Ventilation is important for keeping your indoor air supply healthy and fresh. Although home sealing has made it possible to enhance energy efficiency in a residence by limiting energy loss, it has also led to the retention of pollutants in tightly-sealed structures. From laundry products to cooking sprays, particulates infiltrate your air stream and mingle to create poor breathing conditions. Some of the materials can be toxic, making the need for ventilation a serious concern.
What Is a Ventilator?
A ventilator is an HVAC unit that moves air into or out of the home. There are three primary types of ventilation systems:
- Exhaust ventilation – expels air from a structure
- Supply ventilation – draws fresh air into the home
- Balanced ventilation – pulls fresh air in while expelling indoor air
Both exhaust and supply ventilation systems have some drawbacks. Exhaust-only systems can create problems with drafts and can cause backdrafting in combustion-operated appliances and systems. Supply ventilation can lead to problems with moisture while increasing HVAC usage and expenses in colder regions. Balanced ventilation provides better management of these issues, particularly when an energy recovery or heat recovery ventilator is installed.
What Is the Difference Between Heat Recovery and Energy Recovery Ventilators?
HRVs and ERVs are very similar in design. Both are installed to remove air from rooms that tend to have a greater concentration of pollutants, including bathrooms, laundry rooms or kitchens. Fresh air is delivered to living areas, family rooms or bedrooms. Incoming and outgoing air passes through the same unit. During the exchange, the heat in one air supply is exchanged with the other, allowing the incoming air to be preconditioned so that it doesn’t drastically affect indoor air temperatures. As a result, the heating and cooling costs aren’t adversely affected. In fact, ERVs and HRVs can recover up to 80 percent of the energy from the outgoing air.
An energy recovery ventilator includes a paper core that allows moisture to be absorbed from the incoming air, an important issue in humid climates. This feature is lacking in heat recovery ventilators. An HRV tends to be the preferred choice for balanced ventilation in colder climates, and ERVs are more commonly recommended in hot, humid areas.
Do I Need a Ventilator?
Before you install a ventilation system, you should consult with an HVAC expert who can evaluate your home’s needs. An indoor air quality evaluation can provide information about how polluted your air supply is. It can also provide important information about how air flows into and out of your home. An energy performance assessment can provide additional insights about air leakage issues. Your contractor can recommend the best ventilation system for your home based on these results. He can also suggest additional solutions to your most serious air quality concerns.