The air in your home feels stuffy, but it's freezing outside. Your common sense tells you the stale air likely isn't the best for your health, but you're worried about your energy bill going up if you try to let some of that chilly, winter air inside. Should you ventilate your home in winter? We've compiled some information for you.
Air ventilation in the winter is crucial, especially when we tend to seal ourselves indoors away from the cold weather. There are some essential reasons why you should ventilate your home in winter:
- Forced air furnaces stir up pollutants.
- Most homes are not built to let in fresh air other than through windows and doors.
- Poorly aerated areas invite mold and mildew to grow.
We've mentioned the most important reasons to ventilate your home in the winter. Read on to find out why these issues are so important to your health and well-being, as well as to learn some energy-saving tips!
Forced Air Furnaces Stir Up Pollutants
Your traditional HVAC system forcing warm air throughout your home will naturally stir up dust and other allergens, such as pet hair or dander if you live with any fuzzy friends. Allowing this kind of material to stagnate and be breathed without ventilation can make you ill. Dust mites are the most common air allergen, and most people are affected by an abundance of dust.
A way of fighting these pollutants is by eliminating them without using harsh chemicals, which could further damage your home's air quality. Frequent vacuuming, as well as ventilating your home, will improve your air quality immensely. If you have pets, keep them well-groomed and ensure their bedding and favorite areas are tidied frequently to cut down on airborne allergens.
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Most Homes Are Not Built To Let In Fresh Air Other Than Through Windows and Doors
Many modern homes have venting systems to remove air from your home, but not many are designed with the idea of letting fresh air inside. Think about the vent in the bathroom or above your oven. These vents are only designed with the function of removing air. True, they might move the air a bit, but fresh airflow is necessary to maintain health and breathability. Windows and doors are, at times, the only viable option to allow fresh air into your home.
In fact, outside air reduces the concentration of air contaminants, even viruses, in your indoor air. The EPA strongly recommends that you allow fresh air to circulate throughout your home, especially in the midst of a pandemic.
Poorly Aerated Areas Invite Mold and Mildew to Grow
Mold can grow in any area where moisture is present. When you shut your house off to the outside world in the winter, you give mold and mildew a chance to flourish. Mold can grow pretty much anywhere, so no surface in your home is safe from it.
Mold spores release into the air and can be irritating to a person's respiratory system. Mold has the potential to make you very sick, so avoid this buildup of mold and mildew by keeping your home clean and ventilated. Use natural products as much as possible in the winter months to avoid chemical buildup and ventilate as often as you can.
What Are the Consequences of Poor Ventilation?
Some people will have immediate reactions to poor indoor air quality. Sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing, dizziness, or fatigue. In others, these types of effects might be noticeable after extended exposure. These reactions go from mild to severe and are exacerbated in people with respiratory illnesses, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The EPA advises long term exposure to unsafe indoor air quality can bring on respiratory illnesses. Gone untreated long enough, heart disease or cancer could be developed and can be fatal. It's also noted that high temperature and humidity can increase indoor air pollutants, which is another reason it is so important to ventilate in the winter as more indoor air temperatures are kept high to fight the cold outside.
How Do You Ventilate Without Losing Heat?
The methods for ventilating without losing heat vary. It isn't a viable option to throw open your windows and doors in extremely cold climates without it severely impacting your energy costs.
If you live in an area with extremely cold, long winters, you might want to consider an energy recovery (ERV) or heat recovery ventilator (HRV). This is an option that can be pricey at installation but is the most energy-efficient when it comes to mechanical solutions in your home. Energy or heat recovery ventilators use a heat exchanger to heat the air coming into your home, so the air is fresh and warm. Instead of installing an ERV or HRV in your HVAC system, there are smaller window units available that can provide fresh air on a much smaller scale. Consult a local HVAC professional to determine the best way to ventilate your home for your particular climate.
A balanced ventilation system is also an option, working to draw air in and out of your home; however, this type of ventilation system does nothing to warm your home and could be less than energy efficient. This option would be ideal in an area with mild winters.
In-home air purifiers should be considered, although most air purifiers are better at eliminating air pollutants than reducing moisture concentration in the air.
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How Do You Ventilate a House Naturally?
If buying potentially expensive gadgets isn't in the budget, consider the most basic advice possible: opening your windows. If your winters are frigid, to avoid excessive energy bills, try cracking a window a small amount in each room for a brief, but frequent, period. For example, open the window about an inch or two for half an hour each day. Even a crack this small does a good job at sucking out air pollutants and allowing fresh air to enter your home.
Additionally, ensure you have ceiling fans installed in each room, preferably with a winter and summer setting. Running a ceiling fan set on the "winter" mode circulates the air without directing the cool air downward toward the people in the room.
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Can I Ventilate a Windowless Room?
So how would you ventilate a room with no windows? Ventilating a windowless room can be difficult but isn't impossible.
If the room has a ceiling fan, leave this on as much as possible to keep the air from getting stale. If there are rooms nearby with windows, open them and leave the door to the windowless room open so it can get some fresh air. A simple standing or box fan can help the air circulate. Also, consider an air purifier that filters out the pollutants in the air.
Ventilating your home in the winder is imperative to healthy air quality. Air allowed to stagnate can aggravate allergies, respiratory conditions, and foster mold and mildew growth. Even if you can only ventilate using windows, stay vigilant in the quest for air quality. Your family's health could depend on it.