Quick Tip: Don’t Forget to Ventilate!

It’s important to make your home energy-efficient by sealing all gaps and insulating thoroughly. But don’t overlook ventilation!

By Bob Vila | Updated Jul 2, 2020 11:54 AM

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Home Ventilation

Photo: hvacdesign.org

Making your home more airtight with new windows, insulation or a finished basement can actually hurt your energy efficiency if you don’t also ventilate properly.

Until very recently, homes were built to breathe. Insulation was seldom used, windows were single-pane and drafts were just part of life. Home heating systems had no problem finding oxygen for combustion, attics were naturally ventilated and fresh outdoor air always found its way in somehow.

Today, in the age of double-paned windows, whole-house insulation and vapor barriers, we’re also seeing moisture problems that lead to mold problems and poor indoor air quality. It only makes sense that if you seal the house and don’t circulate the air, the humidity and gases that once flowed freely in and out are now trapped inside. And they wreak havoc on the home’s structure, not to mention its inhabitants.

It’s important to make your home energy-efficient by sealing all gaps and insulating thoroughly. But don’t overlook ventilation!

Home Ventilation

Photo: airlase.com

Vent Fans

Vent fans in the kitchen and bathrooms are required by code in most states, and they’re a good idea everywhere. They help protect indoor air quality and get rid of excess moisture from cooking and bathing that can lead to mold problems and structural damage.

Range Hoods

In the kitchen, range hoods now come in all shapes and sizes to go with your cooking surface and decor. They can be ducted through a ceiling or exterior wall. This often requires tearing out plaster or drywall and it’s best done during a remodel. If you don’t want a large hood, consider a cook top with a downdraft vent ducted through the floor. Ventilation fans should always be ducted to the outside, never into an attic or crawlspace.

Bathroom Ventilation

Bathroom ventilation fans have come a long way, too. Energy Star-certified models with built-in ceiling lights can do double-duty and save you money, especially since these are so often accidentally left on. And they’re much quieter, too.

Roof-Mount Fans

Some installers recommend the roof-mount type of fan. The fan and motor are installed on the roof and ducted to the interior space. In some homes, this can make installation and service easier since the unit is out in the open instead of built into the ceiling.

Mechanical Ventilation

Consult your HVAC contractor to see if your home needs mechanical ventilation. A fan can provide outdoor combustion air for your furnace. Good combustion helps it operate more cleanly and efficiently and keeps it from depressurizing your house. An air-to-air heat exchanger brings fresh air into circulation in your heating and air conditioning ducts. It preconditions the air before sending it in, so you’re not decreasing your system’s efficiency with cold air.