Home Ventilation: An Imperative But Often Overlooked Necessity for Houston Area Homes
Without good home ventilation, the hot, dry Texas summers and even our spring rains can make you miserable fast. Improving the airflow in your home will not only help keep you more comfortable, but it will also improve your indoor air quality and reduce the risk of moisture damage to your home.
Ventilation Benefits You in Three Big Ways
Fresh-scented air may be one benefit of upgrading your home ventilation, but it’s definitely not the only one. Your health and your home’s building structure also benefit.
- Better air quality – Dust, pollen, mold spores, and numerous other contaminants enter your home through open doors and windows, as well as through air leaks. Without good airflow, these contaminants can build up to levels that negatively affect your health.
- Protection for your home – Our arid climate alone doesn’t exempt us from the risk of moisture and mold problems. During rainy and damp periods, humidity can enter your home and accumulate in areas with limited airflow. Cooking, showering and even cleaning also add humidity to your home.
Without enough ventilation to remove this moisture, it finds its way into your walls, floors and ceilings where it can damage your home’s building materials and wood structure.
- Greater comfort – Sufficient home ventilation helps ensure you won’t have to put up with lingering odors from the kitchen and bath or from pets. Because the right amount of airflow helps control your indoor humidity levels, you’ll have an easier time getting your home to a comfortable temperature.
High humidity leaves you feeling hot and sticky in summer and cold and clammy in winter. Low humidity, too, can make you chilly in winter. By keeping your humidity regulated, ventilation also helps you reduce your cooling and heating expenses.
Contaminants produced inside your home also contribute to your need for ventilation. This is especially true if anyone in your home smokes. If you have a pet, ventilation helps get rid of the hair and dander that would otherwise be floating around your home.
For homes with fuel-burning appliances, such as a gas stove or gas water heater, carefully planned home ventilation is a must for both health and safety reasons. No matter how well they’re cared for, these appliance release trace amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) into the air. Even at low levels, CO can cause health problems. Your ventilation system removes this gas before it can build up to a dangerous level.
Natural Ventilation: Working With Mother Nature
Just opening your windows provides a certain amount of natural ventilation, but it also causes its own problems, including drafts, air contaminants and excess humidity. Opening windows isn’t really an option when you’re running the furnace or air conditioner. There are, however, several ways to harness natural phenomena for home ventilation.
Natural ventilation comes in two forms: wind driven and buoyancy-driven ventilation.
- Wind-driven ventilation – This type of ventilation relies on wind currents. A louvered vent that lets air pass through is the simplest type of wind-driven ventilation. While these may work in certain places, such as the attic, they’re not ideal elsewhere. For airflow in your rooms, trickle vents are a better option. This narrow vents can be installed above your windows to let in air without uncomfortable drafts and with a minimal amount of contaminants.
- Buoyancy-driven ventilation – Convection, the tendency for warm air to rise, is what makes these ventilation systems work. A buoyancy-driven system might consist of through-wall vents and other types of vent on the lower floors to let in cool, fresh air from outdoors and stack vents in the roof to let out warm, stale air from indoors.The main problem with these systems is that the amount of ventilation your home receives depends largely on the weather. On hot, windless days when you’d benefit from more ventilation, you’ll receive less. That makes these systems useful only for providing a basic level of airflow.
Spot Ventilation: A Convenient Option for Indoor Cleaner Air
Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans and the exhaust fan in the range hood are all forms of spot ventilation. These fans are designed to quickly remove a buildup of odor or humidity from a small area. Your home might also have exhaust fans in the basement, utility room or any other area that’s prone to odors and moisture. Running exhaust fans for a few minutes after cooking or showering is important both to keep your air fresh and to prevent damaging moisture accumulation and mold growth.
While it does an important job, spot ventilation can’t provide enough airflow for your entire home. Because these fans work best when the indoor air quality is much worse than the outdoor air quality, by running the fans for longer periods can let in more air contaminants and humidity than it removes.
Worse yet, over-using spot ventilation or using a poorly designed system can create negative air pressure inside your house. Negative indoor air pressure can cause an issue known as backdrafting. This occurs when fumes from your fuel-burning appliances are drawn the fumes back into your home instead, putting you at risk for harmful carbon monoxide exposure.
Whole-House Ventilation Provides Sufficient, Reliable Airflow
To provide clean air and reduce humidity build-up throughout your home, you’ll need a system that’s specially designed for that purpose. These systems use your heating and cooling system’s ducts or their own duct system to reach all your rooms. There are several types of systems that can do this.
- Supply-only system – These systems consist of fans that bring in fresh outdoor air. They rely on exhaust fans and air leaks around your home to let out stale air. In the cold winter climate of Texas, however, they can cause humidity problems.
- Balanced ventilation system – A balanced system uses fans that draw in and exhaust equal amounts of air. This provides you with continuous airflow you can easily control. They don’t cause negative air pressure, which means there’s no risk of backdrafting.
To prevent too much heat gain or loss, consider a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV). These system contain a heat exchanger transfers warmth between the out-going and incoming airstream. In winter, it takes heat from the outgoing air and moves it to the incoming outdoor air. In summer, it does the opposite. The heat exchanger in an ERV system transfers moisture as well as heat, helping to control your indoor humidity levels.
How Poor Home Ventilation Can Harm You and Your Home
The effects of poor ventilation go far beyond lingering odors and a little condensation on your windows. If your home ventilation is inadequate or incorrectly designed it can cause serious damage.
- Air leaks – Most homes have small cracks and gaps around the windows and other areas that let air pass through. Relying only on exhaust vents for airflow or using a system that draws out too much air home will exacerbate these leaks. They’ll let in more air contaminants and humidity, bringing down your indoor air quality. You can protect your air quality and save energy by sealing these leaks, but doing so makes good ventilation even more important for ensuring a flow of fresh air.
- Moisture problems – Even in our dry climate, moisture can build up in parts of your home that don’t receive enough airflow. Moisture accumulation not only increases the likelihood of mildew in the kitchen and bathroom, but also encourages rot and mold growth on wood, drywall and insulation. If left unchecked, mold can eat away at your wood beams and other critical parts of your home. In the worst case scenario, you may end up having to replace ceiling or wall beams.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) exposure – If you have fuel-burning appliances, carefully designed ventilation is critical. This is not only due to the risk of backdrafting, but also due to the small amount of CO released during normal operation. If this CO isn’t vented out of your home, it can quickly reach levels that cause headaches, fatigue and a general feeling of illness. Because these symptoms are so vague, low-level CO accumulation often goes unnoticed. Installing CO detectors is a must, but they don’t make up for a lack of ventilation.
Learn more about home ventilation options and all of our heating and cooling services, or contact us today in Greater Houston at (888) 710-5530 or in Brazoria County at (888)929-00049 to schedule an appointment
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