- a breath of fresh air -
in 1860, Florence Nightingale in her work "Notes on Nursing," wrote about the importance of keeping patients' windows open and allowing a breeze in. with astonishing insight she wrote,
“badly constructed houses do for the healthy what badly constructed hospitals do for the sick. once insure that the air is stagnant and sickness is certain to follow.”
nightingale believed that the person who repeatedly breathed his or her own air would become sick or remain sick.
today, we build insulated, airtight human incubators using material filled with chemicals.
when we move in, we fill our cabinets with even more chemicals. we tote in our furniture, hang draperies on the windows, while tracking across the new carpet, all reeking of chemicals. living inside our incubator, we shower and cook daily and breathe this same air over and over. is there any mystery what might happen to our health?
sandee and I are big fans of florence. that’s why, to the best of our knowledge, a ventilation system was included in every home we’ve built. and it started with our personal home at Belew's Lake.
at 340 fairfax, we are using a fresh air ventilation system that includes an energy recovery ventilator or ERV.
So what’s an ERV?
in a sense, an ERV is a “nearly perfect window.” in other words, it provides the full benefit of fresh outside air, just like an open window. By using an ERV, there is very little energy penalty.
here is what this remarkable “fresh air box” looks like.
stale, stinky air is pulled into the box at the same time as the fresh outside air. the air travels through two separate paths. so one airstream never contaminates the other. as they pass through the core, heat and moisture is exchanged between the two air streams.
once the exchange is made, the stinky air is exhausted through our roof and the fresh air from outside is delivered to our house and distributed through our heating and cooling ductwork.
our unit was manufactured RenewAire and is extremely efficient. the energy core recovers about 80% of the heat and 63% of the humidity lost through an open window. the box uses 44 watts of electricity. that’s about the same cost as the light bulb in our refrigerator.
when it comes to ventilation, we’ve heard the natural response from dozens of homeowner and builders.
Why would you build an airtight house and
then intentionally punch a hole in it to bring in outside air?
The answer is simple!
(1) we don’t know what’s on the other side of the hole.
random holes don’t guarantee healthy air. your healthy air may not be so healthy. it might be coming from a nasty crawl space, dusty attic, stinky garage or a wall cavity filled with insects, rodent droppings and so forth. this is hardly the fresh air that supports better health. in fact, this air might make you sick.
(2) we cannot control it. how much accidental air is too much and how much is too
little? Random leaks are a pure crapshoot.
the list is getting longer for studies that continue to show the benefits of fresh air:
Fresh air is good for digestion,
Improves blood pressure and heart rate,
Strengthens your immune system,
Cleans your lungs,
Improves mental sharpness,
Enhances sleep quality.
since we spend 80% to 90% of our time indoors, sandee and I believe that exhausting the stinky stuff and bringing in fresh air is essential for our health and well-being.