2 Most Common Ventilation Strategies for New Homes


| 3/30/2015 7:00:00 AM


When we think about air pollution, most of us think about smoke stacks or trucks spewing exhaust. Although these sources are certainly a threat to human health, indoor levels of air pollution are typically two to five times greater than outdoor levels, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, many of our daily activities and possessions can degrade the air quality in our home: Cooking produces particles, while paint, carpets, furniture and cleaning products can off-gas toxins. 

Ventilation Systems

With people spending 90 percent of their time inside, indoor air quality ranks as one of the top five environmental risks to human health. As most new homes have tighter building envelopes with less air infiltration, indoor air quality deteriorates without proper ventilation. This is especially true during winter months when less outdoor air typically enters the home through windows and doors, and concentrations of indoor contaminants may rise.

"As homes get tighter, there is certainly a higher risk to indoor air quality, but we do have the tools for reducing exposure to indoor air contaminants, as well as designing proper ventilation systems, including tight ducts and filtration, that can mitigate that risk and improve indoor air quality," says Iain Walker, a scientist for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

One of the primary strategies for ensuring fresh air indoors is through proper ventilation. Let's explore in more depth the two most common forms of ventilation.



Exhaust-Only Ventilation

One of the main strategies for boosting indoor air quality is to reduce pollution at the source. Exhaust-only systems use exhaust fans to remove moisture, contaminants, odors and stale air, and are commonly found in bathrooms and kitchens. Although exhaust fans cannot effectively mitigate the impact of water leaks on your indoor air quality (from mold and mildew), they can remove excess moisture resulting from activities such as showering and particles from cooking. It’s important that these systems vent to the outside: Exhaust-only ventilation systems rely on air leaks in the building envelope to bring makeup air to replace the air vented from the home.



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