Usually you’re very concerned about outdoor air leaking into your home. Outdoor air that finds its way into your home, depending on the season, raises or lowers indoor temperature, which means you have to run your heating and cooling system to overcome the effects of the air leakage. Newer homes are designed to prevent such energy-draining leakage, but proper ventilation of your home—getting outdoor air inside—is actually very important for the health of your home and your family.
Proper Ventilation and Air Exchange Rate
You need air to live. You breathe in through your nose or mouth and exhale by means of the same passages. If I may stretch to make an analogy, your house isn’t much different. Think of every door, window, exhaust pipe, and crack in the walls of your home as air passages and the interior as lungs. Now imagine that all of those openings were sealed up. You’d certainly have an efficient home to heat or cool, but your house would effectively perish without fresh air (you would, too). Sealing off the openings of your home would prevent air from circulating, which means pollutants and moisture would build up inside of your home, leading to health hazards for you and structural threats to your home. You need a high air exchange rate, which is the rate at which outdoor air replaces indoor air. Think of the outdoor air as a broom that sweeps away indoor air and its pollutants and moisture.
Types of Ventilation
Several kinds of ventilation allows outdoor air into your home. First, we have infiltration, which is entry by means of cracks in walls or around windows. Typically, you try to seal these openings since you can’t control them as easily and because they’re the culprits behind higher energy bills in the winter and summer. Next, there’s natural ventilation, which is simply open windows and doors that allows outdoor air to breeze into your home. This is a pleasant form of ventilation but not always viable unless you live somewhere temperate year-round. Last, there’s mechanical ventilation: exhaust fans, your HVAC system, and so on. You can rely most on mechanical ventilation to get you that enviable high air exchange rate since exhaust fans remove moisture-rich air from bathrooms, and HVAC systems cycle in heated or cooled outdoor air.
Maintaining and Improving Ventilation
Besides switching your furnace filter regularly—refer to the filter package and take your HVAC use into account—you can do several things to keep your home well ventilated and achieve a good air exchange rate.
1. Run your HVAC fan regularly.
This will put some additional stress on your furnace filter, but the fan will constantly cycle in outdoor air, meaning your home will be swept clean of pollutants and moisture frequently. Remember, an HVAC system brings air in. Forced-air systems recycle indoor air.
2. Open your windows.
A fresh spring breeze or crisp autumn wind making its way through your home: what could be better? Enjoy temperate weather when you can and ventilate your home easily by leaving windows open while you’re at home.
3. Run exhaust fans.
Whether in the bathroom or the kitchen, run the fan to remove moisture and fumes. Moisture can lead to mold growth, and certain fumes pose hazards when left to accumulate. Exhaust fans are there for a reason. Use them.
Use these tips and more to keep the lungs of your house properly ventilated. It’s not just comfort you’re after: it’s safety.