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Home ventilation dilemmas amid COVID, climate change and renewables – Monash Lens

Home ventilation dilemmas amid COVID, climate change and renewables – Monash Lens

A thermal image of a double-storey house, showing warm and cool areas

We’ve long been advised to “Seal it up” or “draught-proof” our homes – to Energy savings, exclude allergens, and recently to keep out Bushfire smoke. Now, health authorities tell us to “Ventilate”, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Anyone confused? Are you confused about electricity usage when we heat or cool our home through open windows and doors.

Unwanted home ventilation

Australia’s houses are typically draughty. There are gaps between doors and windows, and in winter, unused chimneys can trap heat out. Downlights and exhaust fans let undesirably cold or hot air straight into our homes – regardless of how much insulation was installed.

Our historical lack of attention to building energy-efficient, well-sealed homes is rooted in Australia’s past abundance of cheap, fossil-fuelled energy. Building and renovating better is more important than boosting the heating or installing an AC unit for summer.

Many people are affected by Thunderstorm asthma and other allergies are often familiar with the benefits of keeping outdoor air out of the home, the overall case for minimising home air leakage strengthened as energy price carbon emissions concerns increased.

The 2019-20 bushfires crisis revealed how little control there was over the flow and movement of air into our homes. We were instructed not to go outside, to close all doors and windows, and to only use air conditioning that circulates indoor air. People with asthma still felt the negative effects of smoke getting in through cracks and gaps.

Climate change science predicts that we will see more bushfire smoke and thunderstorm asthma in the future.

A thermal image of a double-storey house, showing warm and cool areas

New ventilation requirements for pandemics

US Health Authorities Environmental Protection Authority, Centers for Disease Control and NSW government now advise keeping windows open to reduce the risk of airborne COVID transmission.

Opening up will let hot summer cold winter air into our homes, and undo much of the benefit of home insulation. Air conditioners will be forced to work harder this summer, increasing home energy usage. 40% of households have already noticed an uptick in heating and cooling use since the pandemic.

There’s a massive gap between energy advice and health advice, and even the health authorities don’t seem to grapple with the contradictions of closing up to keep out allergens and smoke, and opening up to let out COVID-19 out. A double-whammy pandemic or bushfire crisis is possible this summer.

The rise of air purifiers

The quality of air is important. Growing concern For Australian households. As a response to bushfire emergencies in Australia Around the worldHEPA filters are used to purify the air. Recommendation to filter smoke from the home. Air purifiers All stock sold outEven though some health authorities were not affected, Be skeptical about their effectiveness.

Health authorities have begun We recommend air purifiers to reduce COVID-19 transmission, and the Victorian government has publicly endorsed air purifiers via the Rollout to improve ventilation and COVID safety in schools.

The most recent Energy Consumers Behaviour Survey found that 11% of households across Australia already had one or more air purifier or dehumidifier, but ownership was higher in places that were inundated by bushfire for an extended period, such as the ACT (23%).

Many households We are at the edge of adopting air purifiers, uncertain which devices really work, or waiting to see if bushfire smoke inundation of densely populated areas was a “one off”.

Unprecedented bushfire crises in the recent Northern hemisphere summer indicate we’re likely to see more bushfires, health impacts and normalisation of home air purification in Australia.

Emerging ‘healthy air’ trends, electricity use, and clean energy

The Digital Energy Futures project at Monash University looks at how emerging lifestyle and technology trends might impact electricity demand.

These new air quality trends are very important for planning a future clean electric system that can meet the demands of consumers.

Around 80% of Australian homes now have air conditioning. The electricity grid can struggle with sudden spikes during hot weather. “Rolling blackouts” – essentially switching off electricity supply in some areas – are occasionally used to stabilise the grid, especially during heatwaves. More air conditioners and purifiers in homes increases the chance of power outages during hot weather.

Many people believe that more power is the best solution. But more power doesn’t help if the local electricity infrastructure can’t distribute it to where it’s needed, and that power comes from fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

As electricity infrastructure is improved to handle ever-increasing demand, electricity prices will rise all year. This means higher electricity bills even for households that can’t afford air conditioning, or renters who can’t get air conditioning in the homes.

Uncomfortably hot individuals in non-air-conditioned homes tend to subside more thermally, and financially.

Increasing solar electricity – both from home rooftops and solar farms – helps to some extent. There’s still a short “peak demand” problem after sunset in solar generation when households are still busy cooling, cooking, working and relaxing. This period still relies heavily on fossil fuel-generated electricity.

Additional battery storage can be used to cover this time with renewably generated electricity. It can also be used to reduce non-essential electrical use during the one-to-two-hour period after sunset.

Cooling and cleaning our homes in the morning or late at night, rather than right after sunset, could help reduce electricity consumption and the carbon emissions.

See Also
We need to shift away from the dangerous pursuit of endless economic growth at all costs, towards making wellbeing our main economic goal – of people, communities and our natural world (Getty)

An illustration showing hands holding unplugged power cables

Are we able to trust the electricity sector enough?

We can expect to see appeals and incentives from the electricity sector to shift some of our home activities’ timing. South Australia is one of the countries with high solar power. They are currently trying to figure out how to stabilize their grids. surplus electricity from solar in the middle of the day.

Turning off solar panels bumps against household investments and commitments to generate clean energy. Activities that act as a “solar sponge” to soak up surplus clean energy can help balance electricity supply and demand.

Additional to cooling and air purification daytime heating of hotwater and charging electric vehicles will be helpful in achieving an affordable and reliable electricity system.

We’ll also be asked if our home or electric car batteries can be used to put energy into stabilising the grid when demand exceeds supply, and whether we’re willing to let some of our appliances be automatically powered down at these critical times.

Continue reading: The climate crisis, the electricity grid: AI to the rescue

Being a bit flexible in our energy use and storage is a more cost-efficient and carbon-efficient approach – for the system and our energy use.

It’s a big ask though, given the way most people feel about electricity companies. Trust is low. Our disjointed, semiprivatised electricity sector has seen rapid price increases, poor and conflicting communications, and variable reliability.

Additionally, householders are dealing with new concerns such as COVID, allergen, and bushfire smoke health advice regarding the need for home ventilation.

All of the sector cogs – the retailers, networks, regulators, grid operators and governments that shape electricity policy – will need to work hard to gain our trust to assist them as they seek to deliver the future, clean energy-powered energy system.


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