A Breath of Fresh Air: Ventilation Matters

Breath of Fresh Air When creating an energy-efficient, airtight home through air sealing techniques , it’s very important to consider ventilation. Unless properly ventilated, an airtight home can seal in indoor air pollutants. Ventilation also helps control moisture —another important consideration for a healthy, energy-efficient home.

Purpose of Ventilation

Your home needs ventilation—the exchange of indoor air with outdoor air—to reduce indoor pollutants, moisture, and odors. Contaminants such as formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, and radon can accumulate in poorly ventilated homes, causing health problems. Excess moisture in a home can generate high humidity levels. High humidity levels can lead to mold growth and structural damage to your home.

To ensure adequate ventilation, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) says that a home’s living area should be ventilated at a rate of 0.35 air changes per hour or 15 cubic feet per person per minute, whichever is greater.

There are three basic ventilation strategies:

1. Natural ventilation occurs when there is uncontrolled air movement or infiltration through cracks and small holes in a home—the same ones you want to seal to make your home more energy efficient. Opening windows and doors also provides natural ventilation. Because of central heating and cooling systems, however, most people don’t open windows and doors as often. Therefore, air infiltration has become the principal mode of natural ventilation in homes.

A home’s natural ventilation rate is unpredictable and uncontrollable—you can’t rely on it to ventilate a house uniformly. Natural ventilation depends on a home’s airtightness, outdoor temperatures, wind, and other factors. Therefore, during mild weather, some homes may lack sufficient natural ventilation for pollutant removal. Tightly sealed and/or built homes may have insufficient natural ventilation most of the time, while homes with high air infiltration rates may experience high energy costs.

2. Spot ventilation can be used to improve the effectiveness of natural ventilation. However, if both spot and natural ventilation together don’t meet your home’s ventilation needs, then you should consider a whole-house ventilation strategy. Spot ventilation improves the effectiveness of other ventilation strategies—natural and whole-house —by removing indoor air pollutants and/or moisture at their source.

Spot ventilation includes the use of localized exhaust fans, such as those used above kitchen ranges and in bathrooms. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends intermittent or continuous ventilation rates for bathrooms and kitchens instead of using windows (natural ventilation): 50 or 20 cubic feet per minute for bathrooms, and 100 or 25 cubic feet per minute for kitchens, respectively.

3. The decision to use Whole-House Ventilation is typically motivated by concerns that natural
won’t provide adequate air quality, even with source control by spot ventilation .

Whole-house ventilation systems provide controlled, uniform ventilation throughout a house. These systems use one or more fans and duct systems to exhaust stale air and/or supply fresh air to the house. There are four types of systems:

Exhaust ventilation systems : Force inside air out of a home.

Supply ventilation systems : Force outside air into the home.

Balanced ventilation systems : Force equal amounts quantities of air into and out of the home.

Energy recovery ventilation (ERV) systems : Transfer heat and cool from
incoming or outgoing air to minimize energy loss.

Moisture Control Matters

Properly controlling moisture in your home will improve the effectiveness of your air sealing and insulation efforts, and vice versa. Thus, moisture control contributes to a home’s overall energy efficiency.

The best strategy for controlling moisture in your home depends on your climate and how your home is constructed. Before deciding on a moisture control strategy for your home, you may first want to understand how moisture moves through a home .

Moisture control strategies typically include the following areas of a home:

In most U.S. climates, you can use vapor diffusion retarders in these areas of your home to control moisture.

Source: US Dept. of Energy Consumer’s Guide to Energy Efficiency

If this information doesn’t scare you into hiring an experienced professional, nothing will. Click here to find a professional in your area who can assist you in building a tight, energy efficient, and properly ventilated home.


Bamboo – Self Renewing Beauty You’ll Enjoy Year After Year!

bamboo flooring Mention bamboo and most people think lucky plants and tiki torches, certainly not hardwood floors. But as environmentally conscious homeowners search for green alternatives, bamboo has become a popular flooring choice. Hold a bamboo plank and its weight and density are similar to hardwood, Yet bamboo actually is a fast-growing grass that sprouts to maturity in five to seven years. Once harvested, the plant sends up another shoot in the same spot, making it one of the most eco-friendly products on earth.

“All wood for floors is considered renewable,” said Anita Howard of the National Wood Flooring Association. “But bamboo is designated as ‘rapid renewable’ and gets higher points with LEED and other environmental groups.” And it looks good, too. Unlike traditional oaks and maple, bamboo has an exotic, tropical appearance.

