Inside and out, if you could observe everything that was floating in the air, you would like be less eager to breathe.
Fortunately our noses and lungs are adept at filtering out pollutants.
If only our homes had similar systems.
Unfortunately, many homes have only the most rudimentary systems for processing air. This means that often in the environment we consider most secure, we are being exposed to more pollutants than we would like.
Here are the elements of a quality whole home ventilation system.
- Ventilation and moving air in all parts of the house.
You might not think of it this way, but you want your house to breathe. Contrary to our vision of the house as an airtight bubble sealed off against the rest of the world, it should instead work as a filter improving the air that we breathe while inside.
Part of the important work of keeping air quality high is keeping the air moving. This includes all of the following:
- passive or active venting in the attic,
- a heating and air-conditioning system that moves air through all of the inhabited rooms,
- passive or active venting in the furnace and/or water heater rooms, especially if either of those systems use natural gas,
- active venting in rooms or spaces that are below ground or father other high-humidity conditions.
Filtration happens in several ways.
First in a most basic way, screen doors and windows serve as a sort of filter against certain kinds of pollutants. We mostly think about the mosquitoes and pass it keeps out, but large pollens and other potential breathing hazards are likewise capped out by screens.
Second your HVAC system likely has one or more filters that air passes through before being recirculated through the ductwork. These filters come in different degrees of filtration ability. The most basic ones are made of coarse fiberglass. Finer fiberglass and fiberglass with a sticky coating are more protective. Some higher quality filters are HEPA rated based on their ability to filter out specific allergens, and recommended for those with breathing conditions and severe allergies.
- Humidity Control
The relative humidity of the air dramatically impacts how hot or cold it feels. This is because dry air allows our skin to efficiently evaporate, causing us to feel cooler. This is why your friends in Arizona tell you it doesn’t feel like 110° because “it is a dry heat.” However, in the winter, dry air contributes to itchy skin and static electricity.
An Active and fully functioning HVAC system will work to keep relative humidity in a comfortable range.
That means that in the summer a lot of the work your air conditioner is doing is not cooling the air but instead removing moisture from the air.
In the winter, your HVAC system should be adding moisture to the air not to the point of putting water on the walls, but just enough to help keep you comfortable and warm.