Heater choice, dampness and mould growth in 26 New Zealand homes: A study of propensity for mould growth using encapsulated fungal spores

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
The relationship between the use of unflued gas heaters (UGH, N = 14) and heat pump heaters (HP, N = 12) located in the living rooms, and mould growth on the living room and bedroom walls, of 26 New Zealand (NZ) occupied homes was investigated during winter. Two methods were employed to evaluate the potential of mould growth on walls: (i) measurement of daily hyphal growth rate using a fungal detector (encapsulated fungal spores); and (ii) estimation of fungal contamination based on a four level scale visual inspection. The average wall psychrometric conditions were significantly different between the two heater type groups, in both the living rooms and the bedrooms with the UGH user homes being colder and damper than HP user homes. The UGHs were found to be a significant additional source of moisture in the living rooms which dramatically increased the capacity for fungi to grow on wall surfaces. The average daily hyphal growth rates were 4 and 16 times higher in the living rooms and in the bedrooms of the UGH user homes, respectively. Results from both mould detection methods gave good agreement, showing that the use of a fungal detector was an efficient method to predict the potential of mould growth on the inside of the external walls in NZ homes.
Buildings, 2015, 5 pp. 149 - 162 (14)