Home Ventilation: How Attic Fans and Whole House Fans Are Saving Our Health
When we think about air quality, our minds usually sway directly towards the quality of outdoor air: vehicle emissions, industrial emissions and fuel burning are just some of the causes that spring to mind. Even natural pollution such as volcanic eruptions and fires produce carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other polluting gases, which all contribute to a lower quality of air outside of the safe haven of our homes. But do we ever stop to think about the state of the air inside our homes?
Indoor Air Quality
Poor indoor air quality is caused by various types of pollution as a direct result of day-to-day household activities and a lack of home ventilation facilitation. In fact, there is up to five times more pollution in the air found inside a home than there is in that of outdoor air, and, with a whopping 90% of our time spent indoors, this can have devastating implications on our health if we don’t take the necessary measures to increase our home ventilation.
So, what are the main sources of indoor air pollution? Let’s take a quick look:
- Cooking: Carbon dioxide - and other gases and odours – are produced every time we decide on pancakes for breakfast, over cereal. Pair this with the simple act of breathing and we end up with one big cloud of poor-quality air.
- Cleaning: We’re sure we speak for most people when we say that everyone loves a clean home, but this doesn’t mean that we all love the chemical pollution that comes with it. Many household cleaning products contain bleach, ammonia or VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and a study by the American Thoracic Society has found “women who work as cleaners or … at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time”. Well-known VOCs include acetone, xylene and formaldehyde and all can be incredibly harmful in homes with poor ventilation.
- Smoking: It’s somewhat patronising to even write an explanation for this particular point, but in the interests of being absolutely clear on our stance, we will highlight that smoking in an enclosed space (or at all) is incredibly bad for your health. Even if you choose not to smoke inside your home, the transfer of particles on clothing and other mobile possessions can lead to a decrease in indoor air quality – especially without good home ventilation.
- Exhaust Fumes: It would be a little farfetched to suggest that you park your car in your in your living room at the end of each day, but this doesn’t mean that your vehicle fumes don’t make their way into your home. This is even more so relevant if your home features an attached garage, making it even easier for exhaust emissions to make their way from the air outside your home, to that inside your home.
- Airborne Illnesses: COVID-19 has sent the world into a spin when it comes to keeping the idea of “spreading germs” at the forefront of our minds. But it might not shock you to know that the Coronavirus is not the only illness that can be spread through the air. Every time we leave the house, we risk returning with a new airborne illness and the act of simply walking through the front door can mean another form of pollution in our indoor air.
What This Means for Our Health
Well, in short, nothing very appealing.
Viruses and other illnesses are the obvious results of poor air quality, but asthma, decreased lung capacity – and even mental health issues – have all been linked to breathing in bad air. A study from Korea found that short-term air pollution exposure led to higher levels of anxiety in children.
It’s not good news, is it? We don’t think so either. But let’s not get too down about this. The truth is that poor home ventilation is a real problem for a lot of households, but this can be easily addressed – when you know how.
First thing’s first – since we take our “fan expert” status pretty seriously – let’s explain the difference between attic fans and whole house fans.
Attic fans are installed on the roof of your home or through an exterior wall in your attic (funnily enough) and work by pushing or blowing hot air from inside your home, outside. The great thing about attic fans is that they can reduce the temperature in your attic by up to 50 degrees and they cost significantly less to install than a whole house fan.
On the downside, an attic fan will not actually replace the flushed-out, hot air with new, cooler air; rather it will just create a cooler feel by forcing out the heat. This results in less hot air being leaked into your downstairs living areas and can be particularly beneficial for homes with air conditioning units or swamp coolers. This is because the fan will take some pressure off the other systems. So, no air conditioning going on here, but – as we mentioned – much cheaper than a whole house fan.
For those looking for a little bit of luxury when it comes to home ventilation, whole house fans - whilst more expensive than attic fans - do use far less energy. These fans are mounted between the living space in your home and the attic area and work by drawing fresh, cool air through open windows and forcing hot, polluted air up to the attic and out through air vents mounted in the attic space.
A whole house fan would be a great option for someone looking to reduce the use of an air conditioning unit or those without an air conditioning unit altogether. The last thing you’d want is a fan pushing paid-for, air-conditioned air outside for everyone on your street to enjoy.
Like we said – easily addressed when you know how, and we’re here to help!