Breathe Easy & Save Money: The Power of Heat Recovery Ventilators

Welcome to energy-efficient and comfortable living! Planning to build or buy a house? This article is for you. In today’s world, where energy efficiency and indoor air quality are crucial, heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) have emerged as a popular solution. This comprehensive guide covers the benefits of using an HRV in your home, its functionality, installation tips, costs, maintenance, and more. We will also discuss some frequently asked questions about HRVs and compare them with energy recovery ventilators (ERVs). So, let’s get started!

modern HRV system mounted on a wall

What is a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV)?

A Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) is a mechanical ventilation system that helps maintain indoor air quality while minimizing energy loss. It exchanges stale indoor air for fresh outdoor air, transferring heat from the outgoing air to the incoming air. This reduces the load on your heating and cooling systems, lowering energy consumption and cost savings.

How does an HRV work?

An HRV system consists of two main components: a heat exchanger and a pair of fans. The heat exchanger is the system’s core, where heat transfers occur. The fans help circulate the air throughout your home. Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how an HRV works:

  1. Stale indoor air is extracted from the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry rooms.
  2. Fresh outdoor air is drawn in and passed through a filter to remove dust, pollen, and other contaminants.
  3. The heat exchanger transfers the heat from the outgoing stale air to the incoming fresh air.
  4. The warmed fresh air is distributed to the living spaces, such as bedrooms and living rooms.
  5. The process repeats, continuously providing fresh air and maintaining optimal indoor air quality.
Energy-saving lightbulbs and well-insulated windows

HRV Energy Efficiency

One of the key benefits of using an HRV system is its energy efficiency. An HRV can recover up to 80-95% of the heat from the outgoing air, significantly reducing the energy required to heat or cool the incoming air. This translates into lower energy bills and a reduced carbon footprint, making it an excellent choice for energy-efficient homes.

Improving Indoor Air Quality with HRV

Maintaining good indoor air quality is crucial for a healthy living environment. An HRV system helps improve indoor air quality by exchanging stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air. It reduces the build-up of pollutants, allergens, and moisture, which can cause issues like mold, allergies, and respiratory problems.

family enjoying fresh air in their living room

HRV vs. ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator)

While HRVs and ERVs serve a similar purpose of exchanging stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air, there is a fundamental difference between the two. An Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) also transfers moisture between the incoming and outgoing air, helping to maintain comfortable humidity levels inside the home. In contrast, an HRV only transfers heat. The choice between an HRV and ERV depends on your local climate and specific needs.

Let’s take a look at the differences between HRVs and ERVs in the table below, which compares various aspects of their functionality and performance.

Table 1: Comparison between HRV and ERV


HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator)

ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator)

Heat transfer



Moisture transfer



Ideal for cold climates



Ideal for humid climates



Reduces heating/cooling load



Selecting the Right HRV System

Now that we know the benefits of using an HRV system in your home, it’s time to select the right one for your needs. There are various factors to consider, such as the size of the system, popular HRV brands, cost, and whether to opt for a whole-house or single-room HRV system. In this section, we’ll provide some guidance to help you make an informed decision.

energy saving living room

Sizing a Heat Recovery Ventilator

Proper sizing is crucial for the optimal performance of an HRV system. To determine the right size for your home, you’ll need to consider the following factors:

  1. Airflow requirements: The required airflow, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), depends on your home’s size and the number of occupants. A general rule of thumb is to provide 1 CFM per 100 square feet of living space.
  2. Local climate: The climate in your region affects the efficiency of an HRV system. In colder climates, a larger HRV system may be necessary to ensure proper heat recovery and prevent frost buildup.
  3. Building codes and regulations: Check your local building codes and regulations for specific requirements related to ventilation and HRV systems.

You can also consult a professional HVAC contractor to help you determine the right size for your HRV system.

  1. There are several reputable HRV manufacturers on the market, such as Panasonic, Mitsubishi, and Nu-Air. To determine the best heat recovery ventilator for your home, consider factors like:Energy efficiency: Look for HRV systems with high heat recovery efficiency, typically ranging from 80-95%.
  2. Noise levels: Opt for an HRV system with low noise levels to ensure a comfortable and quiet living environment.
  3. Warranty and after-sales support: Choose a brand that offers a good warranty and reliable after-sales support for their products.
  4. User reviews: Check online reviews and testimonials to get an idea of the performance and reliability of different HRV systems.

