Green Star Homes unpacked: Stiebel Eltron ventilation a lifesaver for Sydney family

27 May 2022

After months of record-breaking rain and humidity along Australia’s east coast, mould is an unwelcomed guest in the homes of many households. It’s also a sign that the impacts of climate change are coming indoors. In the first of our Green Star Homes unpacked series, we spoke to Tom Stephenson who manages Renewable Technologies at Future Homes supporting partner Stiebel Eltron about how their products help households turn their mould problem around, for good.

You usually smell it first, then you see it. It lurks inside cupboards, on your favourite shoes or smothers soft toys that have sat in a corner too long. There is no ‘fun’ in finding this toxic fungus, and its health impacts can be detrimental.

Homes became our shelters during the lockdowns of COVID-19, but are our homes fit for purpose, and are they safe? In an all-too-common story of hidden damp, humidity and mould, one Sydney family’s home became a concern for health, comfort, and quality of life with wet subfloor and minimal airflow creating a surge of that sickly, mouldy scent, making it close to uninhabitable.

“The smell wasn’t the only problem. The family’s mother, Marina, told our partner installer, that her son’s eyes were very sore, he was constantly sneezing and eventually complained that “he couldn’t take it anymore”, and sadly Marina’s son is not alone,” said Tom.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 10-50% of Australian homes are affected by dampness and mould. Mould related health issues include:

  • red itchy eyes
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • blocked nose/nasal congestion
  • fatigue
  • asthma and other respiratory issues

Research also shows that vulnerable sectors of the community including children, people with existing health issues, and those living on a low income in poorly maintained housing are at higher risk of living in a home with mould.

What exactly is mould and can it be removed?

Mould is a form of fungus which breaks down dead material and our homes offer the ideal conditions for it to grow: mould thrives in dampness, moisture, warm air, and feeds on materials such as wood, carpet, and dust.

“Condensation, one of the most significant contributors of mould, often forms in steamy bathrooms or on windows and if ventilation isn’t sufficient - which is the case in many east coast homes - the condensation can’t escape. If condensation isn't the culprit, then rising damp, a more severe issue could be to blame,” explained Tom.

Tom adds that mould can be difficult and dangerous to remove and that’s only one piece of the puzzle, “If the problem of excess moisture isn’t solved, the mould will grow back. The only way to permanently prevent the growth of mould is to reduce condensation and ensure your home is adequately ventilated,” said Tom.

“The air is now healthy”: the difference ventilation makes

Modern ventilation is the most effective way to keep mould at bay. Ensuring that air continuously circulates through the home will reduce condensation so the mould cannot grow.

Marina enlisted Andrew Fenton from Air We Care who was quick to apply the Stiebel Eltron LWZ 70 E. The LWZ 70 E ventilation and heat recovery unit to cut through the mould-stale-air, taking both biomaterial and humidity immediately out of the home.

Tom explains this technology replaced stagnant air with fresh filtered air from outside, then kept it at an even temperature with cross current heat recovery.

“The son’s symptoms are gone, and the family home is once again a place of living comfort. Marina tells us that the change is ‘unbelievable’, she now has a system in place that is energy efficient, maintains the same temperature in Winter and Summer and that the air in her family home is now healthy.”

Green Building Council of Australia thanks Stiebel Eltron for their ongoing leadership and their support of our activities in this space. You can learn more about Stiebel Eltron and how they can make your home safe here. Green Star Homes is on the forefront of homes that are healthy, positive and ready to respond to our changing climate. Keen to know more? Visit our Green Star Homes resource.

If you have mould in your home, you can read your state or territory’s health and removal advice here. If you are experiencing mould related health symptoms or have concerns about mould related illness, please see your local GP