Many homes have issues with not being sufficiently ventilated. The only real way to ventilate lots of homes and replenish or exchange the air inside them is to open the windows. This is obviously not an ideal solution in hot and humid climates like Florida’s, which is why more and more people are turning to energy recovery ventilators (ERVs). Here, we explain how ERVs work, why adequate ventilation is important and what benefits an ERV can provide.

The Importance of Keeping Your Home Properly Ventilated

Having adequate ventilation is important for overcoming issues with indoor air pollution. The air inside most homes is usually at least three times more polluted than the air outside the home. Indoor air pollution can be an especially major concern in Florida since the high heat and humidity cause many people to almost always leave their windows closed and their AC running. While this is great for keeping cool, it also results in the air quickly becoming stale and the concentration of various airborne pollutants continually increasing.

Newer homes are more susceptible to air quality issues since they tend to be better built and have very few gaps in their structures where air can get in and out. Older homes tend to be passively ventilated and are said to “breathe.” This is because they usually have lots of places where the stale indoor air can escape and fresh air can enter from outside. Having few or no gaps in your home’s structure is great for energy efficiency and keeping it cooler, but it does lead to major air quality issues unless you have some type of active mechanical ventilation system. A well-sealed home also tends to be more humid since all the heat and moisture given off by people, heating, cooking and bathing stays trapped inside.

A ventilation system offer you an easy way to improve your home’s air quality and bring fresh air in without needing to open windows or doors and allow lots of heat and humidity inside. Ventilation can also help make your home smell better since it will regularly pull any stale, polluted air out.

How an Energy Recovery Ventilator Works

An energy recovery ventilator is a special type of ventilation system that uses two fans to bring air in fresh air and exhaust the stale indoor air outside. The system can be set to run intermittently, working for around 20 minutes an hour, but it is often better if it runs constantly so that the air in the home continually gets exchanged.

The problem with other types of ventilation is that they bring lots of heat and moisture inside since all they do is draw air straight into the house from outside. They also pull all of the conditioned air outside, so the AC needs to run more. ERVs don’t have these issues, as they contain a heat exchanger that captures much of the heat from the fresh air being drawn into the home before it gets circulated around the house. Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) do the same. However, an ERV is a much better option in Florida since it also removes moisture to somewhat dehumidify the incoming air. HRVs only remove heat to “precool” the incoming air, so they will cause the indoor humidity level to quickly increase.

An ERV is usually connected to its own ductwork system and has at least four separate ducts. The system has a fresh air intake duct and an exhaust duct that both extend outside. There is also at least one exhaust duct and vent inside where the stale air is drawn into the system, and there are usually a few outlet vents that circulate the fresh air.

As the incoming fresh air enters the interior core of an ERV in the summer, heat naturally flows out of the hotter incoming air into the cooler outgoing air stream. The two streams never mix, but heat is still transferred between them via the system’s heat exchanger. Some moisture is also transferred from the more humid incoming air into the dryer outgoing air. This means that the fresh air the system circulates around the house is quite a bit less humid than the air outside. The air coming in may still be a bit more humid than the air in your house, but your AC can get rid of this excess moisture as long as it is working effectively.

An ERV can also work oppositely on cooler, drier winter days when you may need to run your heating. In this case, heat is transferred to the incoming air so that it gets preheated before being pumped out into the home. If the indoor humidity level is higher than the outdoor humidity level, some moisture will also be transferred to the incoming air to prevent the home from feeling too dry.

All ERVs also have an air filter that the incoming air stream passes through. This helps to prevent them from bringing lots of pollen, mold spores and other allergens inside the house.

One important thing to note is that an ERV will not dehumidify your home in any way. The system can’t pull moisture out of the air that’s already in your home or even remove all the moisture from the air it brings in. This means that you if often have issues with high indoor humidity in the warmer months, an ERV could make things slightly worse. As such, we’d also recommend installing a whole-home dehumidifier if the relative humidity level in your home is often above 60%.

The Benefits an Energy Recovery Ventilator Can Provide

The biggest benefit of installing an ERV is that it will greatly improve the air quality in your home. The only type of ventilation most homes have is the exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen. While these fans are useful, they tend to waste energy since they always end up drawing lots of the heated or cooled, conditioned air outside. This creates a pressure imbalance between the inside of the home and outside, which in older homes also results in lots of hot or cold air coming inside to balance out the pressure.

Most ERVs are quite energy efficient and use much less energy than the fan in your HVAC system. Since they precool or preheat the air being drawn into the house, they provide sufficient ventilation without having the same energy waste issues that exhaust fans do. Precooling and preheating the air also ensure that an ERV doesn’t put added strain on your HVAC system and make it run more.

Buehler Air Conditioning & Plumbing is a family-owned company that has been serving the Jacksonville area since 2010. We are your best choice for indoor air quality services, and we can help if you want to install an ERV, dehumidifier, or air purifier. If your AC or heating isn’t working effectively, we can also take care of your HVAC maintenance and repair needs. As a Carrier Authorized Dealer, we’re also ready to help if you need to install a new AC, heat pump or furnace. Turn to us for indoor air quality needs.

To schedule a consultation and learn if an ERV is right for your home, contact us at Buehler Air Conditioning & Plumbing today.

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