How Bushfire affect Australian Homes

Bushfires are adding to this phenomena, increasing air pollution in cities around Australia.

A lack of awareness and weak building standards is affecting our health in unprecedented numbers like never before.

Air pollution is associated with cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, pregnancy complications, sleep disorders, pregnancy disorders, lung cancer, and the list goes on.

More than 3000 Australians die from exposure to air pollution each year, and current air pollution standards are not strong enough to protect human health.

Recently, the Australian government has warned that air quality levels in some Australian cities are 3 to 4 times above pollution levels that the World Health Organization recommends.

As cities develop and become bigger and busier there are many other factors to be concerned about than just bushfire smoke and dust storms. Increased activity means an increased amount of pollutants and toxins are released into the atmosphere, directly affecting the quality of air you and your family breath.

Long term exposure to inhaling carbon monoxide can be deadly, CO binds strongly to our haemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body, at 100 parts per million it can starve the human body of oxygen.

With bushfire smoke surrounding our cities, the most dangerous component to our health are the microscopic particles we don’t see which are easily carried by the wind, penetrating our homes.

These are particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres known as PM 2.5 or fine particulate matter.

These invisible particles are measured by the following Air Quality Index:

From August to November 2019, Canberra’s AQI was nearly 450ppm. This posed a serious health risk with particles penetrating into the lungs and making their way into the bloodstream. During this time Canberra had the highest recorded AQI in the world.

What do or Authorities Recommend?

Authorities advise spending more time indoors. But does it really work? Is that the solution?

Most homes and apartment buildings are designed to be naturally ventilated. The National Construction Code requires most habitable rooms to have an opening for light and natural ventilation.

Closing windows and doors reduce the number of Air Changes, which is the number of times an hour the internal air gets replaced with the outside air.

In Australia the CSIRO reveals that our homes continue to be quite “air leaky”.

High Performance Homes require homes to have less than one Air Change/Hour. Most new homes in Australia have 12 to 23 ACH, quite a significant difference.

As the external pollution gradually worsens outside our homes so does the amount of pollution inside our homes. We are exposed to increasing amounts of Carbon Monoxide, Benzene, Formaldehyde, Naphthalene, Nitrogen dioxide, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Radon, Trichloroethylene to name a few.

This is a major concern for all of us, but what can we do about it?


Air purifiers are expensive to run and you would require one for every room. Air conditioner filtering systems are not equipped to filter fine particles.

And what about internal pollution? VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) in building materials, furniture, smoking, cooking and heating, off-gassing of chemicals, garages… All of which are inside your home.

What happens when you leave your car closed in the sun? It overheats obviously, the same happens to the homes, and particularly if they are completely air sealed.

So if opening the windows is not a practical solution and sealing the building from the outside air is also unfeasible, what is the solution for a Healthy Home?

Fortunately, the solution exists!

Although building biology and technologies have improved, unfortunately regulations and standards have not. High Performance Homes are the solution and can be achieved to suit most budgets.

If the solution exists then why is it not compulsory?

Great question! One we will have to leave that for another article. What is important now is to find out what you can do to ensure that your new home or renovation is future proofed using the highest performance building standards.

You need to create a Thermal Envelope around all living areas. Air sealing the home with vapor driven wall wraps, and reduce the number of air changes per hour @ 50 pascals of pressure.

Then you will need an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator). This is what we call the lungs of the home, it helps maintain the desired air temperature whilst also introducing clean fresh air into your home.

How do they work?

An ERV allows fresh air into the home whilst retaining pre conditioned heating or cooling and operates on the basis of the air-to-air exchange theory. Incoming air is passed through a filter and mixed with the outgoing pre conditioned air from your home. This means that fresh air from outside is introduced whilst being cooled down in exchange for stale air from inside. This also ensures a consistent level of humidity.

Perhaps the most attractive feature is the massive increase in energy efficiency savings in comparison to using technologies such as air conditioning (AC). Most ERV units offer 75% to 95% energy recovery, resulting in reduced power bills and a further environmentally friendly home. A spinning wheel, or stationary core device utilizes the counter flow of air to remove the stale air from inside, while retaining air temperature.

Most units offer 75 to 90% energy recovery, the result is reduced power bills, and very comfortable filtered fresh air.

A small disadvantage to this technology is natural events like the recent bushfires and dust storms will require you to replace the air filters more often.

Currently there is no better technology in the world to achieve a healthy home with superior levels of comfort, while reducing your power bills, and significantly reducing

Your carbon footprint to help the environment. It’s a no brainer and can be achieved with any design, within any size home.

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