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What’s the Difference Between a Heat and Energy Recovery Ventilator?

question-markWhen you’re looking for better indoor air quality in Flushing, MI combined with savings with your heating and cooling, an option we recommend is to install either a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV). Our HVAC professionals can install one of these devices into your home’s ventilation system to give you the power to circulate fresh air through the house without putting extra pressure on either the heater or the air conditioning system. An HRV or an ERV is a year-round helper when it comes to having healthier air without sacrificing money to run the heater or AC more often.

But does it matter which one you get? What’s the difference between these two devices? These are good questions, and we’ll get to them below.

How They Are The Same

We’ll start by describing how heat and energy recovery ventilators are similar—which they are in most ways. They do essentially the same job using similar methods: they bring fresh outdoor air into the house while exhausting stale air outside, but use the indoor air to first heat or cool the incoming air through a process called counterflow heat exchange.

The simplest explanation for this process is that the two currents of air move through the HRV/ERV so that heat energy transfers from one to the other. Heat naturally moves from a hotter area to a colder one, so the warmer current cools down and the cooler current warms up. This means that in summer, the hot outdoor air cools down before it reaches the interior of the house; in winter, the cold outdoor air warms up before it reaches the interior of the house. HRVs and ERVs use this same process.

How They Are Different

Where the two separate is how the air currents come into contact with each other. 

  • Energy recovery ventilator: The two currents come into physical contact within the ERV, allowing for direct energy transfer. But more than energy gets transferred—moisture moves between the two currents, which helps to create more balanced humidity indoors. In other words, an ERV transfers both heat and moisture.
  • Heat recovery ventilators: The two currents do not physically contact each other within the HRV, but have a heat exchanger allow thermal energy to move between them.  The HRV doesn’t transfer any moisture, only heat, and therefore does not affect indoor humidity levels. 

Which One Is Best?

You might automatically think the ERV is a superior choice because it has the benefit of balancing humidity. But there are also good reasons to consider an HRV. 

  • If humidity balance is a concern around the year, an energy recovery ventilator is often the best choice.
  • If high humidity is primarily only a problem in winter, a heat recovery ventilator is a better option. 

Heat recovery ventilators are also better suited for extreme cold weather than energy recovery ventilators, although this isn’t absolute. 

The best way to find out which of the two will do the best service for your home is to call our professionals to handle the installation. We can help balance the various factors so you can make the decision that works best for your house. 

First Choice Heating & Cooling: If your home had a voice … it would call First Choice!

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