Here’s a comparison of three popular HRV brands, highlighting their energy efficiency, noise levels, and warranty offerings

Table 2: Popular HRV Brands Comparison


Energy Efficiency

Noise Levels





5-7 years




5-7 years




5-10 years

Heat Recovery Ventilator Cost

The cost of an HRV system depends on factors such as size, brand, and features. On average, an HRV system can range from $1,000 to $3,500, not including installation. Professional installation costs can vary between $1,500 and $3,000, depending on the complexity of the project.

Remember that long-term energy savings and improved indoor air quality can offset the initial investment in an HRV system.

Whole House vs. Single Room HRV Systems

There are two main types of HRV systems: whole-house and single-room systems. A whole-house HRV system provides ventilation to the entire home, while a single-room HRV system is designed to ventilate specific rooms, such as bathrooms or kitchens.

Whole-house HRV systems are more energy-efficient and provide better overall indoor air quality. However, they are also more expensive and require professional installation. Single-room HRV systems, on the other hand, are more affordable and easier to install, making them an attractive option for homeowners on a budget or those looking to ventilate specific problem areas.

In conclusion, selecting the right HRV system for your home involves considering factors such as size, brand, cost, and the type of system. By carefully evaluating these factors and consulting with a professional HVAC contractor, you can choose the perfect HRV system to enjoy a more comfortable, energy-efficient, and healthy living environment.

Installing an HRV System

Once you’ve selected the right HRV system for your home, the next step is installation. Proper installation is critical to ensure optimal performance and energy efficiency. In this section, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of DIY vs. professional installation, provide some helpful tips for HRV installation, and explain how to integrate an HRV with existing HVAC systems.

DIY vs. Professional Installation

When installing an HRV system, homeowners have two main options: DIY installation or hiring a professional HVAC contractor. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages:

DIY Installation

  • Pros: DIY installation can save you money on labor costs and offers a sense of accomplishment.
  • Cons: HRV installation can be complex, and mistakes can lead to poor system performance or damage. Additionally, improper installation can void the manufacturer’s warranty.

Professional Installation

  • Pros: A professional HVAC contractor has the expertise and experience to ensure proper installation, optimal system performance, and adherence to local building codes and regulations. Moreover, professional installation is usually covered by a warranty.
  • Cons: Professional installation can be more expensive than DIY installation.

Considering the complexity of HRV installation and the potential risks associated with DIY installation, it’s generally recommended to hire a professional HVAC contractor to ensure the best results.

HRV Installation Tips

If you decide to hire a professional HVAC contractor, here are some tips to ensure a smooth and successful installation:

  1. Choose a reputable contractor: Check online reviews, ask for references, and confirm that the contractor is licensed and insured.
  2. Get multiple quotes: Obtain quotes from at least three different contractors to compare prices, services, and experience.
  3. Ask for a written contract: A written contract should include details such as the scope of work, materials used, project timeline, and payment terms.
  4. Plan for regular maintenance: Regular maintenance is essential to keep your HRV system running efficiently and prolong its lifespan. Ask your contractor about recommended maintenance schedules and tasks.
cross-section of an HRV system showing airflow

How to Integrate an HRV with Existing HVAC Systems

If you already have an existing HVAC system in your home, integrating an HRV system can be a straightforward process. Here’s a general overview of how an HRV system can be connected to an existing HVAC system:

  1. Determine the location: Find a suitable location for the HRV unit, typically in a mechanical room or a utility area. The HRV should be easily accessible for maintenance and should have sufficient space around it for proper airflow.
  2. Connect the ductwork: The HRV system will have two separate duct systems: fresh air intake and stale air exhaust. These ducts will need to be connected to the existing ductwork in your home, ensuring a balanced airflow.
  3. Integrate with the HVAC controls: The HRV system can be integrated with your existing HVAC controls, allowing you to manage both systems from a single control panel.
  4. Seal and insulate: Ensure all connections are properly sealed, and the ductwork is well-insulated to prevent heat loss and maintain system efficiency.

