Is your energy-efficient home depriving you of fresh air?
(NC) If you, like many homeowners, pride yourself on your well-sealed home and low energy bills, do beware. Those new triple-glazed energy efficient windows certainly keep the chill out, and piping that foam insulation into the walls was expensive enough, but there's another side to this coin: stale air.
While homes today do an optimum job of shielding us from the elements, they also block the fresh air we need. Cracking open a window is an obvious solution, but perhaps not in the dead of winter.
A better solution, say specialists in this field, is a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), known as a “fresh air machine”. An HRV is a mechanical ventilation unit that keeps heat in while moving stale air out. It attaches to your home's duct system and is tied to exterior vents to take out the stale household air and bring in fresh air from the outdoors.
Thanks to its heat-exchange core, which transfers heat from the outgoing air stream to the incoming air stream, HRVs can also save you money. According to the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), they recover as much as 85 per cent of the heat in the outgoing airstream. What this means is that less energy is used to heat fresh air; a home's furnace runs less; and best of all, energy costs drop.
HRVs were developed in response to increasingly tight, energy efficient homes. HRAI points out that the exchange of air in homes today is a fraction of what it used to be – sometimes only one exchange of air per hour. A few years back, seven to nine exchanges were the norm.
This can increase moisture, leading to mold and the release of toxins. Appliances and systems that utilize air for combustion – gas ranges, fireplaces and water heaters – further deplete a home of air and can produce other pollutants, while oven hoods and central vacuum systems also do their bit, sucking air out. Then there are harmful chemicals released from synthetic fabrics, furnishings and household products, which add to the problem.
The result is a 'perfect storm' of stale, moist, chemical or even toxin laden air. To combat this, a balanced ventilation system is critical, and an HRV is an option worth considering. For help finding a qualified contractor near you, go to www.hrai.ca/mycontractor
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