WINTER SURVIVAL: Home Ventilation Often Overlooked

Frozen Window CondensationA few winters ago my wife, Mary, and I went for a walk, and she said something I haven’t forgotten. About 20 minutes into the cold wind and blowing snow, she shuddered and offered a reasonable opinion:

“Wintertime in Canada is like living on the moon.”

Her tone made the words a curse, which is just what you’d expect from someone raised in the tropics and walking through a blizzard. I wonder what she would have said if I’d told her that most of her dark brown hair was now turning white with frost everywhere it happened to peek out from under her hat. But a hard-core, born-in-a-snowdrift Canadian like me has to admit that Mary has a point. Wintering in Canada is a lot like living in space. I love it, but I have to be honest.

Just like the moon, you need to suit up in bulky, specialized clothing merely to stay alive outdoors between November and March. A Canadian house is like a spaceship, complete with mechanical systems to meet our needs for oxygen, warmth and shelter from the cruel blasts. But e-mails from readers tell me (and keep telling me) that many ventilation systems aren’t what they should be in the fleet of Battlestar Canadian spaceships cruising through winter. Chronically wet windows prove it so.

So, here’s the basics as far as solving the wet window problem and the low indoor air quality it signals:

  • Running window condensation means the air in your house is too humid. It’s also probably not as pure as it should be. Besides the mold and mildew growth, wet windows probably means your health is being compromised, too.
  • You can get fresh air in one of two ways: either open a window and run an exhaust fan (and lose lots of precious heat) or install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). This gives you fresh air while retaining most of the heat from the wet, stale indoor air it shoots out of your house.
  • Heating and ventilation contractors are the pros who install HRVs. Costs run around $2500 to have a unit installed and connected to the various holes that have to be punched through exterior walls.

So, yes, I admit it, wintering in Canada can be a lot like living in space. But with the right kind of space ship and space suit, what’s so bad about that? Click below for a video tutorial on how heat recovery ventilators work, and why they deliver a big boost to indoor air quality.