Having adequate ventilation in the home is important as it helps to lower indoor air pollution and bring fresh air inside. In most older homes, the only type of ventilation you’ll find are bathroom exhaust fans that draw heat and steam outside and kitchen exhaust hoods that draw out smoke and pollutants from cooking. Older homes typically don’t need additional ventilation as the exterior structure isn’t all that well sealed, which means that air can easily flow in and out through gaps in the structure.
Newer homes are typically much more well-built and have an exterior envelope that is almost completely airtight. While this is great in terms of energy efficiency, it can also create issues with high humidity and indoor air pollution. As such, many newer homes require some type of mechanical ventilation system that will occasionally run to draw the stale, polluted air out of the building and bring fresh, clean air inside. If your home does have any type of mechanical ventilation such as an energy recovery ventilator (ERV), heat recovery ventilator (HRV), or whole-house fan, it is always a good idea to have the system fully cleaned twice a year.
Why Cleaning Mechanical Ventilators Is Important
Most mechanical ventilation systems are fairly similar in design. They have one internal fan that spins clockwise to draw air out of the building and a second fan that spins counterclockwise to bring air in from outside. These systems also have internal filters that are designed to trap any allergens and other airborne particles from the incoming air stream, which is important as the system would otherwise bring in lots of pollen, dust, etc. However, the filters aren’t all that effective and are mostly designed to prevent dust and debris from damaging any of the system’s internal components.
This filter should generally always be cleaned or replaced twice a year as otherwise it can become clogged. If the filter does get clogged, it can result in almost no air being brought inside. A clogged filter will also make the fans work much harder and could cause a fan motor to burn out or the system to fail much more quickly.
Even though the filter should trap most dust and larger particles, some will always still get inside the system. Over time, the dust can build up on the fan blades and other components to where the fans start spinning much more slowly or won’t spin at all. If the fan blades can’t spin, then the fan motor could quickly start to overheat and possibly burn out. This is why it is also important to have the system fully cleaned out every six months as it ensures that the system is working correctly and helps to prevent most issues.
Whole-house fans are slightly different as they only have one large fan that is installed in the attic. This fan draws stale air out of the building and pumps it outside. However, a whole-house fan only works when you have at least one or two windows open as it needs to create a strong draft that pulls air in from outside. If all of the windows were closed, the system wouldn’t be effective as it would have no way to bring fresh air in.
In cooler climates, whole-house fans typically only need to be cleaned and serviced once a year since they are mostly only used during the warmer months. However, in Texas, you may want to have your fan serviced every six months since you may use it throughout most of the year.
How Do Mechanical Ventilation Systems Work
Energy recovery ventilators and heat recovery ventilators don’t simply bring air in from outside. If they did, then the incoming air would quickly cause your home to heat up during the warmer months and cool down the home in the winter. To prevent this, both ERVs and HRVs work to capture heat from either the incoming or outgoing air stream and transfer it to the other stream.
During warmer weather, the heat from the incoming air is removed and transferred to the outgoing air to ensure the incoming air doesn’t heat up the home and force your air conditioning system to work harder. The process works oppositely during colder weather as the heat from the outgoing stream is used to raise the temperature of the air being drawn inside.
The fact that ERVs and HRVs essentially preheat or precool the air coming into the home means they can help improve air quality without increasing the strain on your heating and cooling system. As such, having one of these systems will often help to slightly lower your energy costs. This is one of the reasons that these systems are typically a better option than whole-house fans.
A whole-house fan is mostly only ever used during the evenings when the weather cools down or else they would bring in lots of heat and humidity. These systems should also only be used when your HVAC system isn’t running, as having your heat or AC on with the windows open would waste lots of energy.
HRVs can only capture heat and are usually only used in areas where the outdoor humidity level always stays fairly low. If you were to use an HRV in a more humid area, it would bring in lots of moisture and quickly lead to the humidity level inside the home becoming much too high. This is why ERVs are always the better choice in humid climates as they can also capture humidity.
During the warmer, more humid parts of the year, an ERV absorbs humidity from the incoming air and pumps it back outside. During the colder times when your heating system is on, the ERV will absorb any remaining moisture from the outgoing air to help keep the home from becoming too dry.
Both ERVs and HRVs are typically installed in either the basement or the attic. These systems usually have their own ductwork to draw stale air out of some parts of the home and bring fresh air into other rooms, but they can also be set up to use your existing HVAC ducts.
For systems with their own dedicated ductwork, the exhaust vents where the air is drawn out are usually located in places like your kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms. The intake vents that supply fresh air are usually located in bedrooms and living rooms. However, both the intake and exhaust vents can really be placed anywhere depending on the specific needs of the home.
Expert HVAC Services
If you’re looking for ways to improve your home’s air quality, a mechanical ventilation system can be a great choice. At Blue Ribbon Cooling & Heating, we can help if you’re looking to upgrade your home with a mechanical ventilation system or other indoor air quality units like a humidifier, dehumidifier, air purifier, or air filtration system. We also specialize in a full range of other HVAC services, and our expert technicians repair, service, and install air conditioners, heat pumps, ductless mini-splits, and furnaces. For more information or to schedule any indoor air quality or HVAC service in the Round Rock or Bastrop areas, give us a call today.