Ventilation is an important component of any home or business and is often tied into home heating and cooling systems. Improper ventilation can be and often is a major cause of indoor air quality problems. In fact, OSHA health standards include ventilation requirements in the work place.
Ventilation is, simply put: the exchange of air to the outside as well as the circulation of air within a room or space.
Throwing open that window in your home or office on a nice spring day is a form of ventilation aptly called ‘natural ventilation’. Typically used more in a residence or small office simply following good natural ventilation procedures can greatly improve indoor air quality. Many people feel better and wake more refreshed if they ‘ventilate’ at night by leaving a window open.
Ventilation through mechanical means is known as ‘forced ventilation’. Kitchen ventilation and bathroom ventilation typically use electric fans and are good examples of this mechanical or forced ventilation and cannot only help control air quality – including odors – but also control humidity as well. In some tropical/humid climates, dual direction fans can be used to pump air out or into a structure depending on the time of year and the need for humidity control. Industrial ventilation in large office buildings can be a large component and cost of the overall building plan and design.
Properly installed ventilation systems can remove water vapor, airborne chemicals and pollutants such as carbon dioxide. Then in turn they can bring in air from outside and distribute it throughout the office or home.
Ventilation is also critical for spaces such as attics or unused rooms at the top of a house or building. During the hotter months, excess heat can build up in attics resulting in abnormally high cooling costs – using ventilation in conjunction with good air conditioning systems can help with this problem. Additionally, moisture can build up and if not properly expelled from the attic it can condense and cause potential problems such as breaking down of construction materials and insulation.
Furthermore, today’s energy efficient homes that are ‘tightly’ built can have a negative effect when it comes to ventilation – believe it or not! Quality, well built houses are fine but they lack the naturally occurring ventilation of houses from years past where leaks around doors and windows served the purpose of ventilating. Of course houses today are better and we certainly don’t want to go back to Grandma’s single pain windows and weather stripping that turned to dust when you touched it! We do however have to make sure and include a good ventilation plan that includes proper size and amount of fans, especially in rooms with no windows.
Plan your ventilation needs at the same time as your heating and cooling and allocate the correct amount of your budget that results in a quality indoor environment you feel good about living in day after day. And remember just like a scene from your favorite romantic movie, there is still no substitution for opening that window, leaning on the ledge and breathing some good old fashioned fresh air!
About the author:
Ryan Holden is an HVAC Technician for Progressive Heating & Air who are based in San Diego.