Ventilation Systems Explained: How to Find The Best Solution for Your Home

Good ventilation is essential for a healthy home and environment. There is no denying that we need fresh and clean air to survive. Without it, we would have to breathe in stale and unpleasant air, which is unhealthy. This is where home ventilation systems come in.

In the past, most homes had gaps in the fabric when being built; hence volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the furniture, carpets, and water vapor did not get a chance to build up. However, it wasn’t easy to heat these houses.

Fast forward to now, where homes are insulated and have sealed doors and windows to retain heat. The houses are now more airtight; hence the air seeping through the cracks in the foundation and around the windows and doors is no more.

These measures have reduced uncontrolled ventilation in the home, leading to increased condensation, stale air, and even black mold. The only remedy to this is good ventilation. So, what are the best home ventilation systems to help with this process?

Below is a guide on ventilation systems explained to help you get the best solution for your home. Read on to find out more;

What Is Ventilation?

Ventilation refers to a process whereby clean air is supplied to a room until the stale air is removed. It is the exchange of indoor and outdoor air. Without proper ventilation, insulated and airtight houses will seal in harmful pollutants and moisture, which will damage the home and the health of the people in that home.

Why Ventilate?

An inadequately ventilated house has numerous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and nitrous oxides harmful to your health.

Adequate ventilation will prevent the buildup of excess humidity, resulting in condensation and mold, which will lead to health issues and structural damage. Excess moisture also makes the cooling equipment work harder, resulting in higher energy bills. Also, gases from combustion appliances such as stoves, barbeques, and fireplaces can accumulate in the home and threaten your health and safety.

Types Of Ventilation

There are three types of home ventilation. They include:

Natural Ventilation

For a long time, natural ventilation was the most common method of allowing fresh air into the house and is still used in older homes. However, it is not the best ventilation strategy today, especially in air-sealed homes.

Natural ventilation is when uncontrolled air moves from the windows, cracks, and doors in the home. When most people hear of natural ventilation, the first thing that comes to their mind is opening windows. While this is true, it is more complicated than that. For it to work, three factors have to be in play. These include the building design, human behavior, and climate. The designer should ensure that there are openings such as windows, doors, wind towers, and solar chimneys to provide natural ventilation for the house. If the slots are done well and work as they should, the energy consumption will be reduced by up to 25%.

There are two types of natural ventilation:

Wind-Based Ventilation

This is also known as cross-ventilation or unilateral ventilation. Moving wind near the house will lead to different levels of pressure. The side with high pressure is known as the windward part of the house, while the one with less is the leeward part. In wind-based ventilation, fresh air usually enters through one side, gets into the house, and exits through the opposite side. However, this type of ventilation is not the best in areas with lots of dust and contamination.

Buoyancy-Driven Ventilation

Also known as the stack effect, this type of ventilation is complex and mimics a fireplace. Warm air goes up as it has a lower density and more buoyancy, and cool air remains down; thus, the warm air is forced to rise. This type of ventilation usually works in huge buildings with a massive height. Here, the heat produced rises to the ceiling hence creating air transfer in the building.

The warm air rises and exits through a natural ventilator. The cool air comes in through the wall openings at the floor level, hence replacing the warm air that has left the building.

Unlike wind-based ventilation, this buoyancy-driven procedure can also run on calm and cool days. It is, therefore, the best option to run all year round.

Advantages of Natural Ventilation

  • Lower Operating Costs: One of the main benefits of natural ventilation is massive energy savings. This is because you will not be using mechanical ventilation that requires electricity to work. Maintaining and operating HVAC systems will cost you a lot of money in the long run, which can be prevented using natural ventilation.
  • Better Humidity Control: One of the main reasons why natural ventilation gained popularity was its ability to control humidity. When the air is too humid, moisture will build-up, creating the perfect environment for mildew, mold, and fungus to grow. This could lead to a musty smell and structural damage in worse-case scenarios. Natural ventilation ensures that there is continuous airflow hence better humidity control. You will therefore save more money as you will not need to buy dehumidifiers.
  • It Leads To Better Health And Wellness: Without natural ventilation, pollutants, mold, and fungus will thrive and lead to respiratory illnesses. With natural ventilation, you will improve the air quality; hence you and your family will breathe in cleaner air.
  • It Is Eco-Friendly: With natural ventilation, you will reduce your carbon footprint as it is eco-friendly. It will also decrease your dependence on fossil fuels.

Disadvantages Of Natural Ventilation

As much as natural ventilation has numerous advantages, many people are reluctant to have one as it is highly variable and depends on your physical location. Here are some of the disadvantages.

