Why Is Home Ventilation so Important?

home ventilation
It's important to ventilate your home to make the indoor air more comfortable and healthy. Breathing is a necessary part of life, but breathing in germs and allergens inside your house can be harmful and unpleasant. A natural or mechanical home ventilation system can replace the stale air with fresh air. Ventilating your home reduces allergies and sicknesses by moving the indoor contaminants to the outside. Most systems also reduce humidity to make your living space more comfortable. If you have allergies or worry about what you're breathing in, this guide will teach you how to have safe indoor air.

How Important Is Ventilation for Home Comfort?

Home ventilation makes your living space more comfortable by removing contaminants in the air, regulating humidity and adjusting the temperature. If you spend a lot of time inside, the air you breathe should be free from germs and allergens so you don't get sick. Inhaling clean air also boosts your mood and gives you more energy throughout the day. Older homes didn't usually need ventilation since cracks in the walls and inadequate insulation brought air leaks inside. Nowadays, builders construct houses with more energy-efficient materials that keep the outdoor air outside. Even though this construction puts less strain on your HVAC system, the stale air inside provides a breeding ground for dust and other harmful contaminants. Here are some of the ways a home ventilation system makes your living space more comfortable:
  • Remove impurities in the air: You probably know that the air around you isn't great, especially if you live in a busy city with lots of pollution. However, your home's indoor air might be more contaminated than what you breathe in outside. Unpleasant odors, dust, bacteria and moisture can build up in your house and make you sick. On the other hand, proper ventilation can eliminate these pollutants and bring fresh, clean air inside.
  • Prevent condensation: Moisture buildup in your home can lead to mold growth and wood rot. Besides making your walls and windows look icky, wet air can also cause respiratory issues and allergic reactions. A high-quality ventilation system limits the humidity in your indoor air and prevents those harmful contaminants from growing.
  • Control indoor temperature: In the summer, the air in your home can feel hot and stuffy, especially if you live with a lot of people. Having a way to remove the stale air and blow in the clean air will make your living space more comfortable, creating a more relaxing environment. A ventilation system can also help circulate the air from your HVAC system, allowing you to heat or cool your house more efficiently.
  • Improve health: Besides making the atmosphere more comfortable, ventilating your home is also beneficial for your physical and mental health. When you have contaminants in your home without enough ventilation, you might develop sinus infections, headaches, rashes, allergies or asthma. Ventilation helps remove dust and bacteria from the air to prevent illnesses and keep you energized.

What Is Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the condition of the air within and around residential and commercial buildings. Your home's IAQ affects your safety and comfort. Finding out what pollutants are inside your house can help protect you and your family from short-term and long-term health effects. Proper home ventilation can improve your IAQ. If you prevent outdoor air from coming inside, the contaminants in your living space can grow to a point where they put your health and comfort at risk. You should have a way to eliminate the bacteria, allergens and harmful gases from inside your energy-efficient home. Each state has a different standard for the appropriate ventilation method for existing buildings to ensure a safe, healthy environment for human occupants.

How Is Indoor Air Quality Measured?

Even though you can hire a professional to measure your home's IAQ, you can also find out the health of your indoor air with these tips:
  • Install an indoor air quality monitor: An indoor air quality monitor is an electronic device that tests and reports the pollutants inside your home. Even though each device detects different contaminants, most of them look for pollen, dust, humidity and chemical pollutants. You may even find products that track formaldehyde, unsafe temperatures, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide (CO).
  • Check your indoor air for mold: Since your indoor air quality monitor probably won't detect mold, you'll have to find it yourself. You might recognize this substance on the food you've had sitting in your fridge since last year. However, airborne mold spores from moisture buildup can pollute your indoor air and cause illnesses. If there's a musty odor in the air or you can't stop sneezing, you might have mold in the house.
  • Set up carbon monoxide alarms: Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal when people are exposed to high levels. If you have any gas appliances in your house, you'll want to install carbon monoxide alarms and change the batteries at least twice a year. These devices work in the background, but they'll sound an alarm immediately if they detect CO in the house.
  • Conduct a radon test: Radon is also a colorless, odorless gas that makes its way into your home through your floors, foundation or walls. If you suspect that you have radon in your home, you can buy a test from the local home improvement store. Place it in a high-risk area and let it sit according to the time on the manufacturer's instructions. When the test is complete, you can mail it to the manufacturer's lab and wait for them to send you the results.

What Air Pollutants and Contaminants Does Ventilation Help Remove?

Air contaminants enter the home through appliances, building materials and even cleaning products. These chemicals and allergens can multiply if there's no way for them to leave the house. A high-quality home ventilation system helps remove the following harmful pollutants from your indoor air.

1. Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that enhances the insulation and fire resistance of certain building materials. A few decades ago, builders realized that this fiber had some adverse health effects, so they stopped using it. Even though there are laws in place that ban the use of asbestos in new products, if you live in an older home, you might have it in your flooring, roof shingles, paint or insulation. You might also bring it home after renovating a building if you work in construction. The most dangerous asbestos fibers are too small to be visible, but you can inhale them if they're in your indoor air. Asbestos can get stuck in the lungs, causing lung cancer and other illnesses explicitly related to this material. However, you might not see the effects of asbestos exposure for several years.