In conclusion, while DIY installation of an HRV system may seem cost-effective, improper installation’s complexity and potential risks make hiring a professional HVAC contractor advisable. By following the tips provided and integrating your HRV system with your existing HVAC system, you can enjoy the benefits of improved indoor air quality and energy efficiency in your home.

Infrared Heaters and HRV Systems

In addition to heat recovery ventilators, infrared heaters can play a crucial role in creating an energy-efficient home. In this section, we’ll explore the role of infrared heaters, compare them to HRVs, and address common concerns about infrared heating.

The role of infrared heaters in energy-efficient homes

Infrared heaters are a popular choice for homeowners seeking energy-efficient heating solutions. Unlike traditional convection heaters, which heat the air in a room, infrared heaters use electromagnetic waves to heat objects and people directly. This allows for more even distribution of warmth and can result in energy savings due to reduced heat loss.

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Combining infrared heaters with an HRV system can further improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality. While infrared heaters provide comfortable and efficient heating, the HRV system ensures proper ventilation and a continuous supply of fresh air.

Comparing infrared heaters and HRVs

While both infrared heaters and HRVs contribute to a more energy-efficient home, they serve different purposes:

  1. Heating: Infrared heaters are primarily designed to provide heating, whereas HRVs are not heating devices. Instead, HRVs help maintain comfortable temperatures by recovering and transferring heat from the outgoing air to the incoming air.
  2. Ventilation: HRVs are specifically designed to improve indoor air quality by providing fresh air and removing stale air, while infrared heaters do not have a direct impact on ventilation.
  3. Energy efficiency: Both infrared heaters and HRVs can contribute to energy savings. Infrared heaters offer efficient heating by directly warming objects and people, while HRVs reduce the need for additional heating or cooling by recovering heat from the outgoing air.

Common concerns about infrared heating

Here are some common concerns and questions related to infrared heating:

Do infrared heaters use a lot of electricity?

Infrared heaters are generally more energy-efficient than traditional convection heaters, providing direct heating without relying on air circulation. However, the amount of electricity used will depend on the heater’s wattage, how often it’s used, and the insulation of the heated space.

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Is infrared heating safe?

Infrared heaters are generally considered safe for use in homes, as they don’t emit harmful pollutants, nor do they reduce oxygen levels. However, following the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety precautions is important, such as keeping the heater away from flammable materials and not using it in damp or wet areas.

Are infrared heaters suitable for large rooms?

Infrared heaters can effectively heat larger rooms, but choosing the appropriate size and wattage for your space is essential. Multiple infrared heaters might be needed even to heat a large room.

Combining infrared heaters with HRV systems can create a comfortable and energy-efficient home environment. While infrared heaters provide direct, efficient heating, HRVs ensure proper ventilation and fresh air, making them complementary technologies for a healthier and more eco-friendly living space.

Conclusion: The Benefits of HRV Systems and Why You Should Consider One for Your Home

Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) can significantly enhance indoor air quality and energy efficiency in your home. They recover heat from outgoing stale air, transfer it to incoming fresh air, and help maintain comfortable temperatures without the need for additional heating or cooling, resulting in energy savings and a more eco-friendly living environment.

If you’re planning, building, or buying a home, it’s worth considering an HRV system as part of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) setup. With the right HRV system, installation, and maintenance, you can enjoy a healthier, more energy-efficient home for years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about heat recovery ventilators (HRVs), addressing their worth, the best HRV options, how they work, and whether or not you need one for your home.

Is heat recovery ventilation worth it?

Many homeowners wonder if investing in a heat recovery ventilation system is worth it. In most cases, the answer is yes. An HRV system offers several benefits, including:

  1. Improved indoor air quality: By continuously exchanging stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air, HRVs help maintain healthy indoor air quality and reduce pollutants, allergens, and moisture buildup.
  2. Energy efficiency: HRVs transfer heat between incoming and outgoing air, reducing the energy needed to heat or cool your home and potentially lowering your energy bills.
  3. Condensation control: By removing excess moisture from the air, HRVs can help prevent condensation and mold growth in your home.
  4. Comfort: HRVs help maintain a comfortable indoor temperature by reducing drafts and cold spots.

