One of the delights of spring is that first time you can open the windows and let in that fresh Minnesota air. But what do you do when it’s too cold to open a window and doing so would defeat your home heating goals? Here are some efficient ways to keep fresh, clean, Minnesota air circulating through your home, no matter the season or the weather.
Ventilation is key to providing fresh air and exhausting stale, potentially contaminated, air. And the best way to provide efficient and healthy ventilation is with a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV). An HRV works by transferring most of the heat from outgoing, stale air into incoming, fresh air by way of a heat exchanger (shown in the figure below).
An HRV unit has both exhaust and fresh air fans, which maintain “balanced” ventilation. Balanced ventilation simply means that the amount of incoming air is equal to the amount of air being exhausted, so that your home is neither pressurized nor depressurized, both of which are undesirable.
If your home is pressurized, humid air can be forced into walls through small cracks and crevices, where it can condense and potentially create a number of issues. Depressurization can actually produce a safety hazard as it can cause a backdraft into your chimney(s). Both conditions are eliminated with the use of an HRV.
A key benefit of installing an HRV is its ability to remove radon from your home. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that gives off radioactive particles. It seeps up through the soil and can accumulate in dangerous concentrations, especially when your home is sealed for the winter. Exposure to these particles over time can lead to lung cancer. Minnesota’s geology and weather are especially conducive to producing radon. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 2 out of 5 Minnesota homes have radon levels that pose health risks, so it’s important to test your home for radon — which is something you can do yourself. You can purchase a test kit online and most hardware stores have short- and long-term test kits available. If your DIY test shows significant levels, you should have your home professionally tested to ensure the safety and health of your family.
Other Benefits of an HRV
Aside from providing optimal ventilation to your home and eliminating radon, investing in an HRV provides these additional benefits:
- Recovers heat from your home that would otherwise be lost.
- Air that is exhausted from your home helps eliminate odors from cooking, cleaning, and household pets.
- Balanced ventilation guards against mold and mildew.
- Incoming air is filtered to help remove dust, pollen, and other potential allergens.
- Your home just feels fresher and cleaner.
Investing in an HRV
No doubt about it, installing an HRV is a significant investment in your home. Aside from the unit itself, there are likely to be additional, although moderate, costs for new or revised ductwork. However, today’s HRVs last 20-30 years, and when you add up the cost savings of heat recovery alone, they are often a worthwhile investment. Add to that the increased comfort and health of your family, and an HRV is likely an investment you will never regret.