A current television advertising campaign by a major New Zealand bank has introduced us to a toy ram with a difference: Mr Humfreez. He’s different because he’s made out of materials that can tell us if our homes are too cold and too damp, and this is information that the vast majority of New Zealanders are not usually aware of.
What we are aware of is that too many Kiwis live in homes that are potentially very bad for their health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends internal living spaces should be between 18 and 21 degrees, and with less than 65% relative humidity. But the average home temperature in New Zealand is just 17.8 degrees, with some as cold as 10 degrees. And because of excess moisture, half of all homes show signs of visible mould. In such cold and damp conditions, respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease are more prevalent than in those properties which meet WHO standards.
Mr Humfreez was created to make a certain bank’s customers more aware of their “home health”. His wooden horns are hygroscopic, which means they react to moisture in the air. All wood does this anyway – just observe how it warps when it is wet and you get a perfect example of what hygroscopic means. In the case of Mr Humfreez, his horns are specially designed to uncurl when it reaches 65% relative humidity within a home; that’s the point when the excessive amount of moisture makes the air unhealthy.
Meanwhile, the thermochromic ink on his face allows Mr Humfreez to react to changes in temperature. Thermochromic ink appears colourless when internal conditions are warm. When the room gets colder than 18 degrees, the blue ink shows its true colours on his face.
Mr Humfreez is a very fun and clever way to show if a home is too cold and too damp, but there are less novel ways to get the same sort of information. Simple thermometer and humidity gauges are available at all hardware stores and will give you the same sort of data that Mr Humfreez does but in a more mundane way.
The installation of something like a Mitsubishi heaat pump in Auckland will do wonders for a home’s health, and more importantly, the people living inside it. This company is a partner in the Warmer Kiwi Homes program which offers a 90% discount on heat pumps to those who meet the selection criteria. This too will help in creating warmer and drier homes throughout the country. For the rest of us, another type of device could make a world of difference to the spaces we live in. By knowing when our home falls below a certain temperature, or above a certain humidity level, we can take steps to improve the situation and live a healthier life in a healthier home.