Now that we are deep into the heating season and our windows and doors are closed up, proper air ventilation might be something we should consider for our homes. If you live in a home that is over 30 years old, chances are your home is constructed in a way such that adequate ventilation is not an issue. Homes of that era were built without particular focus on preventing air infiltration or in simple terms, air leaks.
On the other hand, new homes that are built today are constructed so they are super efficient. This is a mandatory code requirement that mandates proper insulation, air sealing and very tight windows and doors. While this is great for energy efficiency, homes this tight can be a concern with regards to the indoor air quality.
Living daily in our homes we are constantly producing airborne contaminants through things like cleaning agents, aerosols and cooking. Everyday lifestyles create humidity through showers, washing dishes, laundry and just breathing. In older homes that are not so tight, the bothersome contaminants are naturally diluted with fresh air because the house breathes somewhat. But, in newer homes these contaminants and humidity must be removed though ventilation. If the home is very tight, there is no way for the fresh air to dilute unwanted air-born items. If these contaminants continue to build up, it can make us sick. Also, without fresh air the humidity can build to levels that will cause condensation on walls and windows with the possibility of mold growth in these areas. In older homes, just the amount of air brought in through small cracks helps to eliminate problem air, but in newer homes we must bring in fresh air in a controlled manner.
Using a device called an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) we can now exhaust stale air and replace it with clean fresh outside air in an energy efficient manner. This device is installed near your forced air system and ducted to the supply and return system. When the heating or cooling system is on the ERV will automatically be activated and begin the ventilation process of exhausting stale air and replacing it with fresh outside air. The benefit of an ERV is it will exchange heat or cool from the exhausted air back into the incoming fresh air stream through a special core in the machine. This allows us to get rid of the unwanted stale air without wasting the already conditioned temperatures in our homes.