A technician replaces parts of an HRV system in an attic

ERVs and HRVs are simply different types of mechanical ventilation systems for a home that remove the stale air from your interiors and bring in fresh air from the outside. 

ERV stands for energy recovery ventilation system, while HRV is short for heat recovery ventilation

Mechanical ventilation systems are essential for modern, energy-efficient homes since they are airtight and do not allow for much air leakage or infiltration. Without mechanical ventilation, the indoor air will not be able to escape your home, and very little outdoor air will enter. 

As a result, the indoor air will become stale, overly humid, and polluted over time, which might lead to an uncomfortable living situation and various health issues such as allergies, asthma, sore throat, and more.

However, simply installing a mechanical ventilation system is not enough. You must understand how such a system works, its expected lifespan, and how it should be best maintained to make the most of the system.

Average Lifespan of ERVs and HRVs 

ERVs have a warranty of around two years and will last over 20 years if properly maintained. An HRV system, on the other hand, typically has a lifespan of 10–15 years. You can increase the lifespan of either type by taking good care of its fans, vents, ventilation core, filters, and other components. 

Both types of ventilation systems should be regularly serviced and inspected by qualified HVAC technicians. They will let you know when your system is nearing the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced.

Factors that Can Affect the Lifespan of Your Ventilation System

Knowing about the average lifespan of HRVs and ERVs can give you a rough idea of what to expect when you install your mechanical ventilation system.

However, this information is not fool-proof, as the ‘average’ may not apply to your system. In fact, several factors can affect the lifespan of an individual ERV or HRV unit. 

Components

A mechanical ventilation system – be it an HRV or an ERV – is comprised of several individual components. These include filters, fans, vents, and the core. The system’s overall lifespan will depend primarily on how well each part was maintained. 

Fans

The fan is probably the most crucial component in a mechanical ventilation system. It provides fresh air to the home and removes the stale, polluted air. Unfortunately, the fan is one of the most fragile components and is usually the first to break. 

This fragility is because the fan of a mechanical ventilation system is used to circulate fresh air throughout the house and regulate the residence’s temperature. As a result, it runs almost constantly at a low speed, although the rate usually increases when someone is cooking or taking a shower. 

This continuous use results in the fan breaking down faster than any of the other components of the system. Therefore, you should be careful to buy an HRV system featuring a silent, long-lasting fan. If the HRV fan is too noisy, it could hamper the peace and tranquility of your home. 

Core

The ventilator core is as important as the fan, if not more. The core contains two separate channels through which the incoming and outgoing air pass. 

The core is also where heat transfer takes place—with heat being extracted from the air at one end of the process through conduction, then transferred to the air at the other end. 

An HRVs exchange component and vents on a home's exterior

For instance, the core extracts heat from the outgoing air and transfers it to incoming air during winter, while the opposite happens during the summer.

Without regular maintenance, the ventilator core can become clogged and dirty, limiting airflow within the house and diminishing indoor air quality. Hence, the core must be cleaned at least once every year to remove dust debris and prevent clogging. 

The mechanical ventilator must be unplugged before you begin cleaning the core. However, make sure never to remove the core or attempt to wash it. Instead, unlatch the ventilator door and gently vacuum the core to remove any contaminants, preferably using the soft brush attachment in your vacuum cleaner. 

Vents

The ducts and vents of an ERV or HRV system are typically soft and flexible. So, if poorly installed, they can become brittle and impaired over many years of use. (Click here to learn more about air ducts and how to insulate them.)

Moreover, if the vents are located in an area where they can be frequently touched or where leaves, debris, and other obstructions can build up in their vicinity, then they might get blocked. Blocked vents would lead to reduced airflow and poor functioning of the system.  

Therefore, you must be careful to keep an eye out for these problems and clear any obstructions before they have a chance to block the vents. During winter, carefully remove any snow or frost build-up that might be blocking your outer vents. 

Brand

It is worth spending a little extra money on a reputed and trusted brand of mechanical ventilation systems. A top tier HRV will save you a lot of hassle (and cash) years down the line. Click here for the best ways to save money on your HVAC system.

Research and Development

One of the significant advantages of purchasing ERV or HRV systems from an established brand is that they have invested heavily in R&D to improve their products and technology. 

Therefore, an HRV system from a reputed brand is more likely to have a durable, energy-efficient, silent fan that will last 20+ years. (Click here to learn about the most efficient home ventilation methods.)

Similarly, an ERV system manufactured by an established brand will offer a higher energy transfer rating, meaning a greater percentage of heat and moisture from the outgoing air will be transferred to the incoming air. Again, this organically results in lower utility bills and higher energy savings throughout its lifespan. 

In general, reputed brands make use of high-quality components and durable raw materials to uphold their hard-earned reputations and ensure a longer lifespan for your system.  

After-Sales Service

Regardless of how well your ventilation system is maintained, it will inevitably sustain some wear over time. An established brand will have a longer warranty period and likely offer better after-sales service when this happens. 

More prominent, reputed companies usually invest more heavily in customer satisfaction and loyalty and have the resources to hire skilled technicians and provide timely service, regardless of your location. 

A large, established brand is also more likely to manufacture (and stock) high-quality replacement parts for many years, even decades. So, you won’t have to work too hard to find a replacement part if one of the components of your mechanical ventilation system breaks down years after installation.  

Increasing the Lifespan of HRV and ERV Systems

Now that you know about the factors that affect the longevity of your mechanical ventilation system, you can make an informed choice about what type of system to buy and from which manufacturer. 

You can also follow some of the simple maintenance tips mentioned above to increase your system’s lifespan and ensure that each component is functioning optimally. 

But while such maintenance and upkeep can help enhance the lifespan of your ventilation system by a significant margin, it should still be serviced annually by professional, HVAC-certified technicians. 

An experienced HVAC professional will detect any technical issues that you might have missed during your maintenance activities. They will be able to tell you if your system is nearing the end of its lifespan or if any components need to be repaired or replaced. 

Routine checks are essential for indoor air quality and the health, safety, and wellbeing of everyone living in your home.

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