Become an Expert – Guidance on how to use your home building services to minimise the spread of Covid-19
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Become an Expert – Guidance on how to use your home building services to minimise the spread of Covid-19

 Here is a basic guide to operating and checks for building services in your home.

These are unprecedented times. However, during lockdown, we can take some small actions at  home to help to minimise transmission and infection routes. It’s also a good opportunity to check some basic safety factors for your home building services.

Infection Routes

The latest advice is that the infection routes are via droplets as well as surface contact with the virus. There may be a very small chance of a faecal transmission route too. 

Prevention Actions

It is important that we all follow basic advice to wash our hands, clean surfaces and wash our clothes more. I have seen some people posting online that they strip outdoors clothes and shoes and then shower and wash before they come into the family home. Beyond that there are some further actions that we could do in the home – much is similar to my guide for a ‘Healthy Home‘.

  • Open your windows periodically and trickle vents all the time. It’s good practise to keep your trickle vents open (these are the small louvres on top of window frames if you have them).  Also try and maybe open the windows either side of your house (‘cross ventilation’) for an hour in the morning and late afternoon- it may be a bit colder (see below) but allows more fresh air in. 
  • Try and keep your house within a comfortable temperature band (say 18-21’C, certainly above 16’C) as your immune system can be reduced if you feel really cold. Older and younger people feel temperature differently and may need a warmer house. 
  • Keep your drains etc working – they do this themselves if you use them (see below). Maybe remember to shut the toilet lid before flushing because this can stop a potential ‘aerosol’ (liquid droplet) transmission into the bathroom space. 
  • It may be tempting to put on the log stove but a reduction in air pollution is probably a good idea in your specific locality if you are close to other properties in case any neighbours have chest and breathing problems. The degree to using your stove is best left to commonsense- if you have a modern SIA approved stove and very dry wood it could be within 10-20m of a neighbour is safe to use. An open fire may be more like 50m; and a garden bonfire more like 500m. 

Safety

Fire protection, Gas Safety and associated maintenance should continue to be done. Call your local HETAS or GAS Safe registered engineer. 

Periodic Use

Some services should be operated periodically: 

  • Heating systems – pumps, nozzles and valves etc can seize up if left too long without being used – I recommend you run them for 5-10 minutes, once every ~14 to 21 days.
  • Domestic Hot water storage systems- if you have  cylinder hot water store (i.e. not the vast majority of people who have “combi””, then it needs to be heated to 60’C for 1 hour once a week as a rule. This prevents potential bacteria build up (such as Legionnaires)
  • Drains and traps – sinks and toilets should be operated (flush or run tap) every 2-3 weeks but it could be as frequently as 3-4 days depending on how hot your house is. This prevents the traps (e.g. the U-Bend) drying out. A dry trap allows a direct airborne pathway to the sewage and drain network. This can be identified pretty quickly by the stagnation and associated smell.

Be prepared

It’s a good time to test your smoke alarm and CO sensor (if you have any combustion appliances). Also can you identify your main fuse board (consumer unit) and water stop cock if you need them? Most central heating systems these days are ‘pressurised’ – which means that if they lose pressure then air gets in and causes inefficiency and can cause a breakdown (e.g. a pump runs dry). Check the pressure on the boiler gauge- it should sit somewhere above 1 bar. If it is very low you can ‘top up’ the pressure (link here)-but be very careful as you do not want to over fill the system. Also, those little black handles on the filling loop can snap off easily and then you are really stuck! You might want to have your engineer on a whatsapp video call while you do this. 

As I find out more I will update this guide or if you have any comments I can incorporate them. At Luths we can assist you with emergency advice remotely by phone or we can point you to a suitable emergency maintenance worker in the Glasgow area. Please do get in touch if you are struggling. 0845 468 0015

References

  1. CIBSE (2020) https://www.cibsejournal.com/technical/preventing-covid-19-spreading-in-buildings/
  2. Saint Gobain (2020) https://multicomfort.saint-gobain.co.uk/appg-white-paper-building-our-future-laying-the-foundations-for-healthy-homes-and-buildings/
  3.  Ade, R (2020) Pers. Com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rochelle-ade-1b130116/
  4. UKGCBC (2016) https://www.ukgbc.org/sites/default/files/08453%20UKGBC%20Healthy%20Homes%20Updated%2015%20Aug%20(spreads).pdf
  5.  Baker, N. & Steemers, K. (2019) Healthy Homes: Designing with Light and Air for Sustainability and Wellbeing. RIBA:London
  6. Heriot Watt (2020) https://www.hw.ac.uk/news/articles/2020/u-bend-offers-layer-of-protection-against.htm

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