Winter Home Ventilation Considerations for Cold Climates


With the cold temperatures of winter descending upon most areas of the United States, there is a desire to keep as much heat as possible in the home. Ventilation systems can sometimes make it difficult to retain the heat in the home, as the warmed air is cycled out and the cold air is cycled in. This can spike electric and gas bills and affect the comfort level of the home. Humidity levels may also be difficult to control, resulting in dry skin and breathing discomfort.

Recovering Heat While Ventilating

To combat the flow of warm air out of the home, it may be cost-effective and helpful to install an ERV or HRV. ERVs, or energy recovery ventilators, recover heat and moisture from the exhausted air and use it to heat and humidity the incoming air. HRVs, or energy recovery ventilators, recover heat from the exhausted air and use it to heat incoming air. This dries out the air in the home, which may or may not be desirable – especially in places where the humidity changes dramatically between seasons.

Roof Ventilation Concerns

Roof ventilation is often considered ideal for keeping the home cool during hot summer months, as the hot air rises and is exhausted from the roof. However, this same setup can leave the home cold in the winter, exhausting the heat supplied by the heating system through the same avenues as the undesirable summertime heat. While roof ventilators can be shut down through the winter months, this can affect the indoor air quality, allowing VOCs to build up in the home.

Roof ventilators without energy recovery options may not be ideal for cooler climates. If planning for ventilation installation in a new or renovated home, it is important to speak to professionals in the local area to identify the most effective ventilation system. Professionals may be able to introduce options that will save costs and increase comfort year-round.

Reducing Natural Ventilation

While natural, or passive, ventilation may sometimes be helpful during warmer months, it can add to energy loss during cooler months. It is important to seal any holes or cracks in the building seal so that cold air cannot enter and warm air cannot escape. Using weather stripping and plastic to seal cracks around windows and doors can reduce the natural ventilation and tighten the building envelope so that only mechanical ventilation is used during the winter months. This can help to save money and energy.

Increased Winter Need for Ventilation

For those with inefficient ventilation systems that cause air to be lost, it may seem that the best way to conserve energy is to shut the ventilation system down in the winter. Poor winter ventilation can be problematic, however. People typically spend more time indoors during the winter in cold climates, which can actually increase the need for adequate ventilation to keep germs from spreading as readily.

Controlling moisture is also important, as moisture levels can affect both occupant health and home structures. Air that is either too dry or too moist can cause breathing problems. Failure to control condensation can also cause damage to the home and appliances. A dehumidifier or humidifier, coupled with an ERV or HRV can help to achieve optimal comfort levels while conserving energy through the winter.