Simple Approach to Improving Ventilation in Any Home

Take My Breath Away… While the Berlin song from Top Gun was a big hit in the 1980’s, in a home, we know that good air quality is vital to a healthy space. As homes have become more energy-efficient and airtight, air quality in a home is one of the top priorities. 

Why Does Air Ventilation Matter in a Home?  

Proper ventilation is like lungs in a body. Homes need proper ventilation to keep air fresh and the indoor space as healthy as possible. Opening windows doesn’t always work because the air that we allow in is not filtered, and we’re losing thermal energy we paid for with our heating and air conditioning bills. Mechanical ventilation is vital to ensure that fresh air comes in and dirty air goes back out. The air inside of a home can build up pollutants, dust, odors, moisture and more, making it a problem for anyone with asthma, lung problems, allergies, or those susceptible to disease. The proper mechanical ventilation design will help ensure that indoor spaces stay safe and healthy from day one. 

How do you ensure that your mechanical ventilation is set up properly?  

Have a plan. 

Most new construction home projects will have a mechanical design in place that should address many of these concerns. Make sure you are working with an expert who is well-versed in air quality and ventilation. Many contractors know the basics, but ask questions to find out if your hired expert has experience with strict air quality standards, and balanced systems, meaning it exhausts the same amount of air that is being brought in so the home is not artificially inflated or deflated (pressurized or depressurized) If you aren’t sure who to talk to, reach out to our team at AE Building Systems. We have a list of trusted pros.. 

Look for a ventilation plan that incorporates air quality measurements. 

There are simpler models that are intended to just run in the background day and night no matter if the occupants are home or away, which is a ‘good’ approach that works for many families. This system still requires spot exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen vent hoods that are manually activated when needed.

A ‘better’ ventilation system selectively exhausts the stale air and odors from the bathrooms and the kitchen, and delivers fresh air to the bedrooms and living areas. This distribution system is a bit more involved, but it can be designed to meet code requirements for bathroom ventilation so that spot ventilation fans are eliminated, and a kitchen vent hood would only be needed with a gas range or if the occupants’ cooking involves above-average smoke and odors. This ‘better’ system requires a higher-end ERV with a boost feature that allows increasing the air exchange rate on demand, for instance when someone is using the bathroom.

By far the ‘best’ ventilation system on the market today employs an ERV that measures the air quality in the home and adjusts its mode of operation accordingly. This unit is called the Conditioning Energy Recovery Ventilator 2 (CERV2) and it is manufactured by Build Equinox in Illinois. Its air quality sensors measure carbon dioxide (CO₂) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) which together offer indications of how contaminated and or spent the air in a home is at a given moment. It uses this information to adjust its mode of operation from fresh air ventilation to filtered air recirculation and sometimes it simply shuts its blowers off to save energy. 

Instead of the passive heat exchanger core most ERV units use, the CERV2 is equipped with a small internal heatpump that allows precise control of the flow and amount of thermal energy that is recovered. 

Here are some of the features we love about the CERV2:

  1. Instead of the passive heat exchanger core most ERV units use, the CERV2 is equipped with a small internal heatpump that allows precise control of the flow and amount of thermal energy that is recovered.
  2. Fan selection size – You can get 6” or 8” and while 6” fans are generally used in smaller multifamily projects, 8” fans are generally used in most single-family residences greater than 2,000 ft² and homes where the elevation is 5,000 ft.   Please contact us to help with design considerations.  
  3. With a properly laid out distribution system, the fully automated CERV2 provides fresh filtered air to the living areas and bedrooms of the home, and dependably removes stale air and odors from the bathrooms and kitchen. Such a system can meet the requirements of building code and eliminates the need for bathroom fans. In some municipalities, a kitchen vent hood is then only needed with a gas range or if the occupant’s cooking involves above-average smoke and odors. Please refer to your local building code. 
  4. Remote wireless booster switches are used for manual activation of high air exchange (boost) mode, or wireless active circuit transmitters that are installed in bathroom lights for automatic activation of boost mode. By temporarily ramping up the fan speed and switching to air exchange mode when someone is using the bathroom, odors are removed more rapidly.
  5. Geoboost provides pre-conditioning in both summer and winter and it can also help with post-heat with a hot water connection.  
  6. The Warmflo duct heater can also be included for additional BTUs in the supply lines. 
  7. The CERV2 uses various configurations for remote sensors and zone dampers, wireless connections, and even an I/O expansion board for more control. Let us know how we might help with your needs. 

Hans Joachim Preiss and his firm BrightSense have been designing ventilation systems for several years. Starting with generic ERV and HRV units, the first generation CERV, and now the CERV2. “The idea of knowing the quality of the air you’re breathing inside your home and having a ventilation unit that constantly adjusts its mode of operation so that a high level of air quality is maintained without wasting energy, is only offered by the CERV2 from Build Equinox. This concept is so simple yet advanced, I have not had a single client who regrets their decision to go with the CERV.” says Hans.

Conceptual simplified CERV2 system:

Sample CERV2 supply and exhaust diffuser locations and airflow volumes:

Sample layout of a CERV2 distribution system:

Learn more about CERV2 and get more product specifications HERE.

Learn What You Can

Whether you are a homeowner, the designer, a contractor, or a specialist on the project, the best thing you can do is to learn as much as possible about the plan for air quality in the home. Here are a few simple ways to educate yourself:

Your home should be a safe, healthy space. That starts with strategic mechanical ventilation that measures the air quality. When you are able to monitor the quality, you are able to work on any improvements. At AE Building Systems, we want to help you build safe, healthy spaces for yourself or your clients. Let us know how we can help you succeed on your next project!

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