8 Signs Your Home Needs Better Ventilation and What You Can Do

Installing high-functioning and highly efficient heating and cooling equipment in your Harrisburg, PA home is only one part of optimizing your HVAC system. When it comes to maintaining good indoor air quality (IAQ), many homeowners forget the V in HVAC. Ventilation plays a vital role in managing airborne contaminants such as volatile organic compounds, allergens, and pollutants created by everyday activities like cooking via air exchange.

Good ventilation moves stale, stagnant air outside and brings fresh, outside air in. The following are eight signs that your home’s ventilation may be lacking, along with a few solutions.

1. Household Member Suffer From Symptoms of Poor IAQ

Poor indoor air quality is an indicator of poor ventilation. After all, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be up to five times more contaminated than outdoor air. Among some of the most common IAQ-related symptoms resulting from poor ventilation are:

  • Perpetually red, itchy, and watery eyes
  • Sniffling, sneezing, and congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Recurring headaches
  • Nasal and sinus irritation
  • Poor Sleep

Although poor ventilation might not be the only culprit responsible for your family member’s discomfort, it could be a significant contributing factor.

2. Your Windows and Walls Are Covered in Condensation

Modern heating and cooling systems have a three-pronged job: temperature control, air filtration, and humidity regulation. For instance, your central air conditioning system extracts excess moisture from your house while cooling it. Additionally, its air filter captures airborne particulates that would otherwise recirculate through your living spaces.

However, your home may have unusually high humidity that your current HVAC system can’t adequately handle. A large family that engages in lots of moisture-producing activities, such as showering, cooking, and doing laundry, can contribute to this issue. Or your moisture woes may be caused by environmental factors.

Often, homeowners install whole-house dehumidification systems to address moisture-related problems like warped wooden floors and widespread mold. However, in some cases, condensation-covered windows and drywall are an indication of insufficient air exchange. Adding additional mechanical ventilation to your house could solve the problem without the need for supplementary, humidity-regulating equipment.

Good ventilation may also be necessary to protect your heating and cooling systems. Too much indoor humidity stresses furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioners. Excess air moisture can cause recurring functional problems and lead to premature equipment failure.

3. You Have Problems With Backdrafting

Among the easiest ways to ventilate your home is by opening your windows and doors. As fresh air flows in and excess moisture and contaminants flow out, your indoor air quality will noticeably improve. However, this tactic also leads to significant amounts of energy waste and HVAC system stress when heaters and air conditioners are running. Experts advise homeowners to keep their homes sealed shut whenever their HVAC equipment is on to increase the efficiency of their heating and cooling systems and reduce energy costs.

Tightening your home’s envelope by adding weatherstripping, caulking holes, and adding more insulation can further reduce energy waste. Unfortunately, the tighter your home’s envelope becomes, the less ventilation it has and the more natural air exchange declines.

In some homes, overly tight envelopes create a risk of back-drafting. Back-drafting occurs when outdoor air inflow doesn’t match the indoor air’s outflow. This scenario creates negative air pressure that draws harmful exhaust gases from fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces and water heaters, back into the building and into your general living space. Back-drafting can also be problematic for homeowners who burn wood in their fireplaces during winter.

Back-drafting of any magnitude indicates an urgent need for improved ventilation. If back-drafting becomes an issue in your house, you should schedule an assessment by a HVAC professional. They will work with you to improve your home’s ventilation strategy to solve the problem.

4. Dusty Indoor Surfaces

Another sign that you may have a ventilation issue is if you have to clean your home more often than seems reasonable. If you’re constantly sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and dusting to no avail, it may be that your home needs more air exchange. Excess dust in your home indicates that your house has definite indoor air quality concerns, and poor ventilation may be an underlying factor.

5. Unwanted Drafts

Backdrafts aren’t the only unwanted drafts that homes can experience during periods of negative air pressure. When a tightly sealed home develops negative air pressure, air is drawn into the building through every possible point of ingress until the problem is resolved. Sometimes, a draft will pull air from crawlspaces, dusty basements, attics, or attached garages. Drafts contribute to the buildup of dust and debris in your home.

6. Stubborn, Unpleasant Odors

As outdoor air replaces stagnant indoor air during air exchange in a home with good ventilation, indoor odors are removed. It’s normal for homes to have unpleasant smells from time to time. However, odors from cooking or bathroom use should not stick around forever. If your cooking and bathroom odors linger for too long, you either need more ventilation or better maintenance for the ventilation you currently have.

Both bathroom exhaust fans and range hood vents are basic forms of mechanical ventilation. You should clean your bathroom exhaust fans every six to 12 months. You should remove the screen from your range hood vent and clean it every 30 days. If either of these features is riddled with built-up grime or other debris, it won’t route out stale indoor air effectively. If cleaning does not solve the issue, there may be a problem with your mechanical vents. They may not operate well due to age, or they could lack the capacity to deal with odors effectively. In this case, you may have to update them with the help of a professional.

7. Recurring Mold and Mildew Problems

Mold and mildew are signs of too much humidity. Even if you don’t have condensation rolling down your windows or softening your drywall, you might need better airflow if your indoor mold problems are unresponsive to even the most aggressive mold treatments. The most effective mold mitigation strategies start by addressing the environmental conditions that contribute to mold and mildew development. Sometimes, adding more ventilation is the only way to beat these problems and keep them gone for good.

8. Stuffy, Heavy, or Oppressive-Feeling Air

Poor ventilation makes homes less habitable by lowering IAQ, allowing mold and other pathogens to proliferate, and creating the potential for dangerous backdrafts. However, poor ventilation also makes homes less enjoyable to be in. If your indoor air feels stuffy, heavy, or oppressive, insufficient air exchange could be why. On moderate days, you can temporarily solve the problem by turning your HVAC system off and opening your windows and doors. However, upgrading your home’s ventilation will give you a permanent solution.

Ventilation Experts in Harrisburg

Residents of Harrisburg, PA, and the surrounding communities can count on us for expert plumbing, heating, and cooling solutions. We offer cutting-edge IAQ improvements, air duct cleaning, drain cleaning, and more. To schedule an IAQ assessment or upgrade your home’s ventilation, call Ready & Able Plumbing, Heating & Air now to schedule an appointment.

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