How to improve your home ventilation

A well-ventilated home is a healthy home. Read our guide to improving the ventilation in your home and how to prevent condensation, without losing all the heat you’ve paid for.

A well-ventilated home is a healthy home. Read our guide to improving the ventilation in your home and how to prevent condensation, without losing all the heat you’ve paid for.

Chris King
Home insurance expert
7
minute read
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Posted 6 MAY 2022

What is home ventilation? 

Home ventilation refers to the circulation of air in your house or flat. It means removing the stale, old air in your home and replacing it with fresh air from outside.

Having a well-ventilated home is not only important for your health, it’s also essential for the health of your home – as it helps to reduce condensation as well as the risk of damp and mould.

How can I increase ventilation in my home? 

There are different types of ventilation systems that help to increase the air flow in your home: 

  • Uncontrolled ventilation systems are common in older homes.  Uncontrolled simply means that you can’t turn the ventilation off, for example, airbricks and draughts around windows.
  • Controlled ventilation systems include fans and ducts that actively control the ventilation in your home. Modern controlled ventilation systems often include heat recovery mechanisms to help you transfer the warmth of the old outgoing air to the fresh air coming in.
  • Passive or natural ventilation systems work by harnessing the power of the wind and the natural buoyancy of warm, moist air to circulate the air in your home without having to use any electricity.

What are the benefits of improving your home ventilation? 

Improving your home’s ventilation means freshening up the stale air inside with lots of life-giving oxygen. Plus it can help: 

  • Remove airborne viruses, allergens and other indoor irritants from the air. This is especially important if you or anyone in your family suffers from asthma, other breathing problems or allergies.
  • Keep unpleasant smells at bay, helping to remove cooking smells, bathrooms odours and lingering smoke. 
  • Prevent condensation that could lead to damp and mould. Damp can cause structural damage to your property and serious problems such as dry rot.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, good ventilation is also said to improve concentration and focus.

What causes poor home ventilation? 

Poor air circulation in homes is caused when the air has nowhere to go. Instead, it sits and stagnates. In the winter, especially, we tend to close all the doors and windows to keep the heat in, but this leads to poor air flow.

Ventilation systems need regular care and maintenance to keep working at their best. Airbricks can get blocked by dirt or debris outside, or furniture inside, and stop working properly. Trickle vents around windows might get closed by accident (or on purpose).

Extractor fans in the kitchen are easily clogged by cooking grease and need to be cleaned regularly to continue working efficiently. You’ll also need to change the filter in your bathroom fan regularly, if you have one.

Passive ventilation systems that rely on the wind need to be placed carefully to work efficiently and won’t work at all on a still day.

The best ways to improve the ventilation in your home 

Open your windows

One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to increase the ventilation in your home is to use the windows. Keeping them open in the kitchen and bathroom when they’re in use will help to prevent bad smells from lingering and keep condensation at bay. You can also open all the windows in your home when you can to replace all the air inside with fresh air from outside.

Use or install fans in the kitchen and bathroom

If you have an extractor fan in the kitchen, remember to use it whenever you cook (and when you’re boiling the kettle). If you don’t have one, consider installing one, but make sure it vents outside.

Install a fan in the bathroom too. It will help to prevent any unpleasant smells and reduce condensation and damp.

Improve the air flow around your home

Keep internal doors open when you’re not cooking or using the bathroom. Ceiling fans are a good way of improving air flow, and they could also help you reduce your heating bill.

Keep trickle vents open

Trickle vents are small openings placed around a window frame that allow a small amount of air in or out of the room without losing too much heat in the process. If you have trickle vents installed, make sure you keep them open.

Installing a new ventilation system 

Although it’s the most expensive option, if your house has poor ventilation and you have the budget to fix it, you could consider installing a new controlled or passive ventilation system.

Some options include: 

  • Positive input ventilation (PIV): this system uses a unit (often installed in the loft) to draw in fresh air from outside, filter it to remove harmful pollutants and move it through the house. The incoming air creates more air pressure, which pushes the old air out through cracks or vents in your home.
  • Mechanical extract ventilation (MEV): works in the opposite way to PIV. It actively pushes out old, stale air from inside the house (usually from the kitchen and bathroom) to lower the air pressure inside the house, and naturally draw in fresh air through cracks or vents in your home.
  • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR): involves an inflow and an outflow. One extractor fan collects the heat from the air inside the house (often from the kitchen or bathroom) before discharging it outside. A second fan draws fresh air from outside, filtering and warming it with the heat trapped from the old air, and then distributes it through your home using ducts.
  • Passive ventilation systems: rely on natural processes to move air in and out of your home. Warm air rises, so passive vents can be placed in the loft and roof to let old air rise out of the house. Meanwhile, a vent in the lower levels of the house allows fresh air to come in to replace the air that is lost.

How much does it cost to improve your home ventilation? 

Some measures you can take to improve your home’s ventilation, such as opening windows and trickle vents, cost nothing. Others, like regularly maintaining your kitchen and bathroom extractor fans, don’t cost much and could save you from more serious and costly problems.

If you want to install a new extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom, you can expect to pay between £200 and £400 for the fan and installation.

Installing a new ventilation system could cost considerably more. A PIV or MEV system could set you back £500 to £1,000 including installation, but they do have low running costs.  

Installing a MVHR system will cost you in the thousands. Estimates range from £2,000 to £9,000 depending on the size of your home, the system you want and how much work it is to fit.

How to improve the ventilation in your home if you rent 

There’s a few simple ways to improve the ventilation in your home that don’t require getting your landlord involved. 

  • Keep the bathroom and kitchen windows open when they’re in use.
  • Open other windows regularly to improve air flow, for example, opening your bedroom window for 15 minutes when you first get up.
  • If provided, make sure you use the extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom, whenever the room is getting steamy.
  • Clean extractor fans regularly. 

If you believe the ventilation system in your rented home or flat is not working properly, you should contact your landlord and ask them to investigate, and if necessary, fix the problem.

For more information read our guide to landlord’s and tenant’s responsibilities.

Does your home insurance cover ventilation problems? 

In some cases, you may be covered for damage to your ventilation system, but it will likely depend on how the damage occurred. Home insurance won’t cover you for problems arising from general wear and tear.

Your home insurance is also unlikely to cover you for any problems with condensation or damp arising from poor ventilation.

Frequently asked questions

What are airbricks?

Airbricks are bricks with holes in them that allow air to circulate into buildings with suspended floors or cavity walls. They’re a low-tech, uncontrolled form of ventilation that you may find in older properties.

Is air conditioning a type of ventilation?

Air conditioning isn’t really a form of ventilation as it only cools the warm air from the room and recirculates it, rather than replacing it with air from outside.

How do I know if my home is poorly ventilated?

If you notice mould or damp in your home, or you see the windows weeping with condensation, it’s a good sign that you need to improve the ventilation. You might also notice a musty smell, and you could find that you or your family have problems with allergies or develop breathing problems.

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