2. Biological Pollutants

Biological pollutants include pollen, bacteria, viruses, mold, mildew, cockroaches, house dust mites, animal dander and saliva. These pollutants come into the home through plants, people and animals. Pests such as cockroaches and mice can release waste and viruses as they walk, especially in the kitchen or other places where you store food. Excess moisture in the air can also cause mold to develop on your walls and near your windows. These contaminants stick to the surfaces in your home, such as pillows, bedding and flooring. You might even stir up allergens into the air after vacuuming your carpet fibers. When inhaled, biological pollutants can cause allergic reactions, including respiratory and digestive issues.

3. Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide develops in your home through combustion products such as gas stoves, heaters and fireplaces. These appliances need the proper ventilation to get this harmful gas and others like it out of your living space. Breathing in CO can affect the blood's ability to carry oxygen throughout the body. As a result, inhaling high CO levels can cause fatigue, headaches, disorientation, weakness and nausea in healthy people. However, if you have chronic heart disease, you may also have increased chest pain.

4. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde, a pungent-smelling gas, enters your home through building materials. Pressed wood products contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. You might have particleboard subflooring, medium-density fiberboard (MDF) in your cabinetry and hardwood plywood in your walls or furniture. Besides these building materials, formaldehyde also comes into your house through smoking, household products and unvented fuel-burning appliances. The smell alone is enough to tell you whether you have formaldehyde in your home. After prolonged exposure to high levels of this harmful gas, you may develop difficulty breathing, watery eyes, nausea and burning in the eyes or throat.

5. Lead

Lead is considered one of the worst environmental threats to children's health. This harmful pollutant can enter your home through dust, air, old paint, drinking water, deteriorating paint and contaminated soil. Like asbestos, there are laws in place that ban using lead in building materials. However, if your home is older, there might be lead in your pipes, paint or outdated gas furnace. Airborne lead goes into the body when an individual breathes air or swallows particles. This harmful pollutant can affect all parts of the body — including the kidneys, brain, blood cells and central nervous system — especially in children. High lead exposure can cause convulsions, coma and even death.

6. Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an invisible gas that enters your home through appliances that burn diesel, coal, gas or oil at high temperatures. It spreads through your living space when these appliances aren't installed or vented correctly. Nitrogen dioxide affects the respiratory system when it enters the body. When inhaled at high levels over a long time, this harmful gas causes throat, eye and nose irritation, along with shortness of breath. It can also cause asthma and other respiratory conditions in children.

7. Pesticides

Pesticides are the chemicals you use to kill any bugs and rodents that may have infested your home. You might keep these products in your house in case you see a pest wandering around your kitchen or bathroom, but using pesticides inside can affect your living space's IAQ. You can also get pesticide chemicals inside through your shoes if you treat the soil around your property for pests. If you use or store these products in your home, they can severely damage your health. Breathing these harmful chemicals can cause nausea, headaches, tingling sensations, dizziness and muscle twitching. Certain chemicals can also cause cancer and damage to the liver and central nervous system.

8. Radon

Radon comes from uranium in the soil through cracks in your foundation. As the uranium breaks down, it releases this gas into the atmosphere. It usually makes its way into your home through sumps, dirt floors, concrete walls, foundations and floor drains. Breathing in high levels of radon can lead to lung cancer, especially if you smoke cigarettes. However, it might take years for you to start developing health problems after radon gas has gotten trapped inside your lungs.

9. Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or secondhand smoke is a blend of harmful air from the burning end of a cigar, cigarette or pipe, and what the smoker exhales. Exposure to secondhand smoke is called passive smoking. Besides inhaling it, you can also get exposed to it if you live in a home where the previous owner smoked. ETS can cause adverse health effects to your respiratory and cardiovascular system. It can also affect the children of smokers when they breathe it secondhand.

10. Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are common in household products, especially in cleaning and building materials. Wax, paints and varnishes contain VOCs, along with some cosmetic and beauty products. These products tend to release these harmful chemicals when you use them, but even storing them in your house can put your IAQ at risk. Your reaction to VOC exposure depends on the specific compounds you have in your home and how long you've had them. Some might not give you any unpleasant symptoms, while others cause memory impairment, dizziness, headaches and respiratory issues.

What Are the Three Types of Home Ventilation?

The main three home ventilation methods are:
  1. Natural ventilation: This home ventilation method uses uncontrolled air movement from openings in your home, such as cracks, windows and doors, to replace stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air. Natural ventilation is most common in older homes, but it's not the most energy-efficient option because it makes your HVAC system work harder to regulate the temperature. Still, opening your windows throughout the year can help prevent illness by circulating the air.
  2. Spot ventilation: Methods such as localized exhaust fans, ceiling fans and range hoods on top of stoves control airflow and efficiently eliminate moisture and pollutants in a specific area. You can use a fan while your windows or doors are open to help circulate the air better.
  3. Whole-house ventilation: This controlled, uniform mechanical home ventilation method involves removing stale air and supplying fresh air to the whole house. This method might only bring fresh air into the home or remove dirty air from the inside. Balanced ventilation systems do a combination of both. Along with these ventilation systems, heat recovery ventilation (HRV) raises the temperature of fresh air. Energy recovery ventilation (ERV) controls humidity.

Browse Home Ventilation Systems From Ingram's Water & Air

If your house needs an energy-efficient ventilation system, check out the ones we offer on our site. When you invest in a product from Ingram's Water & Air, we offer lifetime tech support if you ever have an issue with it. Find the best home ventilation system for your living space to bring in fresh air and promote wellbeing.
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