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In recent years, HRVs and ERVs have gained popularity and in 2017 were added to the Ontario building codes (as well as in many other provinces). HRVs are heat recovery ventilators and ERVs are energy recovery ventilators. Both are excellent additions to your home for improving indoor air quality.

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HRVs and ERVs are very similar as they provide fresh air for your home and remove stale air while simultaneously collecting energy from the exhausted air. However, the main difference between the two is that an ERV also transfers moisture in addition to heat, whereas an HRV transfers only heat.

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What I love about ERVs is that they are able to manage the humidity levels in your home. An ERV provides a constant exchange of air, giving your home a steady supply of fresh air. In the winter, your ERV extracts moisture from the exhaust air stream and moves it into the incoming air in your home, keeping your humidity levels relatively stable. During the warm summer months, moisture is pulled from the incoming air and is transferred into the exiting air stream, reducing the work your air conditioner and dehumidifier have to do.

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An ERV uses two fans to produce two separate air streams. The first fan brings in clean air from the outside. The second fan vents stale, contaminated indoor air outdoors. Both airstreams pass through your ERV. The heat and moisture are transferred into your home during the winter months and outside during the summer.

Newly built homes tend to be airtight and a mechanical ventilation system is essential to maintain healthy indoor air quality. Yes, opening the windows of your home is a great way to ventilate your home and I encourage it. However, this fresh “unfiltered” air can contain mildew, dust, pollen and other contaminants. You are also allowing the heat and cool air to escape.

An ERV can recover thermal energy in expelled air. In the winter, the system pre-warms and precools fresh air. So, if you have high energy costs, an ERV can help lower them.

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There are several reasons why an ERV is an excellent addition to your home, and why I got one myself. For one thing, your home will always have fresh well-ventilated air. When we talk about healthy indoor air, we talk about moderate humidity, good oxygen levels, low concentrations of airborne particles, and harmful gases. An ERV exhausts stale, polluted air from the inside while bringing in fresh, filtered air from the outside.

An ERV improves the efficiency of your HVAC. The heat energy between the incoming and outgoing airstreams via an energy recovery ventilator improves the efficiency of your HVAC, using less energy, which lowers your energy bills. Additionally, it efficiently preheats or precools the air entering your home, so your HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard.

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An ERV can help control and keep humidity at safe levels in your home. Lack of ventilation can cause a buildup of moisture (high humidity), leading to poor indoor air quality resulting from mould, mildew and toxins. You might also notice some shrinkage or warping of hardwood surfaces in a low-humidity environment. Low humidity can also affect your health, resulting in dry, itchy skin or even congestion-like symptoms.

I should point out that an ERV is NOT a dehumidifier. If you are looking for a system that dehumidifies and ventilates simultaneously, then you will need to consider a whole-home dehumidifier and consult with an HVAC specialist to find the right design for your needs.

ERVs are easy to maintain and can be checked and serviced by your HVAC technician. However, for optimal performance, the key is keeping the filters clean — they are easy to clean, using a vacuum and a quick rinse with lukewarm soapy water. Remember, air-dry the filters thoroughly before reinstalling them into the system. Remove the air exchanger and lightly spray with water to clean it.

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The incoming air filter tends to be dirtier than the outgoing air filter. Both filters should be vacuumed and cleaned every two to three months, and the supply air filter should be inspected every 90 days and replaced every six months.

Some ERV models come with helpful light and alarm indicators that notify you when it’s time to check and clean the filters. Also, consider ERV models that have a boost function — which increases airflow on demand with a flick of a switch, perfect for large indoor gatherings.

I think everyone should have an ERV in their home. It removes stale, dirty air from your home while bringing fresh, temperature-controlled air inside. An ERV is a great solution that will help provide you with a healthier, more comfortable indoor environment and is a worthwhile addition to your HVAC system.

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