The University of Declaring the Obvious

I’m working on a page for the publishing venture. When it’s up I’ll let everyone know.

Two different flashes of the blindingly obvious today. First, one tipped by Zaph Camden on Twitter.

It’s something that has come up many times here and elsewhere, and covered in detail in the past by Frank Davis. Ventilating modern houses has to be done actively now, whereas in the past it pretty much took care of itself.

Before double glazing, we all had at least one draughty window. Every winter as a child I would play with the frost on the inside of the windows in the morning. Coal fires weren’t automatic. Someone had to get up, build the fire and light it. Until then, the house was pretty damn cold. We had thick blankets and thick pullovers. We survived, thought nothing of it because that was just the way life was. Coal fires don’t light themselves.

The coal fire was central to the ventilation of the house. Modern minds will find that hard to grasp. How can a stinky smoky fire be good for ventilation?

The fire caused a strong updraft through the chimney. Unless you had a blocked or long unswept chimney, there was no smoke from the fire coming into the room. You couldn’t smell the coal burning unless you were a curious kid who got close enough to burn plastic toy soldiers on the coal.

Hey, they might have been witches. You can’t be too careful.

So, the fire is heating air which rushes up the chimney, taking the smoke with it. It’s a lot of air moving very fast and it’s all air that’s leaving the house.

Therefore new air is entering the house. All the time. Under doors, through poor window seals – actually we had sash windows which never had seals. Just wood against wood. You really could feel the draft coming in with your hand. Every time someone opened a door or window, new air rushed in. The air in the house was entirely changed several times a day.

You didn’t need to worry about ventilating your house. Leaky window and door seals and a coal fire took care of that really effectively. It just wasn’t an issue.

Now, double glazing, effective seals, central heating… the air in the house doesn’t change unless you actively do something about it.

Don’t imagine I’m some nostalgia freak who wants to go back to the old days of shivering in winter. The coal fire was lovely but it only heated the side of you that was facing the fire. It was common to be toasty warm in front while your back felt like ice.

Double glazing and central heating are wonderful inventions. You can set the heating to come on 15 minutes before you wake up so the house is warm already. Double glazing has never, to my knowledge, had frost on the inside.

No, I do not want to go back to frost inside the windows and shivering until the coal fire heats up the place. Yet ventilation is still important. More so now, because in the past you didn’t have to do it.

I’m in an old building (it used to be a railway hotel, built in 1899 and I have the active railway and the remains of the station visible from my windows). It was retrofitted with double glazing and electric central heating which I try to use as little as possible because it’s horribly expensive.

It was unfortunately fitted with extra windows built into the chimney breast. The violent storm in January revealed that the chimney had not been properly capped. I thought the window was leaking severely but it turned out it was coming in at the top and then down inside the walls. I didn’t get it as bad as the flats below because most of the water went past me. That’s a digression, it’s now been fixed and the final repainting was this week.

The thing is, it was designed for the coal fire and leaky seals world of 1899. Not for the double glazing and central heating world of today. The walls are granite and my windowsills are 16.5 inches (42 cm) wide. It needs to be ventilated and it was designed to ventilate itself. That isn’t happening now.

I have to actively change the air in the house or I get into a battle with black mould. As a microbiologist I know I really don’t want to be breathing those spores so I have to win. It’s not easy. The place is very prone to condensation in cold weather and that’s all the black mould needs. Mould is happy at 20degC or below. It even grows on cheese in fridges. It doesn’t like hot temperatures but neither do I. 20degC is uncomfortable so I stay below it.

At the moment it isn’t easy. It’s snowed for the last few days and there is an icy cold wind, so window opening is limited. Still, it has to be done. The good part about the wind is that I only need the windows open for a little time to change the air. There have been summer days – even weeks – in past years where opening the windows did little good because the air outside wasn’t moving. I needed to use a fan.

Why are people causing the terrible rise in asthma and other respiratory diseases by not ventilating their homes? It was never smoking that caused these things. You could puff on a pipe indoors in the old days and the coal fire took the smoke away. Now you’d just fill the room with a blue haze.

It’s because we didn’t used to have to do it. The coal fire took care of it. The leaky window and door seals helped. None of those are around now. Even in this old place, there is double glazing and draughtproofing, and you need it because heating bills are soaring thanks to the Green idiocy.

It’s also because of those bills. People close window vents and block draughts because heating costs are so high. The Greens are killing you, and since they want population reduction, what did you expect? Did you think that by joining them or voting for them, it wouldn’t be you they wanted to die? Sucker! You’re the one who believes their crap and does what it takes to kill yourself.

New houses come with an instruction manual on how to ventilate it…

Margaret and John Trainer, from East Renfrewshire, were given an instruction manual for their new home which explained how to ventilate it, but they found the document hard going.

“It was too technical,” said Mrs Trainer.

“It was a huge folder and it just went into the drawer and that’s where it stayed. It was designed for someone who was mechanical. It wasn’t any use to me.”

…designed so that nobody will read it. Surprised? I’m not. It’s written by people who assume everyone does the same job as them, has had the same training and knows all the job-specific jargon. It means nothing to most people and it could have been just a graphic of someone opening a damn window.

