An ERV is an energy recovery ventilator and an HRV is a heat recovery ventilator. These devices are designed to bring fresh air into your home, while exhausting stale air. These boxes generally sit in your basement near the furnace. They are controlled by a thermostat (called a humidistat or controller) that may be located on your main floor or in the basement. These controllers will tell the unit to run and effectively exchange the air in your home. For this reason, people often call these units air exchangers.
Many people call these units their HVAC but the proper term is either air exchanger, ventilator or ERV/HRV’s in Ottawa. Many new homes in the Ottawa area utilize these systems in replacement of bathroom fans (you may have a switch in your bathroom that turns the unit on). There are three ways to install the ventilators and each serves a different purpose:
1) Fully dedicated: This type of installation is very popular in homes that do not have a dedicated ductwork system connected to a furnace or air handler. In this set up, an HRV pulls stale air from moisture creating rooms (such as the bathrooms and kitchen). At the same time is pulls fresh air from outside and delivers it to living spaces (such as bedrooms and living rooms).
2) Partially dedicated: This type of installation is commonly seen in new home construction throughout the Ottawa area. In this orientation, stale air is pulled from the moisture creating rooms like bathrooms. Instead of directly distributing fresh air to rooms, the ducting ties into your central ductwork. We dump fresh air into the ductwork and use the furnace to distribute this fresh air throughout the home.
3) Simplified loop: This is the most popular HRV/ERV installation in Ottawa. In this application we pull fresh air from outside and add it to the ductwork system of the home. The stale air is pulled from the home’s ductwork upstream. This allows us to exchange the air of the whole home but enables a fairly non intrusive installation.
Many people ask us what system is better for their home in Ottawa, an HRV or ERV? An HRV recovers heat while it exchanges air. When we pass warm stale air out of the home, an energy efficient core in the unit retains the heat and mixes it with the cold outdoor air that passes. Historically, HRVs have been much more popular in the Ottawa area.
These systems work incredibly well for dehumidifying the home in the winter season. For homes that continually have high humidity (often exhibited as moisture on the windows) HRVs are very effective at drying the house out while exchanging the air. ERVs exchange air and heat in a very similar manner but they also transfer moisture. For this reason they work very well in our increasingly hot and humid Ontario summers. If you run your air conditioner all summer long, with windows closed, but still want fresh outdoor air, an ERV is an excellent choice.
ERV’s may introduce too much humidity into our Ottawa home’s in the winter if we already have high humidity homes. ERV’s have become increasingly efficient and summers have become longer, making the energy recovery ventilator more popular in Ottawa in recent years. The best way to determine what system is best for you, is to set up a free in home appointment with one of our Indoor Air Quality experts.
Not every home in the Ottawa area requires an HRV or ERV but every home would benefit from one of these ventilators. Did you know that the indoor air quality in the home is generally 5X worse than the outdoor air?! As we spend more and more time in our homes, we are finding people in general are experiencing air quality related sickness. Studies have shown that the increased time spent in homes leads to increased sick days at work, more hospital visits and a less productive society.
By installing one of these units in your home you can drastically cut down the particulates in the air, leading to less respiratory related issues. Furthermore, the amount of carbon dioxide we produce simply by breathing can be staggering. By exchanging carbon dioxide laden air with fresh outdoor air, people can experience much better sleep that leads to massive increases in quality of life. Finally, the reduction of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) is another large benefit of running a ventilator. VOC’s can cause headaches, nausea and with prolonged exposure can even carcinogenic.
Ottawa has a specifically harsh seasonality. We have incredibly cold winters and brutally hot and humid summers. Because of this we spend a lot of time indoors with the windows shut tight. With our drastic environment, comes energy efficient homes, that are generally fairly air tight. The home’s of today do not “breathe” like they used to due to the increased insulation and sealing values. This exacerbates indoor air quality issues as the air cannot exchange naturally.
With energy costs becoming higher and higher, having an efficient way of exchanging your air is very important. HRVs/ERVs utilize cores that retain the heat that you already paid to condition. This means that when we pull very cold fresh air into your home in the winter, we mix it with the already conditioned indoor air in order to help you save money.
HRVs and ERVs not only help you ventilate the home efficiently (saving you money)!They can also reduce sick days from work and help you save on over the counter medications for irritating allergies and frustrating headaches.
Replacing and existing HRV or ERV can be less costly than installing a brand new unit. When replacing a unit, Ottawa homeowners can expect to pay approximately $2300-$4000+HST depending on the quality of the unit. When install a brand new unit, installation parameters are a major factor in the pricing. A new HRV/ERV averages $2800-$5500+HST once again, depending on installation factors.
The best HRV/ERV for Ottawa is an efficient one. Our extreme temperature swings create an environment where a high end ventilator is beneficial. Look for units that are energy star rated and have high percentages of recovery. Our two most popular air exchangers in 2023 are the Vanee Virtuo AI (HRV) and the Panasonic 200 ERV. These units prove to be very efficient and reliable!