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DIY HRV Maintenance

The Seven Steps to a Happy HRV

Your heat recovery ventilator (HRV) can help make your house a clean, healthy living environment, while keeping fuel bills down. But your HRV can’t do all this without your help. It only takes seven simple steps to keep your HRV happy…

Step 1: Switch off your HRV
Switch off and unplug the HRV.

Step 2: HVAC Air Filters – Clean or Replace

Every two months, clean or replace air filters to enhance efficiency and avoid breakdowns and other issues caused by a blocked filter.

Step 3: Outdoor Exhaust and Intake Hoods Must Be Free From Blockages
Regularly clear debris from outdoor vents.

Step 4: A Clean Condensate Drain Is A Must

Verify the condensate drain is unblocked and working.

Step 5: Give Your Heat Exchanger Some Love

Consult the manual for cleaning the heat exchange core.

Step 6: Check Ductwork and Grilles Inside

Annually inspect and clean the grilles and ductwork inside your home.

Step 7: Ensure Smooth Fan Operation

Service the fans, cleaning the blades and lubricating if necessary, as per your model’s instructions.

New HRV installation Ottawa
Brand new HRV installation in Ottawa fresh air on demand

How to Test and Balance Your Home’s HRV System Using the Garbage Bag Method

Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) play a crucial role in maintaining the air quality and energy efficiency of your home. Ensuring your HRV system is balanced is key to its performance. A balanced HRV system has equal inflow and outflow of air. If you’re unsure about your HRV’s balance, especially after installation changes, the ‘Garbage Bag Test’ is a simple yet effective DIY method to check the balance. Let’s walk you through this process.

Equipment Needed

  • A large plastic bag (around 1.2 meters or 48 inches in length)
  • A wire coat hanger
  • Tape


Step 1: Test the Exhaust Flow
  1. Prepare your tester: Straighten a wire coat hanger and tape it to the mouth of the plastic bag to keep it open. This makeshift tool will measure air flow.
  2. Locate your HRV’s exhaust duct outside your home.
  3. Flatten the bag and seal its opening over the exhaust hood.
  4. Observe how the bag inflates due to the air flow. Time this inflation.
  5. If it takes eight seconds or longer, proceed to Step 2. If it’s quicker, adjust your HRV to a lower setting and repeat this step.
Step 2: Test the Inflow
  1. Swing the bag to inflate it and then place it against the wall around the HRV’s supply hood.
  2. Observe the deflation of the bag, timing this process as well.

Understanding the Results

  • A balanced HRV should have similar inflation and deflation times.
  • If the bag inflates much faster than it deflates, your system is likely unbalanced.

Importance of HRV Maintenance

Don’t overlook your HRV’s health. Regular checks can keep it functioning optimally. An unbalanced system can lead to poor air quality and increased energy usage.

DIY Maintenance Schedule

For ease, create a simple maintenance checklist for your HRV and tape it onto the unit. Regularly ticking off tasks ensures a consistently well-maintained system.


The ‘Garbage Bag Test’ is a straightforward way to ensure your HRV system is balanced. It’s a proactive step towards maintaining a healthy, energy-efficient home environment. If you encounter any significant imbalances, it’s wise to contact a professional for a thorough inspection and adjustment.

Best contractor for ERV and HRV service and installation in Ottawa-AirZone HVAC Services.

Easy Maintenance Program

To start your easy maintenance program, simply disconnect the electrical power source, then open up the front panel.

April or May (square)

  • Turn the dehumidistat (the adjustable control on many HRVs that activates the HRV according to relative humidity) to the HIGH setting or to OFF.
    September or October (circle)
  • Clean core and check fans
  • Check condensate drain
  • Check grilles and ducts in house
  • Reset dehumidistat (40 – 80 per cent)
Ottawa HVAC Maintenance - Cameron at the AirZone Maintenance Truck
author avatar
Taylor Lewis Vice President
Taylor Lewis is a highly accomplished HVAC professional with over a decade of experience in the industry. He graduated from Queens University, and since then has dedicated his career to the field of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.
Vanee HRV installation in Kanata, Ontario.


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