5 Ways to Ventilate Your Home & Which is Best for Home Comfort
Sealing a home for energy efficiency is important for low utility bills, home comfort and less wear and tear on your HVAC system — but it is only half of the equation. The other half that is just as important for comfort and overall home health is ventilation.
Because today’s homes are so well sealed, indoor air quality can be significantly worse than outdoor air quality. Dust, allergens, pet dander, household chemicals, outgassing from materials such as carpet and plastics can all build up and contaminate indoor living spaces. A healthy home is not simply sealed against the elements, it has adequate circulation of fresh air, and the ability to expel stale air. Some experts recommend exchanging half of a home’s air volume every hour.
Regularly opening doors and windows is a simple solution, but how do you sufficiently ventilate your home without letting the heated or cooled air you are paying for escape?
5 Ways to Ventilate Your Home
1. Natural ventilation
This refers to a way of designing a home to create ventilation via a solar chimney. Air heated by the sun rises up and out through vents near the top of the structure, and fresh air is drawn in through specially placed ports. The placement of the vents and ports is optimized to guarantee good air exchange.
2. Exhaust-only Mechanical Ventilation
Small exhaust fans, usually in bathrooms, operate continuously or intermittently to exhaust the stale air and moisture generated in those rooms. The small amount of negative pressure this creates in the house pulls fresh air in through cracks and air leaks or through strategically placed air inlets. While this method is simple and inexpensive, it potentially has the unintended disadvantage of pulling in radon and other soil gases along with the fresh air.
3. Supply-only Mechanical Ventilation
A fan brings fresh air into the home in one location, or that air is dispersed throughout the home via air ducts. The stale air escapes through cracks and air leaks. The pressure created by a supply-only ventilation system can keep radon and other contaminants from entering the house, but it may result in creating a condensation problem by attracting humidity into wall and ceiling spaces.
4. Balanced Ventilation
A balanced system uses separate fans to draw the fresh air in and push the stale air out. It offers control over where the fresh air comes from and where it is delivered in the home, and also where exhaust air is drawn from to send back out of the home. By incorporating a ducted system, fresh air can be directed to the most utilized spaces, such as the living room and bedrooms. Similarly, indoor air can be exhausted from the areas in the home that generate the most moisture or pollutants, such as the bathrooms, kitchen or hobby room/workroom.
5. Balanced Ventilation with Heat Recovery
Adding an air-to-air heat exchanger (also referred to as a heat-recovery ventilator or HRV) so that the outgoing house air will precondition the incoming outdoor air is the most efficient way to achieve proper ventilation, particularly in colder climates. Another option is an energy-recovery ventilator (ERV), which transfers moisture as well as heat so a more desirable humidity level is maintained in the house in the winter by adding moisture to dry incoming air, and in summer by reducing the moisture from humid, incoming air.
Which is Best for Your Health and Home Comfort?
Mechanical ventilation of some type is recommended for most homes. In cold climates balanced ventilation with heat recovery is best because it is the most energy efficient, but it is more expensive. If it is within your budget, however, the heat recovery option is ideal.