Tight Homes/Good Ventilation
I am huge advocate of building tight homes. Air leaks, to me, represent poor workmanship that wastes a huge amount of energy. But, just for a minute, I want to be the devil’s advocate, primarily because I hear this argument all the time. Tight homes need good, dependable ventilation systems or the occupants will suffer and the durability of the building will suffer……whole house ventilation systems, exhaust fans in bathrooms, hoods, sealed combustion gas appliances, etc. My concern for these energy efficient buildings is that occupants must be knowledgeable and conscientious enough to use all the ventilation methods, and they must maintain these systems.
Bathroom exhaust fans must be used and cleaned periodically to maintain optimum air flow. And we want very quiet fans that won’t disturb people….which is good, except when it malfunctions and needs to be fixed or replaced. Of course, fogged up windows and mirrors will give occupants good indications, but then they must respond. I’m just saying this because I have a hard time getting my life’s partner to even turn on the fan. I think occupancy sensors with quiet fans are the answer as long as they stay on for 20-30 minutes after occupants leave. Yes, I see gunk matted up in the fan shield, but it takes me forever to go get a ladder and clean the damn thing.
And what about whole house ventilation systems. They are quiet and supposedly work for a long time. But what about 5, 10, 20, 30+ years from now, after the house has been sold 5 times. Homeowners, from my experience, are not very knowledgeable, nor are they very conscientious, especially about quiet systems like ventilation systems. You know it when the heating or cooling system is not performing….not many people, even myself, would know it if air flow is decreased over time in the quiet ventilation system. What happens? People start feeling uncomfortable, sick….mold starts to grow…will they even think to suspect the ventilation system? How do we require or expect homeowners to have good HVAC inspections/maintenance every year…when we are only now beginning to train them to know anything about ventilation systems? Obviously good homeowner education is the key, but there will be many cases of neglect and sometimes very unpleasant consequences.