  • It Depends On Natural Forces: With natural ventilation, you have to rely on natural forces; hence you cannot control airflow direction. Without negative pressure in the rooms, the airflow may end up contaminating other areas of your home. You can incorporate particulate filters; however, they will reduce the ventilation rate; hence you will have to decide if you can compromise.
  • It Relies On External Conditions: With natural ventilation, you cannot control the inside temperature of the home. For example, when it is too cold outside, the house will also be cold, and vice versa. This can be pretty uncomfortable.
  • It Is Expensive In Existing Homes: Natural ventilation can be pretty expensive for existing homes as you will need to add openings to walls, which is not cheap. Also, for some homes, natural ventilation will be hard to achieve. For example, for homes with only one orientation, the wind will not circulate as quickly as those with two or more orientations.

Spot Ventilation

This is the use of localized exhaust fans to exchange the air and is usually localized to a particular home area. They are used to remove pollutants and moisture immediately at the source. They include bath and range hoods over cookers fans. They remove impurities and odors, for example, when cooking and remove excess moisture in the bathroom.

According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), intermittent or continuous ventilation rates are recommended for bathrooms and kitchens instead of natural ventilation. These are 100 or 25 cubic feet per minute for bathrooms and 50 or 20 cubic feet per minute for bathrooms.

Whole-House Ventilation

This type of ventilation entails using one or more fans and duct systems to remove stale air and supply fresh air into the home. They provide controlled and uniform ventilation into the house. They are classified into four types:

Exhaust-Only Ventilation

They work by depressurizing the building. Since the inside air pressure is reduced below the outdoor air pressure, the indoor air is extracted, and the outside air enters through the leaks in the building shell and passive vents. These systems usually work better in cold climates. In warm and humid climates, depressurization draws the moist air into the building wall cavities; hence it may lead to moisture damage.


  • They are simple to install and inexpensive. They usually require one fan and exhaust point.
  • The negative house pressure lowers the risk of condensation.
  • You can combine with spot ventilation, such as a bathroom fan.


  • Pollutants such as radon, dust, and flue gases may enter the home.
  • The source of the incoming air is not controlled.
  • These systems cannot dry the air before entering the house; hence, they will increase the heating and cooling costs, thus not being energy efficient.
  • Air is distributed unevenly in the house with a single-point system.

Supply-Only Ventilation

Supply-only ventilation systems do the opposite of exhaust-only systems as they work by pressurizing the building. Here, a fan forces the outside air into the building while the air gets out of the building through the intentional vents, range-fan ducts, and shell holes. These systems work in both hot and mixed climates. However, they are not recommended in cold temperatures as the pressure may cause moisture problems, promoting decay, mold, and mildew.


  • They are simple and inexpensive to install as you can use existing duct systems.
  • The distributed air can be filtered to remove pollen and dust.
  • There is better distribution of fresh air.
  • They can provide fresh air for numerous rooms in the home.
  • The positive pressure keeps the outdoor air pollutants out and prevents the back-drafting of combustion gases from the fireplace.


  • Like exhaust-only ventilation systems, supply ventilation systems do not remove moisture from the air before entering the house. This then leads to higher heating and cooling costs.
  • Using air-handler fans can increase electricity usage.
  • They are not great for cold climates.

Balanced Ventilation

A balanced home ventilation system combines the exhaust and supply processes. The best thing about it is that it takes the best of the exhaust-only and supply-only systems to create a better process.

Balanced ventilation systems, when properly designed, do not pressurize or depressurize the house. Instead, they add and remove equal amounts of outside and inside air, keeping the house at an equilibrium state. They usually have two duct systems and two fans to facilitate the distribution of fresh air.

They also do not remove moisture from the air before entering the house, like their other counterparts. However, you can use filters to remove the dust and pollen from the air before entering the house.


  • They can be used in all climate zones.
  • The house pressure is approximately equal to the outside pressure.
  • Outdoor air is filtered, hence keeping pollutants out.


  • They can be pretty expensive as they require two fans and two duct systems.
  • Since they do not remove moisture from outside air, they will lead to higher cooling and heating costs.

Energy Recovery Ventilation

If you want a ventilation system that minimizes energy loss while controlling ventilation in the home, this is the solution. Energy recovery ventilation systems reduce heating costs in winter by transferring heat from the inside air to the cold outside air. During the summer, the inside air, which is colder, cools the warmer outside air to reduce costs drastically.


  • They minimize energy loss, hence reduce energy costs.
  • They are most effective in extreme summers and winters and where the fuel costs are high.


  • They are more expensive to install than the other systems.
  • They are not common; therefore, some HVAC contractors may not have the technical expertise and experience needed to install them.
  • They require more maintenance than the other systems. They need regular cleaning to prevent mold buildup and deterioration of ventilation rates.

Benefits Of Good Ventilation

Good ventilation helps mitigate health risks and protect the home. Below are some of the benefits;

It Stops Condensation

Condensation occurs when the humid air is cooled very quickly and cannot hold any moisture in the form of water vapor. The moisture then migrates to the coldest surface and condenses, forming water droplets. This, if not controlled, can lead to mold and mildews formation, peeling wallpaper, and structural damage. Damp conditions can also lead to respiratory problems and allergic reactions.

