Whether it is a cold, dark winter or a hot, sticky summer, the quality of your indoor air is severely compromised without proper home ventilation. Sufficient, controlled, clean airflow throughout your home is critical to your family’s health when your all closed up and the air conditioning or heating system is running full speed.
Several methods of home ventilation are available and every system should be designed by an experienced ventilation professional to suit the building’s construction and the homeowner’s needs. While there’s no single best solution to ensuring good airflow, understanding why ventilation is so important and how different home ventilation methods work will help you choose the right system for your needs.
To Better Health and Fewer Maintenance Issues
Quality ventilation provides Gulf Shores homeowners will several benefits, including:
- Healthy Home – Protection for your health is arguably the greatest benefit you’ll receive from good ventilation. Every home, no matter how clean, is at risk for a buildup air contaminants. Some, such as pollen and pet dander, affect primarily those with allergies, asthma or another respiratory condition. Others, such as carbon monoxide (CO) from fuel-burning appliances, mold spores, household pest debris and car exhaust particles, pose a health hazard to everyone. Exposure to mold spores, for example, is known to increase of upper respiratory tract infection.Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are another air quality concern. These airborne chemical fumes are produced by many household items and materials, such as carpets, upholstery, treated wood, paint and adhesives, particularly when new. Formaldehyde, benzene, styrene and many other VOCs have known negative health affects.While a higher-efficiency HVAC air filter removes many contaminants, it can’t remove them all. A well-designed home ventilation system more efficiently draws out stale air and brings in healthy indoor air. It also removes VOCs and other gaseous pollutants an air filter can’t trap.
- Smelly Home – Most odors aren’t harmful, but they’re not exactly pleasant to live with. Ventilation is essential for removing the odors that come from the kitchen, bathrooms and elsewhere. If you have pets, sufficient airflow is even more important for keeping your home’s air smelling good.
- Humid Home – Coastal Alabama’s high humidity can cause problems in any season. In summer, it leaves you feeling hot and sticky, meaning you’re likely to lower the air conditioner’s thermostat to get comfortable. In winter, excess humidity gives your home a damp, chilly feeling, causing you to turn up the heat. Sufficient ventilation helps keep your home’s humidity at a stable, healthy level. You’ll feel more comfortable and need less cooling and heating.
- Moldy Home – Beyond causing discomfort, high humidity also poses a threat to your home. Excess moisture damages wood, drywall and insulation. It can cause paint to peel and metal window frames to rust. Worse yet, it encourages mold growth. Mold inside the ceiling, walls and floors eats away at the very structure of your home, potentially causing major damage before you realize it’s there. Proper home ventilation removes not only the excess moisture, but also the mold spores.
Economical, Eco-Friendly Natural Ventilation
Thanks to two natural phenomena, it’s possible to create airflow throughout your home without using electric fans. There are two main methods for achieving somewhat controlled natural ventilation.
- Wind-driven ventilation – This method relies on wind currents to blow fresh air in and stale air out. Open windows are the most rudimentary form of natural ventilation, but windows let in a lot of air contaminants and humidity, and create drafts.Trickle vents let the wind ventilate your home without these drawbacks. These narrow vents are around 12 to 16 inches long and usually installed above windows. They let air in and out, yet keep out larger air contaminants particles and prevent drafts. Static vents are another option for airflow where there are no windows, such as in the attic. These vents are simply openings with grates that hold back air contaminants and break up drafts.
- Buoyancy-driven ventilation – This ventilation method takes advantage of convection, or the tendency for warm air to rise due to its lower pressure. Vents on the lower levels of the house draw in cool, fresh air, while open stack, turbine or other non-motorized vents on the roof or in the attic let out warmer stale air.These home ventilation systems are relatively simple to design and install, and they cost nothing to operate, but they’re also unreliable. The amount of airflow your home receives depends on each day’s wind speed and temperature, so you may go days without sufficient airflow.
Spot Ventilation: Fresh Air for Small Spaces
In many homes, natural ventilation is helpful, but it’s not enough to ensure high indoor air quality. For this reason, building codes require spot ventilation in the walls of the kitchen and bathrooms. The fans are large enough to pull out stale air fast. Most bathrooms need a fan that can draw out 50 or 20 cubic feet of air per minute, while the average kitchen needs a fan that can pull 100 or 25 cubic feet of air per minute.
The vent hood on a cooking range is another type of spot ventilation. These motorized fans can be turned on and off as needed. Using kitchen and bathroom fans after cooking and showering quickly removes odors and excessive moisture. Using a range hood minimized the odors, moisture and smoke particles that build up in the kitchen in the first place.
As useful as spot ventilation is, however, it can’t improve the indoor air quality in your whole home. These fans are meant to remove a buildup of moisture or contaminants over a few minutes. Because they also let in a small amount of unfiltered outdoor air, the shouldn’t be left running for long. Doing so will end up letting in more air contaminants than you let out.
Letting exhaust fans run too long also creates negative air pressure inside the house. This can cause appliance exhaust fume to backdraft into rooms, as well as exacerbate air leaks, drawing in contaminants from outdoors.
Provide Every Room With Clean Air
Because natural and spot ventilation usually aren’t enough to provide sufficient ventilation by themselves, many homes benefit from a whole-house ventilation system. These come in three main forms:
- Exhaust-only – This system uses multiple exhaust fans, in addition to those in the kitchen and bath, to pull out stale air. It relies on air leaks to let in fresh air, so you’ll still have some of the problems associated with air leakage and air pressure imbalances. These systems are best used in cooler climates.
- Supply-only – Supply ventilation systems use fans to bring in fresh air, allowing you to filter and dehumidify the incoming air. Because they don’t create negative air pressure, they won’t draw appliance exhaust fumes into your home. These systems are also better suited to warm climates than are exhaust-only systems. The drawback is that you won’t have much control over how you get rid of your stale air.
- Balanced systems – Using both supply and exhaust vents connected via a duct system running throughout your home, these home ventilation systems move equal amounts of both incoming fresh air and outgoing stale air.They give you precise control over the airflow in your home and have far fewer air contaminants entering. You can thoroughly air seal your home to make it easier to heat and cool so you can save energy without sacrificing airflow. Due to their advanced capabilities, however, they’re more complex to design.By choosing a balanced system, you also have the option of installing an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system. These systems contain equipment that allow them to transfer heat and moisture between the incoming and outgoing air streams. In summer, they remove heat and humidity from the fresh outdoor air to help keep your home cool. In the winter, they salvage heat from the air leaving your home and move it into the incoming air to reduce the load on the heating system. Although these systems help manage humidity, they can’t replace a dehumidifier.
To learn more about effective home ventilation, call us at 847-272-5836. Roberts Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. has been serving Northbrook communities for more than 35 years.