When it comes to HVAC, the “V” is the forgotten letter. The “H” and “AC” – heating and air conditioning – get all the attention. However, “V,” for ventilation, is also a key ingredient in creating home comfort, health and energy efficiency.
Without adequate ventilation, the air inside your house will turn stale, stuffy and unhealthy. In addition, some types of mechanical ventilation can help provide cooling or heating in the home. Here’s a short primer on which rooms in your home are in particular need of an effective exchange of air.
Before going into that, however, it’s essential to understand why proper ventilation is more important than ever in modern homes and other buildings. In recent years, more attention has focused on the importance of saving energy, both for environmental and financial reasons. As a result, homes are built tighter than ever, with very little opportunity for air to escape or infiltrate.
This does create a negative situation, however. Whereas older homes had a significant amount of natural air exchange – air coming in and out through cracks and gaps between building materials, windows, utility penetrations and other openings, air exchange in a typical contemporary home only happens at a significant level when you open windows or doors. Otherwise, mechanical ventilation is necessary.
Types of Residential Mechanical Ventilation
Take, for example, the switch on the wall in the bathroom that starts fan operation. This probably is a common exhaust fan that expels dirty, moist, smelly air from the bathroom. It also helps defog the bathroom.
Likewise, most kitchens have exhaust fans, often attached to the stove. The fan removes smells and contaminants that result from cooking and food preparation.
Effective attic ventilation is also necessary in a home. Without sufficient air exchange, the sun beating down on the roof will superheat attic air, which ends up transferring down into the house. During the cold winter months, an attic without adequate ventilation can contribute to damaging ice dams forming on the roof and eaves.
An effective whole-house ventilation system – whether supply-only or balanced – will guarantee a steady exchange of fresh outside air with state indoor air. Heat and Energy Recovery Ventilators (HRVs and ERVs) are among the most popular and effective ventilation systems on the market today. They employ parallel air streams, one in-flowing and one out-flowing, that exchange heat energy (in an HRV) or heat and moisture (in an ERV) to help with heating or cooling, and humidity control.