Worldwide, at least 4 million people die every year from conditions related to household air pollution.
While many of these folk reside in underdeveloped countries, US citizens are far from immune to the negative effects of poor home ventilation.
Ventilation means the exchange of outdoor and indoor air. Without proper ventilation, excess moisture, and harmful pollutants like carbon monoxide become trapped indoors where they can cause untold harm.
Let’s find out just how dangerous poor ventilation is for your home and what you can do about it.
The Dangers of Poor Home Ventilation
Ordinary daily activities like cooking can cause problems in the home unless your house has sufficient ventilation. Combustion appliances like fireplaces and stoves release small amounts of toxic gases when you use them.
These can quickly accumulate and lead to unpleasant consequences for your home and everyone in it. The most common problems associated with poor ventilation are:
Poor air quality causes biological and chemical contaminants to build up inside your home. One of these is radon, which can cause lung cancer.
In turn, these can cause afflictions like:
- Sinus congestion
- Breathing difficulties
Also, high levels of carbon dioxide and low oxygen levels lead to fatigue and an inability to concentrate, which in turn can lead to unnecessary accidents.
Sick building syndrome doesn’t only apply to commercial facilities. Your home can easily become a hotspot of infection and unpleasant health issues unless it’s properly ventilated.
Apart from airborne toxins and noxious gases, poor ventilation allows moisture to build up in your home too. Over time, this results in mold growth and wood rot.
Just like moisture from a glass can damage the surface of your wooden coffee table, condensed moisture inside your walls and attic may lead to mold and wood rot.
Some home appliances, like dryers, release a lot of moisture into your home. A dehumidifier can help reduce the moisture inside your home, but often this isn’t enough.
A properly ventilated house helps maintain an even temperature, which can help reduce your heating and cooling bills.
Poor ventilation means the temperature inside will fluctuate along with whatever happens outside.
These extreme temperatures in turn cause discomfort and fatigue as well as increased humidity and the accompanying mold growth. If the humidity’s too low, you could experience dry skin and a scratchy throat.
Ventilation also helps eliminate unpleasant odors from cooking, cleaning materials, and cigarette smoking.
Types of Home Ventilation Systems
So, now you know about the importance of ventilation, it’s time to do something about it. An efficient HVAC system does much to regulate your home’s ventilation but it’s not enough.
You have a few additional options available to you, as follows.
This type of old-school ventilation takes place without much intervention from anyone. Air travels in and out of buildings in three different ways on its own. These are:
- Via open doors and windows
- Cracks and joints where walls and floors meet
- Gaps around windows and pipes
Uncontrolled ventilation systems like airbricks and trickle vents rely on the principles of natural ventilation too.
These installations are often found in older homes. They’re cheap to install, easily understood by builders, and comply with building codes.
In some cases, these are all you need for sufficient ventilation although they do have certain drawbacks. These are:
- When there’s no wind, air won’t enter your home
- Excessive wind means your home will be over-ventilated
- Dirt or vegetation can block airbricks and interrupt the flow of air
- Curtains or furniture can obstruct these openings
- Unless your internal doors are open, air won’t move freely through your home
- Trickle vents must remain in the ‘open’ position to provide ventilation
With uncontrolled ventilation, it’s easy for odors and moist air to spread around the home and could condense inside your building causing health issues and damage.
On the whole, natural ventilation is uncontrollable and unpredictable. It varies according to how airtight your home is, as well as the amount of wind, and outdoor temperatures.
Spot ventilation uses localized equipment such as fans to remove moisture and pollutants at the source. Range hoods and bathroom exhaust fans are some of the best-known types of spot ventilation.
Overhead fans are another type of spot ventilation that does double duty as a decorative element. They help drive warm or cold air out of your home and send it outdoors.
These types of fans are an effective way to cool the air in your room, provided you install a size that’s compatible with your floor space. Read this helpful guide to choosing the right ceiling fan for your room.
The major drawback of spot ventilation systems is that they draw air from the outside to replace the air they’ve sucked out of your home. If you live in a polluted environment, this isn’t always a good trade-off.
For this reason, this type of controlled ventilation’s best used in conjunction with natural ventilation systems to create a solution for your entire home.
Whole-house ventilation is by far the best option for most modern homes. These systems use both fans and duct systems to remove stale air from your house and replace it with fresh air.
Some of these systems are exhaust-only, meaning they rely on natural ventilation for fresh air. Others are supply-only, which try to force air out of the building via natural means.
Balanced systems have both fresh air intake and exhaust components. In this way, they provide uniform, controlled ventilation in every area of your home.
These types of ventilators go by the name of Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs). They’re best suited to airtight, high-performance homes.
Other Ventilation Systems
Some types of passive ventilation options rely on wind and air buoyancy for ventilation. They usually center on home design and take advantage of carefully designed vents to capture rising hot air.
Prevailing wind systems us custom-made ‘split chimneys’ installed in exposed areas like your roof. The chimney relies on pressure from prevailing winds to draw stale air out of one side and let fresh air into the other side.
Extra Tips To Ensure Safe Air Inside Your Home
You can’t be too careful when it comes to keeping the air inside your home clean and healthy. Fortunately, apart from installing the best home ventilation system for your circumstances, there are still more things you can do.
These are the top tips to ensure your home stays safe and comfortable:
Take Special Care With Combustion Appliances
If you use combustion appliances that burn natural gas, oil, wood, propane, or kerosene in your home you should take extra care.
Be sure their exhaust gases are directly vented to the outside. If not, they can leak or release noxious combustion products like carbon dioxide into your home.
Avoid Moisture Problems
Stop air leaks that can lead to the uncontrolled flow of moist air through your home. You can do this by sealing all air-leakage paths from unconditioned areas of your home, like attics, basements, and crawl spaces.
On its own, insulation isn’t enough. See the DOE Guide to Air Sealing for more advice on where and how to seal your home.
Check and repair the caulking around your windows, tubs, showers, and doors too.
You can also minimize the amount of water that enters your home by ensuring your roof’s in good condition. Keep your roof gutters clear and clean so that water’s directed away from your home.
Keep Tabs on Air Quality
Installing a mobile indoor air-quality monitor is a good way to ensure your home ventilation’s up to scratch.
These devices report the levels of dust, humidity, and air pollutants inside your home. They can even help detect unusually high levels of emissions from cleaning materials.
An air-quality monitor helps you fine-tune your home ventilation and detect any malfunctions in your system immediately.
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From home ventilation to hair care, I’ve got all the best tips and information on how to make your life easier and more comfortable.
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