of areas that need attention on an annual basis:

Filter Replacement

Recommended to be checked every six months, and can be washed on first cycle, but must be replaced after 12 months.

Removing and sanitising room air valves

Both extract and supply valves are located in each room and attract dust and debris easily.

Cleaning inside the heat recovery unit

You would be surprised what makes its way inside the unit around the motors and impellors – especially insects.

Removing and sanitising the heat exchanger

The heat exchanger is dealing with high volumes of air coming out of the property and coming in from outside and can be easily clogged with debris.

Clean and sanitise duct work

Ducting is recommended to be cleaned approximately every five years as dust and debris builds up and can cause resistance.

Other filtration systems

NOx (new properties in high pollution areas may have additional filtration systems installed with ventilation systems that need maintenance as well) need maintaining approximately every five years. Upgrades and replacements Nothing lasts forever. Ventilation systems unlike heating systems are working 365 days a year to extract and supply air to the property. Seek advice on replacing systems between five and 10 years (depending on system type, location etc.). As a landlord, protecting your home and your investment is crucial and your consideration of ventilation in your home as we move towards the colder winter months should be on your agenda. In new build properties, ventilation systems such as heat recovery are fundamental due to high insulation levels designed to ‘keep the heat in’ – the thing is that the building and its occupants need to breathe too. The costs of dealing with mould, condensation, dry and wet rot, and tenant complaints around indoor air quality can spiral quickly. To help keep a fresh and healthy indoor environment, check you ventilation system and get it serviced annually.