Which ventilation system is right for your home?

With today’s houses becoming more air tight, quality ventilation systems are even more important. What’s new on the market that satisfies energy efficiency requirements yet ensures good air quality for modern homes? Kevin Hippey, general manager Vortice Ltd, explores the options­

Trends in modern house building are clear to all; energy efficiency is king and in striving to achieve that with new builds, houses are becoming increasingly airtight. An energy efficient home is laudable and potentially much kinder on the wallet, but the quality of the air that the occupant breathes is vital to their health and well-being. Rather than being an ‘also ran’ element of the build process, the design of the ventilation system can make an enormous difference not only to the quality of the air, but also to how energy efficient that system will be. In every case, in order to get the optimum performance from today’s ventilation products, the way the ductwork is designed is key.

If the self builder can ensure three things are given prominence when planning their ventilation system, they can make an enormous difference both to air quality and to the energy efficiency of their ventilation system.

  • The first is to ensure that system restrictions like bends in ductwork are avoided – you will quickly negate the benefit of an energy efficient ventilation fan if the air it is moving has to navigate around corners and work much harder to move through the ductwork.
  • The second is to choose the right ventilation product for your requirements and generally that means knowing precisely how many ‘wet rooms’ there are around the property or anticipating how many there might be in the future and specifying the fan or heat recovery system that’s up to the job.
  • The third is not to scrimp on quality of the ducting – it does come in a range of prices – if you’re shopping around, don’t be persuaded to buy low-grade ducting that’s been developed from the tumble dryer market – it won’t be up to the job for very long, will degrade or split and end up costing you more than you’d bargained for.

There are new building regulations coming into force this year, but these don’t affect the self build or renovation market, the only impact they will have is if you’re building a Code property.

So, what products are out there? The buzz words of the moment are heat recovery units – these special ventilation systems take stale air from the wet rooms of the building, remove the heat from the air and replace that heat into the fresh air that it brings back into the building from outside. These products are often mis-sold to owners of old buildings, where in most cases, unless a thermal covering has been applied, heat loss through the envelope of the building will cancel out the benefit of having a heat recovery unit in the property. There is one exception to that, where the purpose of the unit is not really to recover heat so much as to significantly improve a very damp property.

Heat recovery units come in different shapes and sizes and are usually selected based on the number of wet rooms they need to extract from – a wet room is a bathroom, WC or utility room for example. They can be designed to fit within a roof space, a kitchen cupboard space or, where space is at a premium, some of the newer units are designed specifically for ceiling voids in apartments.

Continuous extract fans can be more appropriate for refurbishments and run continuously to ensure fresh airflow through the property at all times. In older properties, a continuous running fan will help reduce condensation and if it were a low energy product, then the cost would be less than the equivalent of having a 60 watt light bulb on.

For self builders, if you’re appointing a contractor to install the ventilation system, make sure they are BPEC trained – that means that they can ensure both the ducting and the ventilation system are designed to work to their optimum capacity.

Many reputable ventilation system suppliers offer a design service at a cost which is refundable against a product order – this is well worth the investment and can ensure that energy savings are made right from the word go. Often, the technical departments of manufacturers can also give you indicative prices for a two-, three- or four-bedroom house so that you have a guideline to budget from and in our case, products are all priced on our e-commerce website.

The important thing to remember, whether you’re building from scratch or renovating an older property, is that the time you take designing the system in the first place will reap benefits in the longer term, not just for your pocket, but also for your health.