If you want some fresh air just open a window. That’s easy. Of course, in the winter you’ll be letting heat out, heat that took precious fuel to make. There ought to be a better way.
Tighter and tighter
The need to bring fresh air into our homes has become a more serious issue in recent years. New homes are being built tighter and tighter. This is so the air we heat or cool doesn’t just leak out, wasting fossil fuels and our money.
The prospect of living in a sealed box might seem scary at first. Especially when you realize the carpets and cabinets are off-gassing stuff you wouldn’t want to breathe.
A fan of the fan
This combination of tighter houses and off-gassed chemicals brings us to the need for mechanical ventilation. A fan can bring fresh air in from outdoors without letting the conditioned air fly out the window.
In fact California put mechanical ventilation into the California Energy Code. As of January 1, 2010 it has been required for all new homes and additions over 1,000 square feet.
The rules allow for several ways to accomplish the required amount of ventilation. The simplest, and I think best, approach is to use a small quiet fan running 24/7. If you don’t want it on all the time the code requires it be bigger. Since the regulations and options can get complicated it is best to have someone familiar with the rules design the system for you.
Energy and comfort
At first glance running a fan seems wasteful of the energy we are trying to conserve. But such a system can use as little as a fifteen watt light bulb. And the savings from tightening up the walls, floors, and ceiling to keep the heat in more than makes up for the energy the fan uses.
People who live in a tightly built home with a continuous and quiet ventilation system say it’s very refreshing. During cold periods when all of the windows are shut they actually get more fresh air than they have ever experienced before. It’s kind of like having a window open all the time!
Build tight, ventilate right
The new motto for homes is “build tight, ventilate right”. That’s the way to reduce overall energy use. In mild climates like the San Francisco Bay Area savings on fuel bills will be modest but worthwhile. In much of the state, where temperatures get much lower and much higher, this approach will save a lot of fuel and money in coming years.
How does living in a tightly sealed house with quiet fresh air being circulated sound to you?