A homeowner sits on her living room floor in front of the couch with her arm resting on a dehumidifier

Proper home ventilation is essential for the well-being of all occupants. A well-ventilated home encourages optimal breathing and positively affects anxiety and stress levels

So, how can you improve ventilation in your home?

Read on to learn more about improving home ventilation so that you can breathe better.

How Can You Improve Your Home’s Ventilation?

You can improve ventilation in your home by opening doors and windows and using practical methods to reduce humidity levels in your home. You can also use mechanical methods such as fans, HVAC systems, air filters, exhaust systems, and dehumidifiers.

1) Open Windows and Doors

Opening windows and doors introduces fresh outdoor air into your home, thereby improving the natural ventilation rate. This method is inexpensive yet very effective, which is why it is highly encouraged as a first resort.

One study showed that keeping doors and windows open in hospitals significantly reduced the risk of inhaling airborne contaminants such as tuberculosis. Furthermore, the study found it more effective than the more cost-intensive methods of improving home ventilation.

According to the CDC, just cracking the window is enough to improve home ventilation (which is good news if you are not comfortable keeping windows and doors open, especially during cold weather).

A homeowner opens a set of exterior-leading plastic windows

The caveat here is that outdoor air may sometimes contain hazardous contaminants, especially if you live close to sources of air pollutants. In such cases, it would be best to consider alternative home ventilation methods.

It is worth mentioning that large windows and higher ceilings work together to enhance airflow. More oversized windows allow more air into your home, while higher ceilings allow for more space for air to occupy and freely circulate. 

2) Install a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans encourage air circulation in your home by increasing the air velocity

Consider installing a ceiling fan if you are looking for a low-cost and energy-efficient way to improve the air circulation in your home. One fan uses an average of 130 kWh per year, which is relatively low compared to alternative energy-intensive mechanical ventilation methods. 

Ceiling fans also promote thermal comfort throughout the year. 

During hot weather, turning on the ceiling fan (especially when the windows are open) has a cooling effect. On the other hand, in cold weather, you can use the ceiling fan to distribute warm air throughout the room from the heating device. 

A circulating ceiling fan

Most ceiling fans allow you to control the rotation speed of the blades, which is convenient as you can reduce or increase the speed according to your comfort.

The only downside to ceiling fans is that they can get quite noisy while running.

3) Invest in a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) System

An HVAC system is a comprehensive unit that performs heating, cooling, and ventilation functions.

This integrated system comprises a series of vents and ducts that supply air from the outside, a filtration system to clean the air, and exhaust vents and ducts that remove air from the home. 

Undoubtedly, the multifunctional nature of an HVAC system makes it an excellent home ventilation investment. You do not need to open windows or doors for it to work effectively, and you automatically eliminate the need for extra ventilation, air filtration, and heating and cooling equipment.

HVAC systems also save on space compared to other mechanical ventilators since, for the most part, they are tucked away in your ceiling. They also run quietly and do not contribute to noise pollution in the home.

A mini-split's ceiling-mounted air handler component
A mini-split heat pump’s ceiling-mounted air handler component

This article from Florida Technical College contains a detailed description of HVAC components and functions and can give you better insight into how they work.

When investing in an HVAC system, research the market for high-efficiency units that save on energy without compromising performance. 

4) Use a Portable Air Filter or Cleaner

Portable air cleaners (also called air sanitizers) are an ideal alternative for improving your home ventilation and air quality without an HVAC system (which uses an integrated air filtration system). 

When purchasing portable air filters, consider getting one that uses a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. 

These filters have a 99.9% efficiency rate of trapping airborne contaminants present in the home and are a recommended control for allergy relief. If you or someone in your household has asthma, a HEPA system may help alleviate some symptoms.

In addition to reducing the allergen and contaminant load from the air in your home, air cleaners also help you breathe better by neutralizing undesirable odors. As a result, you only inhale fresh, clean air, which your respiratory system will appreciate.

5) Install Exhaust Fans in Your Kitchen and Bathroom

Strong odors, hot air, steam, grease, and other airborne particles can fill the air in your kitchen as you cook and make breathing very uncomfortable. Likewise, bathrooms can get steamy and humid after use, making breathing less comfortable.

Consider installing kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans to improve ventilation in these areas of your home.

A kitchen stove hood in use to improve home ventilation

These exhaust fans work by suctioning the humid or hot air through vents and expelling it outside the house, so fresh air from elsewhere (other rooms or open windows) can occupy the kitchen or bathroom.

