A charity aiming to help people recognise when their homes are too cold and damp are teaching the community how to make their own heat and humidity sensors for the house.

Whare Hauora was started in early 2016 after co-founder Brenda Wallace noticed her 5-year-old daughter was staying home sick a great deal with chronic asthma and needing regular hospital visits.

Wallace, an electrical engineer, bought a sensor for her home for $300 but didn't want to buy more to check other areas of the house, due to the high cost.

She was able to buy $30 worth of parts and create her own sensors for her home.


"I started recording the temperature and humidity in our house," she said.

Toni Taylor assembles a heat sensor at a Whare Hauora workshop in Wellington. Photo / Melissa Nightingale
Toni Taylor assembles a heat sensor at a Whare Hauora workshop in Wellington. Photo / Melissa Nightingale

Despite the fact her daughter's room got the most sunshine, taking recordings from each room revealed she was actually in the coldest room of the house.

Since moving her into a different bedroom, her daughter's health has started improving, she said.

Now the charity is trying to help others take control of their family's health, by running workshops around the Wellington region.

Attendees are given a pack of sensors and instructions, and can assemble everything themselves.

This meant people would know what they were putting into their homes, and didn't need to worry what information it was collecting.

Wallace said there were "so many stories" of people whose families had a lower quality life or died earlier than they should have due to living in a cold, damp home.

She said the charity's kaiwhakahaere (chief executive) Hīria Te Rangi had a relative who died of pneumonia, and it was only after her death that they placed sensors in her house and discovered it was well below international standards for warmth.


Wallace said the reality for some people was "heart-wrenching".

"If you know your kaumatua is in a cold, 11 degree flat, you at least know something to do about it."

Te Rangi said the humidity was important - below 30 per cent and dust mites populate, causing allergies and eczema, and above 60 per cent allows mould to grow and spores to be released.

"Between 30 and 60 is like the perfect sweet spot," she said.

People from other developed countries did not have this issue, she said.

Te Rangi talked about "voluntary hypothermia", where people were living in cold conditions to save money.

"[It's] been normalised to such an extent that we go 'oh, harden up bro.' Sitting in your lounge with a blanket and a beanie is normalised."

A kit of four sensors can be bought for $150, but on the charity's PledgeMe page, buyers can spend $345 to buy one kit and donate another.

People can nominate themselves or another family to attend the workshops on the charity's page at wharehauora.nz