When you have adequate ventilation in the home, you will transform a stale atmosphere into a fresh environment by regulating the temperature and moisture levels.

It Controls Impurities

Most people think that the outside is more polluted than inside their homes. However, this might not be the case, as there are many pollutants present in your house. Therefore, installing an effective ventilation system will remove all bacteria, moisture, odor, and contaminants from the home.

It Helps Alleviate Symptoms Of Hay Fever

Hay fever is very prominent in the summer, affecting many people. A remedy to this is to have an adequate ventilation system to filter out pollutants from the property. With filtered fresh air, many people suffering from hay fever have reported improvements in their symptoms.

It Lessens The Impact Of VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are invisible gases that are toxic in high concentrations and can lead to serious health issues. They originate from numerous sources such as air fresheners, permanent markers, and even cosmetics. Having an effective ventilation system will help protect you and your family from VOCs by introducing clean and fresh air to dilute and control them.

It Regulates Air Quality

Regulating the air quality that enters your house is impossible without an adequate ventilation system. By using a ventilation system, you will control the quality and temperature of the air you breathe.

It Helps Protect Respiratory Health

Damp and moldy homes can cause respiratory conditions such as asthma. They can also harbor dust mites and encourage them to multiply. When the mites contact the skin, they cause eczema, breathing problems, and even itching. Therefore, to prevent that, you need adequate ventilation in your home.

It Lowers Concentrations Of Radon Gas

Radon gas is an odorless, colorless, and radioactive gas formed by the natural decay of soil and uranium in rocks. When this decay occurs, a radioactive element known as Radon’s Daughters is emitted, which attaches itself to dust particles in the air and sticks to the lung’s airways. It has been linked to lung cancer by the World Health Organization, attributing to 3-14% of all cancer cases. If there is no adequate ventilation, radon gas may get trapped, especially in houses near mines and water facilities. This will then increase the concentrations of the Radon gas, which will be unhealthy for you.

How To Improve Ventilation In Your Home

With the above benefits, it is clear that good ventilation is paramount to excellent respiratory health. However, how do you improve your home’s ventilation? We have listed some tips to follow.

Open The Doors And Windows

It may sound very simple, but it is crucial. Many people overlook the importance of doors and windows to let in the fresh air and take away the stale air. Doing so for a few minutes during the day will play a massive role in ensuring that your house is well ventilated. It will help remove the excess moisture, bring in clean air and remove allergens and pollutants.

Ventilate Rooms Overnight

In summer, we recommend leaving your windows slightly open overnight to increase the air quality and prevent mold growth. It will also decrease humidity hence giving you better sleep.

Filter The Air In Your Home

If you already have an HVAC system with a filter, use it to trap virus particles. Ensure that the filter fits appropriately into the unit and change them every three months or according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, ensure that yearly inspections are done by a professional to ensure that it is working efficiently.

Dry Your Clothes Outside

No matter how tempted you are to do laundry and dry it inside the home, it is not recommended. Drying wet clothes inside the house will produce condensation and prevent your heating system from working efficiently. In winter, it will accelerate condensation and mold growth.

Therefore, it is recommended to dry your clothes outside. However, if drying them inside is the only option you have, ensure that the windows are open to allow the excessive moisture is expelled.

Install Extractor Fans

Extractor fans vent out into the open air. They are great for the bathroom. Therefore, when you notice condensation and foul odors, we recommend running the fan to ventilate the home. Let it run for around half an hour after a steamy shower. However, ensure that you clean it as it can get dirty and clogged with time. Clean it twice a year with a degreasing solution and warm water to keep your bathroom smelling fresh.

Consider A Home Ventilation System

One of the best decisions you will make for your home is installing a ventilation system. A well-installed and designed home ventilation system will ensure that you get fresh and clean air in all climates. It is an excellent alternative to opening windows and doors, which can lead to security risks.

Home Ventilation Systems: Our Top Picks.

There are a lot of options to choose from when selecting the best home ventilation system. Below is a list of our top picks and why we love them.

Tamarack Technologies HV1000 R38 Ductless Whole House Fan

Are you looking for an energy-efficient fan that can circulate up to 1000 CFM of air per unit and is not that expensive? If this is you, this HV1000 R38 ductless whole house fan is the answer to your problems. This fan is an alternative to expensive AC systems and has incredible features.

Why we love it

  • It has R38 insulated self-sealing doors that close when you are not using it and open automatically when the fan is in operation.
  • It uses 10% of the energy that a central AC uses hence cooling the home effectively. It saves up to 80% on your energy costs on heating and cooling.
  • It can be easily installed. It can be installed vertically or horizontally on 16 or 24 inches on center joists.
  • The 1000 CFM fan circulates air and ensures the home is cool when the outdoor air is cooler than the indoor air.
  • It is maintenance-free.
  • Its incredible fan is excellent for houses that are under 1600 square feet.