Bamboo flooring comes in two basic styles, depending on the manufacturing process.
Horizontal consists of strips of solid bamboo layered on top of each other to expose the natural bamboo growth rings. Vertical is created by placing the bamboo strips on their sides and laminating them together for a linear look with more subtle markings. Some manufacturers also offer strand woven bamboo products, made by taking strips and strands and weaving them together. The product is compressed under intense pressure and heat, making it one of the hardest and most stable flooring options available.

“It’s also the most green of all products because nothing is wasted in the process,” Joe Pleune, of Green Choice Flooring International, said. Natural bamboo is a creamy blonde color. Carbonized bamboo is a smoky, caramel hue, the result of longer boiling during the manufacturing process. Bamboo also can be stained or marbled for different effects, even hand scraped to give it a distressed appearance. The cost of a bamboo floor is similar to hardwood but can vary, considerably, depending on the manufacturer.

It is important for consumers to find a reputable supplier, she said. “We discourage people from buying over the internet because they really need to look at what they are buying,” Howard said. “It’s best to go with a local business you can trust in case of any problems. Green Choice Flooring uses bamboo that comes directly from managed forests in China. Harvesting the bamboo isn’t a threat to endangered panda bears because they live at higher elevations and eat a different species of bamboo,” Pleune says. Pre-finished bamboo floors can have up to 10 layers of clear finish with scratch-resistant top coat. It’s installed in the same fashion as tongue-and-groove solid hardwood and modern laminate flooring. “Bamboo definitely has become more popular in the past few years,” Howard said. “And I think the trend will continue as long as the green movement has legs.


Will Using a Central Vacuum System Help You Breathe Easier?

I would never have believed I could be passionate about a vacuum cleaner- but now wonder why anyone wouldn’t install a Central Vacuum System when they are building a new home?

After pondering on this for some time, I have come up with 3 possible reasons.
#1) They had experience with or heard by word of mouth about the lack of suction in the original models.
#2) They don’t like cleaning out the dust filled canisters.
#3) You can’t take it with you.

I can’t imagine life without my Central Vac.  Oh sure, I do remember, distantly, those memories of lugging around the old Electrolux canister vacuum.  I even recall thinking that it worked pretty well.  But all that changed when a wonderful woman named Julia entered my life.

I was working at the time on a 100 home project in Toronto, Canada when I met her.  We were just at the pricing stage of the next phase of new homes, so her timing couldn’t have been better.  She sold me on the concept of the Central Vacuum System, and since we were building homes in the middle to upper price range, I thought it might be a good idea to at least rough it in to all the houses.   I have never looked back.

But even as I write this, we have just moved into a new (old) home without a Central Vac.  For the last 4 months I have been living life with the ‘8 lb. miracle’, and the dust bag has still not filled up. Now some people might think that is a good thing, but I am wondering where has all the dirt gone?  I know how much my Central Vac used to pick up, and now we are in an older, and even dustier home. Unfortunately, I think I know the answer.  While the beater brush is doing a wonderful job making the carpets look freshly vacuumed, the colour of the carpet is actually changing in the high traffic areas.

As wonderful as the incredible suction power of the Central Vacuum is, what adds even more value to me is all the vacuuming options I have.  Like the little stair beater brush attachment, and the sofa ‘duster’.  My husband loved being able to vacuum out his car in the garage by just hooking up the extra hose into the garage valve. And with the unit being installed in the garage, I can actually hear the phone ring while I am vacuuming.  I love the narrow tool attachment that allows me to dust under the fridge and around the laundry appliances.  And the brush tool for ‘dusting’ the window sills and baseboards is a real time saver.  (Well, maybe not.  It doesn’t get done very often now.)  And a personal favourite is the super-long-extension-spider-destructo-wand attachment.

We don’t suffer from airborne allergies in our family, but I have heard from users who love Central Vac’s for just that reason.  Since many homeowners install the unit in the garage, no dust particles whatsoever are returned to the air inside the house improving the indoor air quality.  While I don’t mind vacuuming, I do dislike dusting.

The Central Vacuum units of today are available with a bag option for clean, easy removal of the dust.  And while we are at it, let’s debunk another myth:  you CAN take it with you when you go!  There is one warning however about using your Central Vacuum.  When you experience such incredible suction power, it becomes easy to believe you can get rid of almost anything up that hose.  But do not vacuum up the needles from your Christmas tree.  They can get tangled up in the corners of the piping and when the dust and fiber particles build up and compact over them you will develop a blockage.  You will probably need a professional to come and clean this out.  Can you tell I am speaking from experience here?

When you consider the rising demand for Central Vacuum, how much will it cost you when you go to sell your home, and your buyer is hoping for a Central Vac? If you are not sold yet on the benefits of a Central Vacuum System, you can always have your home roughed-in with the pipes and cover plates.  The unit can easily be installed in the future.  So what’s to say no to?  Invest in a Central Vacuum System, you’ll be glad you did.