A technician installs an HRV system outside of a home

Energy recovery ventilators or ERVs have become common in many home renovation and construction projects due to the vast number of advantages they offer. 

These systems are meant to improve your home air quality and address ventilation concerns. They are especially popular for those who live in areas prone to high humidity and pollution.

ERVs can help regulate indoor air temperature, draw out excess moisture, and prevent modl breakouts.

Unfortunately, as is the case with most HVAC products, they can be expensive to install.

The question many homeowners find themselves asking is: is it worth it?

What is an Energy Recovery Ventilator? 

Also known as an air exchanger, an ERV is a device connected to your central HVAC system that improves ventilation and air quality within your home.

ERVs basically swap your stale indoor air with fresh air from outside. On top of this, they filter out contaminants and allergens.

ERVs are equipped with heat exchangers so your home doesn’t lose heat during cold weather.

Not only are these systems popular in residential homes, but are often used in commercial buildings as well.

A heat recovery ventilator exchange component and vents on a home's exterior

How do Energy Recovery Ventilators Work?

The ERV draws in clean air from the outside using two separate fans that allow clean air to enter the facility while simultaneously releasing stale air from the inside of the building.

They have heat exchangers to reduce heat loss in cold weather. These heat exchangers seek to balance heat and moisture levels as needed.

So during summer, you can expect the indoors to stay cool, while in winter, the ERV is able to retain heat.

Moreover, energy recovery ventilators are known to provide health benefits as well. These systems have filters to remove pollutants and allergens; improving indoor air quality.

How Much Does a Decent Energy Recovery Ventilator Cost?

According to the Minnesota Sustainable Housing Initiative, an energy recovery ventilator generally costs around $150–$200 more than a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). Prior to installation, the energy recovery ventilator usually costs somewhere between $600 to $1,200.

All in all, the national average of an energy recovery ventilator with installation is approximately $2,000, and the typical price range lies between $1,500 to $2,000.

Here is a breakdown of ERV costs for different levels:

Basic Unit Average UnitBest Unit 
ERV – Price of Materials $864.00 – $1332.00$1426.50 – $1612.80$1799.10 – $1900.80
ERV – Cost of Installation $135.00 – $225.00$234.00 – $330.30$432.00 – $447.30
ERV – Unit Cost$999.00 – $1557.00$1660.50 – $1943.10$2231.10 – $2348.10
ERV – Total Average Cost per Unit $1278.00$1801.80$2289.60

Unit prices, as well as installation costs vary by area. Your best bet for an accurate price is to call around to a few local HVAC companies.

Most will give you a free estimate and will be happy to answer any further questions you may have.

Factors Influencing the Price of an Energy Recovery Ventilator 

There are several factors that can influence the final cost of an energy recovery ventilator.

These include:

  • Whether you opt for a single-room (ductless) or whole-home unit
  • Brand name and size of unit
  • Whether the system is being installed in a new home or if an older house is being retrofitted
  • Materials and labor required
  • Condition of existing ductwork
  • Square footage of your house
  • Placement of the furnace and how much extra retrofitting or venting is needed
  • Efficiency of the system (units with a higher efficiency generally come with a higher price tag)
  • Where you live—prices differ largely by region across the US, and prices might be higher in rural or smaller areas as compared to larger urban cities. 

Maintenance Costs of Energy Recovery Ventilators 

Fortunately, an energy recovery ventilator doesn’t require too much maintenance.

All homes are a little different, but you should expect to clean and change the filters every three months. If you have smokers or pets in the house, you may need to change the filters more often. If you have less traffic in your home, the filters might last 6 months before they need to be cleaned.

The filter core should be vacuumed out once per year. This is an easy task to do yourself and only takes a couple of minutes.

Are ERVs Worth The Installation Cost?

Can you live without an ERV? Probably.

But will it significantly improve the air quality and ventilation in your home? Yes, it will.

In most cases, ERVs are worth the investment despite a high initial cost of purchase and installation. They require a one-time payment and provide benefits that can go on for years.

According to Architect Magazine, the average time to recover your investment through lower energy bills is three months to three years. On the other hand, certain studies state that energy recovery ventilator systems have a payback time of 2 years on average.

The actual time it takes to recoup your investment depends on how much you spend on cooling and heating your house and where you live. 

The more energy you consume, the more money you can save. Moreover, certain areas offer substantial discounts and rebates for installing energy-efficient home appliances. 

Many HVAC companies allow you to pay in monthly installments. If budget is a factor for you, be upfront with your HVAC contractor and work out an agreement before they start the work.

In addition, your new ERV will come with a warranty for your piece of mind. The length of warranty varies from brand to brand and contractor to contractor, so this is something to ask about when you are looking for a reputable HVAC company.

Factors That Make ERVs a Worthy Investment 

Improved Air Quality

We already discussed that ERVs are equipped with a filtration system. These filters work to remove pollutants and allergens from the air in your home. One of the greatest benefits of ERVs is their ability to improve home air quality.

Helping Prevent Mold Outbreaks By Regulating Humidity Levels 

Mold growth in homes is often caused by high humidity levels. ERVs combat this by drawing out unwanted moisture and minimizing the chance of mold spores growing in your home.

High humidity levels can cause damage to wooden furniture, trim and floors through rot and warping. Home dehumidification systems can be expensive to install and they don’t provide ventilation like ERVs do.

Regulating Your Home’s Temperatures

ERVs can help regulate indoor air temperature to an extent. Along with reducing humidity levels, they help take some of the strain off your central HVAC system.

You should see lower utility bills since your central HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard. But more importantly, you will increase the lifespan of your equipment. Since it doesn’t have to work as hard, it will likely last longer.

Improved Odor Control 

By eliminating airborne contaminants from your house, filtering incoming air, and increasing ventilation, an ERV also helps with odor control. Home odors from cooking ingredients, pets, and other sources will decrease significantly, allowing the air inside your house to smell clean and fresh. 

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