Closing windows and burning wood to cut energy bills increases health risk, expert warns

Turning the heating off, keeping windows shut and using log burners to cut energy bills poses a “massive conundrum” for people’s health, a leading ventilation and infection control expert has said.

These steps to cut energy consumption end up reducing ventilation and adding new pollutants to the indoor air, according to Cath Noakes, professor of environmental engineering for buildings at the University of Leeds.

This comes after a recent warning from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue about increasing “cost of living” fires caused by makeshift heating methods.

“I have a real concern that some of the things people are doing actually have a compounding effect,” said Noakes, who was one of the advisers on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you are at home, for example, and you don’t turn the heating on and you keep the window shut, not only have you reduced ventilation, but you’ve also created a condition where you might get more damp and mould, which has a knock-on effect of impacting your health.”

World Ventil8 Day – which falls on 8 November – is a campaign being led by a group of researchers, including Noakes, and professional bodies that aims to raise awareness of the importance of ventilation as a crucial part of improving health and wellbeing.

Good ventilation that provides enough fresh air flow or good filtration can significantly reduce the risk of exposure to airborne virus particles, according to previo