People close the vents above windows to cut down on heating bills. Something the Government wants them to do, to save the planet. The planet will still be here when the last human dies. It’ll invent a new species to replace us. Perhaps next time it will make a species that doesn’t hate itself to death. We’ll never know. We’ll join the long list of failed species who have become extinct.

Just open the windows. Leave the window vents open. Nobody is asking you to learn rocket science. Just breathe.


Secondly, there is a report, specially commissioned and paid for by taxes, showing that BMI is a load of bollocks. Like nobody had worked it out before.

It’s not the weight/height issue at all. It never was. Two people can be the same height and weight and one could be a bodybuilder while the other could make a living as a Mr. Blobby impersonator. The ratio of waist to hips makes far more sense. My ratio is 1:1, as evidenced by the fact I can take off my trousers without undoing them. All I need do is release the belt. But don’t tell anyone, I don’t want people thinking I’m skinnier than Death. I’m not, I’m quite chunky but not bulgy.

Again, it was obvious to everyone except to the modern medics who base diagnoses on ‘computer says no’. The young ones are on strike so the health of the nation will no doubt take an upward spike tonight.

Smoking doesn’t cause every disease in existence. Neither does salt or sugar or burgers or bacon. Weight/height ratio takes no account of whether the weight is fat or muscle and ignores the distribution of either. People are not all the same. This is all anathema to modern medicine but the older medics might remember.

Air sealed into a box will go stale. Everyone used to know this. Nobody does now.

Why is humanity worried about a planet they can’t harm when they should be worrying about what they can harm to death with ignorance and indolence?




11 thoughts on “The University of Declaring the Obvious

  1. I’m not much of a hands-on house-fixer-builder, but if I was… there’s one project I’ve always thought would be useful: a basement ventilating system. Basically it would be a long snaky layout of those flat metal aiducts in contact with the ground in your basement. One end would be an intake of outside air, and the other end would be outlets in various parts of your house. The intake vent opening would have several times the cross section of the general piping so that you could mount a super great air filter on it without creating too much resistance, and you’d pull air in to pump through the house.

    Whether the air was cold or hot outside it would get moderated toward a reasonable ground temperature 55 degrees Fahrenheit or so before entering the house air system and exiting through specific or just natural-looseness venting. The house would not be particularly airtight, and would allow for an easy one to ten air changes per hour (ach) depending upon settings for occupancy and activities. Obviously if you were having a smoky party with a good crowd and set the system to ten ach the pumped air wouldn’t have gotten moderated much, but at times when you weren’t doing much other than sitting at the puter all alone you could set it at one ach. There’d be zero infiltration of frigid or overheated air, so whatever temperature conditioning system you have would do less work, cost less money, and you’d STILL have decent ventilation!

    Seems pretty obvious and simple, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing anything like this.

    – MJM


  2. The solution exists, costs about £300 (from memory) and works extremely well. See:

    This is a slow-running, near-silent electric fan installed in the ceiling over the stairwell. It gently pulls warmer, drier air from the loft space (insulated, these days, by grant), filters it, and pushes it into the house. This pressurises the house sufficiently for sources of draught to become air outlets — the airflow causing draughts is reversed, and draughts are effectively neutralised, without the house becoming a sealed box. Black mould, particularly, does not re-appear as the humidity level is considerably reduced.

    Combine this with a woodburning or coal stove (which will also heat the chimney and help to warm the loft) and you have a near-perfect solution. One problem with open fires is that an open chimney is an enormous draught source when the fire is not lit (air in the flue is often cold, so descends into your room), but with a stove, the chimney is effectively sealed when not being used.

    Coupled with good insulation and plenty of ashtrays, a good solution, even in older houses.



    • More than one way to skin a cat. Heat exchange fans are one of the simpler options – for a new build, pulling air through an underground vent (with a heat pump on the inlet) works well in both summer and winter – but good luck retrofitting it.
      You can do fairly effective heat exchange without the underground but you’re going to lose a heck of a lot both directions.

      The good news is that the simple concepts like this are _slowly_ making their way into modern houses. To the point where our imbeciles in chief have attempted to legislate it.

      As a retrofit, a positive pressure fan pulling though a heat exchanger is reasonably good. For more… err… rustic homes, a masonry store (usually a rocket) stove works well, in that in provides plenty of ventilation (through draw) while providing both primary and secondary heat.

      I’ll stick with the coal fire and a stirling engine


  3. If you’ve a modern, well-sealed house then what you do is redesign the heating system somewhat. Get rid of the old wet central heating system, and use instead a warmed air system. The air will be heated to no more than forty celcius or so, well below the condensation point of a gas burner, so the burner system will be an efficient condensation boiler by design.

    The system will work by pulling air in from the outside via a counter-current heat exchanger, then past the heating burner which will only turn on if the house thermostat says that it needs to do so. As people have bedrooms cooler than main rooms, some form of thermostatic valve will be needed to prevent over-heating of bedrooms; this could be as simple as a fairly hefty bimetallic strip system.

    Do this, and you get the necessary air changes as a part of the normal operation of the heating system, plus you are building a highly efficient heating system which is actually more robust and long-lasting than the normal wet system. With a bit of thought, the various parts can be made easy to repair or replace; stuff like super-robust bearings, high grade motors and so on.


  4. Pingback: The Hive Mind | Hugo's Probe

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