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Ventilator Systems to Increase Home Energy Efficiency

What Is a Heat-Recovery Ventilator and Why Do You Need One?

When we talk about an HVAC system’s efficiency, we often think of the furnace for heating (the ‘H’ in
Home energy efficiencyHVAC) and the air conditioner for cooling (the ‘AC’ in HVAC). A typical homeowner, however, may forget about what the ‘V’ stands for – ventilation. Proper ventilation is as important as the other factors when keeping your home a happy temperature, and the right system can actually increase its energy efficiency. That’s why you should know what a heat-recovery ventilator is, and why you need one. 

Goodbye Stale Air, Hello Energy Savings

Have you ever walked into a home or office and smelled stale, stagnant air? That’s a warning that the air quality inside the building, filled with moisture and pollutants, needs to be improved. Ventilators are made to move that old air from inside your home and exchange it with clean, outside air.

Ventilation can happen naturally by doing things like opening doors and windows, or mechanically with things like fans and forced air vents. Using mechanical ventilation is necessary in most energy efficient homes because they are sealed up so tightly. Plus, it’s not very energy efficient to open a window in the middle of a Minnesota winter. 

So how can you keep your home ventilated and still remain energy efficient?

If you live in Minnesota, a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) is the best choice. A heat-recovery ventilator is one of the two types of energy-recovery ventilation systems. The other is the simply named energy-recovery ventilator (ERV). According to the Department of Energy, both systems provide the best air quality and energy efficiency, but differences in the way the heat exchangers work determine the right kind to use in different climates.

Energy-Recovery Ventilator (ERV)

With an energy-recovery ventilator (ERV), the heat exchanger transfers a certain amount of water vapor along with heat energy, while a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) only transfers heat.

For instance, an ERV is made for climates with warm, humid summers. An ERV brings in fresh air, removes the humidity, then distributes that air through the home. A home cooling system that has an ERV integrated into it won’t have to work as hard, thereby saving energy and money. 

Heat-Recovery Ventilator (HRV)

In northern climates where summers are shorter and less humid, a HRV is better suited to keep the best air quality. An HRV works by transferring heat from the warm inside exhaust air to the fresh, colder, outside air. Once heat is transferred in the HRV system, then it can enter the house’s atmosphere. Despite the name, it will still pre-condition air to cool it in summer, too.

One important note: The HRV is the best system for reducing home humidity in the winter. And if the humidity is trapped in your home, what else is being trapped indoors? Germs, bacteria, dust, mold or other allergens are possibilities, not to mention radon and volatile organic compounds – outgassing from furniture, paint, carpeting or other sources. 

If you're interested in learning more, check out this quick video on how an HRV works.

A HVAC system with a heat-recovery ventilator (HRV) integrated into it saves energy and money because it won’t have to work as hard to heat and cool your home. Although an HRV is not standard equipment with a new HVAC system, it’s worth investing in if you want the best air quality possible and greater energy efficiency.


For more energy saving and home comfort tips, visit! Stay Comfy, Minnesota is your Minnesota resource for air conditioning repair, furnace repair and HVAC tips and advice.    


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