What are Heat Recovery Ventilators and Can They Improve IAQ?
It's no secret that people experience more sickness in the winter than any other time of the year. Why is that, you ask? Well, one of the reasons why people fall ill during the cold, winter months is because of poor indoor air quality.
When temperatures fall, people hide out indoors to stay warm. And since heating is the largest energy expense in the average U.S. home, they also look for ways to improve their home's insulation. This can include adding more foam to the attic, insulating floor beams in the basement, and sealing doors and windows.
Although it's important to seal up air leaks around the home, the added insulation in winter contributes to stale and stagnant air that can make people sick.
Yes, over-insulation is a problem and contributes to the rise of sickness during winter months.
In order to have healthy indoor air, you need a delicate balance of insulation and ventilation. If you ever make substantial improvements to the insulation in your home, it's important to call a professional to assess ventilation concerns. Not only does lack of ventilation contribute to poor indoor air quality, it can also present a safety concern by trapping harmful combustion gases inside, such as carbon monoxide (CO).
Winter months see an increase in home fire and CO poisoning reports. They are all related to the fact that we spend more time indoors, often in over-insulated homes, and use our heating systems during the colder months.
For this reason, it's important to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every 30 days. Make sure you have smoke and CO detectors installed on every floor of the home and outside every sleeping area. Visit nfpa.org for more smoke alarm and carbon monoxide tips.
How a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) Works
To help ease your worries this winter season, it's recommended that you have a heat recovery ventilator installed to help introduce fresh air into the home and save energy in the process.
In modern homes with tight insulation and older homes with significantly improved insulation, HRVs are becoming more and more popular. This is because HRVs help offset the insulation increase by supplying fresh air into the system and ventilating stale air.
To do this, HRVs have two different channels: one for directing fresh air into the home and another one for ventilating combustion gases and other pollutants stuck in your home.
Learn more about how a Heat Recovery Ventilator works here.
How an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) Works
An energy recovery ventilator (ERV) works much the same way as a heat recovery ventilator. The only difference is that a moisture exchanger is added. This helps to control humidity levels in the home. Depending on the humidity level inside the home, humidity will either be taken from the incoming air or transferred to the outgoing air. ERVs are normally uses in humid climates.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
You may be wondering if an HRV or ERV system is right for you. How much will it cost? Does it contribute to higher energy bills?
These are important questions to ask. While installing a heat recovery ventilator does cost some money (typically between $750 and $3000, but sometimes more if extra features are added), we believe the benefits far outweigh the costs.
If you are worried about offsetting all the hard work you put into insulating your home, then this might help your decision-making process:
Remember that HRVs and ERVs have two channels, one for introducing new air and the other for exhausting old air.
You might assume that along with the contaminated air that is being exhausted, heat escapes as well. This is what happens when you open a window to let fresh air in and stale air out. The beauty of HRVs is that they are able to extract the heat energy from your indoor air and transfer it over to the channel that is introducing fresh air. This heat transfer occurs in both summer and winter, but in opposite directions.
In the winter, the heat from the air is transferred over to the supply air channel. In the summer, the opposite occurs, and heat is extracted from the supply air channel to be transferred over to the exhaust channel.
The heat exchanger is able to recover over 80% of the heat in the air that escapes, making it a much more energy-efficient alternative than other ventilation methods.
By using HVAC technology in conjunction with heat recovery ventilators you will be able to reduce the strain on your HVAC system and actually decrease your energy bills while raising comfort levels.
In conclusion, heat recovery ventilators can improve your indoor air quality while decreasing your energy costs.
Don’t forget to schedule your furnace maintenance in the fall in order to maintain your manufacturer’s warranty, extend the lifespan of your system, and prevent a breakdown in the depths of winter.
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