  • The barricade doors may take less than a minute to open and the fan to start.

Panasonic WhisperComfort ERV FV-04VE1

This stand-alone system provides efficient, balanced ventilation. It is a perfect solution for both single-family and multifamily units. One of the reasons we love it is that it is easy to install, affordable, and energy-efficient.

Why we love it

  • It has a low rate of ventilation that is great for large families.
  • The ERV balances the air pressure by supplying fresh outside air and exhaling the warm interior air.
  • It has a MERV 6 supply filter.
  • It is Energy Star certified and complies with the ASHRAE 62.3 AND Washington VIAQ codes and standards.
  • It is designed for four ducts, hence relatively easy to install.
  • It has a capillary core that keeps the humidity constant and cleans the air. Its patented body is made from a paper-like material that allows heat, energy, and moisture to transfer from one airstream to another.
  • It has AC condenser motors that are energy-efficient, hence low power consumption.
  • It is listed for ceiling or wall mounts, hence great for multifamilies.
  • Panasonic ventilation fans use less energy to move massive volumes of air, and this WhisperComfort ERV FV-04VE1 is no different. It also comes with a 3-year limited warranty.


  • Experienced professionals should do the installation work.

Delta BreezSkim SLM5050 CFM Exhaust Bath Fan

If you need an efficient bathroom fan that will serve you for a long time, this is the best option. It is the perfect solution for people looking for a compact size, quiet, and energy-efficient bathroom fan. It has 50CFM, is Energy Star rated, and has a compact size of 7.2″*7.25″ *3.84″.

Why we love it

  • Its retrofit, sleek design will be a great addition to the home.
  • It weighs less than 5 pounds; hence it can be easily refitted elsewhere.
  • It has 40dB noise levels; hence it is tranquil, and you will hardly hear it.
  • It has a 70,000-hour or 8-year DC motor fan lifespan; thus, you will rarely need to replace it after years of service.
  • It also has an LED indicator light to show you when it is running.
  • It is highly efficient, with energy savings of up to 85%.


  • It requires professional installation, as you cannot do it yourself.
  • It has a galvanized steel body that may not match the décor of the room.


Question: Can I Leave My Whole House Fan On All Night?

Answer: Yes, you can. We recommend running your whole house fan throughout the night to cool the air and the house down. This is because it takes a lot of time to remove the heat out of the structure and contents of the house. Once you do so, the house starts its new day already cooled. It will also eliminate or delay the need for air conditioning. You can let it run at a low speed to ensure that it does not disturb your sleep.

Question: How Do I Tell If My Indoor Air Quality Is Bad?

Answer: Bad air quality can lead to serious respiratory problems due to the high concentration of contaminants and particles. So, how do you tell if you have poor air quality? Below are some of the signs to look out for:

Allergic Reactions

If the hay fever season has already ended and you still have allergic reactions, it might not be the weather but your air quality.

Coughing Or Difficulty Breathing

Breathing in dirty air could lead to respiratory problems. If things worsen, you may end up having infections in the lungs. Therefore, if you are coughing and have difficulty breathing, this could be due to poor air quality.


If you have constant headaches with no explanation, there might be something in the air you breathe. Contaminants in pesticides and cleaning products could cause it. Also, fumes and carbon monoxide can lead to dizziness and nausea and cause severe problems if not attended to.

Bad Odor

If you have an unpleasant odor in the home, this could be a sign of poor air quality. Stagnant air could also result in a foul odor. Also, if you notice that regular smells last longer than they should, there might be an issue with your ventilation. This is because most scents will not last more than a few seconds as ventilation systems will expel them.

Dust Buildup

If your air filters have dust on them, they are not doing their work efficiently. One way to solve this is to do regular cleaning to keep your home free of dust and debris.

Question: Can You Sleep In A Room With No Ventilation?

Answer: Sleeping in a room with no ventilation can lead to bad air quality, humidity imbalance, and several health issues. You will experience a deterioration in your sleep quality, hence getting insomnia or even sleep apnea. It may also interfere with your mental focus and performance during the day. Therefore, ensure that you sleep in a sufficiently ventilated room that has a regular flow of air.

Ventilation System Explained: Final Words

Having a home ventilation system is paramount to maintaining a healthy atmosphere. It will help keep you and your family safe and comfortable. As seen above, there are numerous ventilation systems in the market, each with its pros and cons. Based on your needs, you should be able to get on that will help keep harmful gases, dust, and humidity under control. It will also save you on electricity bills in the long run.

Wondering which air filters you should buy? Here’s our list of air filters we recommend based on size and MERV:

based on MERV:

or based on size:

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