Mechanical or Forced Ventilation vs. Natural Ventilation

Just about everyone can agree that effective ventilation is essential to maintaining a healthy indoor living environment. But exactly what does this entail? There are quite a few ways to circulate air throughout your home, and each method is appropriate for a specific situation.

Benefits of Natural Ventilation

Natural ventilation, of course, can be achieved simply by opening a window. But there’s actually a lot more to it than that. If you really want to ventilate your home through natural means, then you’ll have to learn to take advantage of the differences in pressure in different areas of your home.

One way to do this is to use cross ventilation. This means opening windows or doors on both sides of your home and allowing the outdoor air to blow through, carrying stale, indoor air out the other side. A more sophisticated version of this is stack ventilation.

In a two-story home, stack ventilation can be achieved by opening the windows on the bottom floor on one side of the house and on the top floor on the opposite side. Because of the differences in outdoor air pressure, air will be sucked in through the lower floor windows and out through the upper ones.

Why Natural Ventilation Is Not Always Practical

These types of natural ventilation can be extremely effective when it comes to both cooling an indoor environment and removing indoor air contaminants. Unfortunately, allowing outdoor air inside unimpeded allows outdoor contaminants easily as well.

On particularly hot or humid days, natural ventilation can’t reduce the indoor temperature enough to make it comfortable indoors. While a light breeze is enough to take the edge off on a moderate spring or summer day, more is needed when the weather is extreme.

Types of Mechanical Ventilation

When you think of mechanical ventilation, you probably jump right to large central air conditioning systems. But that’s certainly not the only type of effective mechanical ventilation available. In fact, mechanical ventilation can be performed by just about any type of fan on the market, and while operating a fan is certainly more expensive than opening a window, it’s still much more affordable than running an air conditioner all day long. Fans can also be used in combination with natural ventilation to achieve better results than either system could on its own.

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