The Secret lives of bath fans: part II

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Many of us think of our homes as a safe haven where we can breathe easy, but that is not always the case.  Sometimes it is stuff outside our homes we want to keep out and sometimes its inside with us and we need to get it out!  That’s why it’s always good to tighten up a home and ventilate it right. 

In last week’s post I wrote about the importance of bath fans for moisture and spot ventilation, and touched on a larger task that they can accomplish.  This is the secret life they can lead; it is subtle but a super hero task none the less and really shouldn’t be a secret at all.  All homes should have ventilation and for many a bath fan is a good place to start, particularly in cold climates.   

Attached garages, spaces where we store the car and lawn mower, paints and chemicals and basements and crawlspaces the all too often damp musty underbelly of the home can be a problem.   Keep chemicals under the sink? How about in the bathroom?    Just because they are “household” cleaners doesn’t mean they are good to breathe in.  In cold and mixed climates, an exhaust fan such as one in a bath room calibrated to provide the right amount of ventilation for a home can help to reduce our exposure to these contaminants.   Even if you’re in a hot-humid climate like Houston, bath fans make sense.  In this case, you don’t want to use the fan as a whole-house ventilation aid, but as mentioned in my last post, removing that hot and humid air from the shower, keeps your house more comfortable when you’re trying to keep cool.  I will get into energy-recovery ventilators in a future post!

But the point is this:  Builders start sounding like old wives with tales to tell when they talk of homes being too tight. There is no such thing as too tight. Having the right amount of air exchange for a home is a really good thing and there is a balance point between energy efficiency, and indoor health.  A very leaky home is a very inefficient home—and do you really want your supply of “fresh” outdoor air to be coming through leaks in your attic or crawlspace?   Relying on leaks means you’ll often have too much air-exchange when you don’t want it (e.g., when it’s cold), and not enough exchange when do (e.g., a nice Spring evening or Fall afternoon).   That said an unventilated home may also be an unhealthy one.  The mantra really should be “build it tight, ventilate right”.  Consider an energy assessment from a BPI accredited company, one that looks at the whole house.  The secret’s out, the first step to a healthy home may be a bath fan away. 

 

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