In addition to improving home ventilation and helping you breathe better, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans also help to cool down these rooms during use, improving thermal comfort in your home.

6) Use a Dehumidifier

Humidifiers are incredibly helpful during cold and dry weather, but they can also interfere with ventilation when they cause humidity to accumulate in the home. Fortunately, there is a device to counter this.

Dehumidifiers regulate air humidity levels by drawing moisture from the air in a room and condensing it over chilled coils inside the unit. Upon condensation, the moist air becomes a liquid that you can then drain from the dehumidifier.

So, how does a dehumidifier help with home ventilation? 

Humid air is heavier than dry air, meaning it does not move around a room efficiently. As a result, it is sometimes referred to as stale air

A homeowner emptying the tray of a dehumidifier to improve home ventilation

Using a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from your home helps to make the atmosphere lighter and allows for more efficient circulation. Dehumidifiers also help eliminate musty smells, a common feature of humid air. 

Mold and other fungi thrive in humid conditions, but a dehumidifier will help deprive them of the moisture they need to grow. When these contaminants are allowed to thrive in a home, inhaling them in excessive quantities can result in significant respiratory and general health problems that require medical attention.

7) Buy a Portable Fan

Portable fans aren’t just great for cooling your space down on a hot day; they also improve home ventilation and help you breathe better.

Portable fans work much like ceiling fans by encouraging airflow and circulation in a room, thereby improving ventilation. For example, placing the portable fan near a window or source of fresh air promotes fresh air circulation throughout the room and helps expel stale air.

Portable fans offer you the convenience of being transportable so you can move them between different rooms of your home as needed. They are also sold in various sizes—some small enough to fit in your purse or backpack so that you can carry them with you anywhere. 

An oscillating plug-in fan on a table in a living room with couch and wall in the background

Additionally, you can opt for portable rechargeable fans that work even during a power outage.

8) Use an Indoor Air Quality Monitor

Air quality monitors are not reserved for industries and commercial premises. You can also purchase an indoor air quality monitor to track the air quality in your home.

A home air quality monitor measures the levels of particulate matter, chemicals, and hazardous gasses in your home and may indicate whether these elements are within the proper limits. Some of these gasses and chemicals may be odorless, making them impossible to detect otherwise. 

But how does that relate to enhancing ventilation? You can connect your home air quality monitor to your mechanical home ventilation systems, which will automatically turn the systems on or access other controls whenever the monitors detect high contaminants in your indoor air.

This safety feature also measures other parameters, such as humidity levels. With this information, you can make informed decisions regarding the most suitable ways to enhance home ventilation and promote better breathing.

9) Maintain Ventilation Equipment Correctly

Regardless of the home ventilation method you choose, proper care and maintenance of the equipment are essential to keeping it functional and effective.

You should always ensure that your home ventilation equipment has a clear path to allow it to work correctly (whether by drawing in the air or expelling it). Inspect the vents outside your house for any obstacles preventing the free flow of air outside.

Additionally, schedule regular cleaning of the mechanical equipment. Mold, dust, rodents, and other unwanted elements can settle in air ducts, causing clogs and interfering with ventilation by reintroducing contaminants into the circulating air.

Cleaning what you can and contracting professionals to clean the more complex parts such as ducts and vents are necessary for maintaining optimum home ventilation.

A property owner vacuums out the vent in his green building

Some mechanical home ventilation systems require periodic maintenance inspections, so heed the manufacturer’s instructions. During these regular visits, the technician will thoroughly examine the unit and identify any issues that need fixing.

10) Take Practical Steps To Reduce Excess Humidity in Your Home

As the previous sections explain, humid air is an antagonist to proper home ventilation. It is heavier and harder to circulate and can have an unpleasant, musty smell that can make breathing uncomfortable.

In addition to the strategies mentioned above for reducing excess humidity in the air, consider taking the following practical measure, including:

  • Hanging your laundry outside to air dry if the weather is warm and sunny.
  • Drying damp surfaces as soon as you spot them
  • Keeping the door open when you shower to prevent steam and humidity from saturating the bathroom
  • Fixing any existing leaks promptly (this may require you to conduct regular inspections around your home)
  • When mopping floors, keep the windows open to allow the floors to air dry
  • Use natural methods of dehumidification, such as rock salt and baking soda

These precautions will help you keep humidity levels in your home low even if you do not have a dehumidifier.

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