Considering these benefits, heat recovery ventilation systems are generally worth the investment, especially in tightly sealed, energy-efficient homes.

What is the best heat recovery ventilator?

Several reputable HRV manufacturers are on the market, such as Panasonic, Mitsubishi, and Nu-Air. To determine the best heat recovery ventilator for your home, consider factors like:

  • Performance and efficiency ratings
  • Size and capacity
  • Noise levels
  • Ease of installation and maintenance
  • Warranty and customer support

Additionally, it’s a good idea to read customer reviews and consult with a professional HVAC contractor for personalized recommendations based on your home’s specific needs.

How does a heat recovery ventilator work?

A heat recovery ventilator exchanges stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air while transferring heat between the two air streams. This process helps maintain a comfortable indoor temperature and improves indoor air quality without wasting energy.

Here’s a brief overview of the HRV operation process:

  1. Stale, humid indoor air is extracted from bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
  2. Fresh, outdoor air is drawn into the HRV system.
  3. The HRV’s heat exchanger transfers heat from the warmer air stream to the cooler one. In winter, heat is transferred from the outgoing indoor air to the incoming outdoor air, while in summer, the process is reversed.
  4. The conditioned fresh air is distributed to living areas, such as bedrooms and living rooms.

Do I need a heat recovery ventilator?

Determining if you need an HRV system depends on factors such as your home’s construction, local climate, and existing ventilation systems. You might consider an HRV system if:

  • Your home is tightly sealed and energy-efficient, with limited natural ventilation.
  • You experience issues with indoor air quality, such as persistent odors, allergens, or high humidity levels.
  • Condensation and mold growth are recurring problems in your home.
  • You want to improve energy efficiency and reduce heating and cooling costs.

If you’re unsure whether an HRV system is right for your home, consult with a professional HVAC contractor for an assessment and personalized recommendations.

By understanding the benefits of HRVs, the best options on the market, and how they work, you can make an informed decision about whether or not a heat recovery ventilator is the right choice for your home.

What is the difference between an HRV and an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator)?

While both HRV and ERV systems are designed to improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency, they differ in how they handle moisture. An HRV transfers heat between the incoming and outgoing air streams, while an ERV also transfers moisture. This means that ERVs are more effective at controlling humidity levels in your home, making them a better choice for regions with extreme humidity.

Generally, HRVs are suitable for colder climates with fewer humidity control concerns, while ERVs are ideal for hot and humid climates where managing indoor moisture is crucial. To determine which system is best for your home, consult with an HVAC professional who can evaluate your specific needs and local climate conditions.

How much does a heat recovery ventilator cost?

The cost of a heat recovery ventilator varies depending on factors such as the size, brand, and type (whole house or single room). On average, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $3,500 for an HRV unit. Installation costs are additional, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the job’s complexity and whether it’s a new construction or retrofit project.

Keep in mind that energy savings from an HRV system can help offset the initial investment over time. Plus, in some regions, rebates and incentives may be available for installing energy-efficient ventilation systems.

How long does a heat recovery ventilator last?

A well-maintained HRV system can last between 15 and 20 years, although individual components like filters and fans may need to be replaced more frequently. To ensure the longevity and optimal performance of your HRV, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for routine maintenance, such as cleaning and replacing filters, checking for leaks, and cleaning the heat exchanger core.

Can I use an HRV system in conjunction with my existing HVAC system?

Yes, you can integrate an HRV system with your existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to further improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency. An HVAC professional can help you determine the best way to integrate the HRV, taking into account factors like ductwork, airflow, and control systems.

By taking the time to research and understand the benefits of HRVs, their differences from ERVs, the costs associated with installation, and how they can be integrated with your existing HVAC system, you can make an informed decision about whether a heat recovery ventilator is right for your home. Remember to consult with an HVAC professional for personalized guidance and to ensure the proper installation and maintenance of your HRV system.

Additional Resources

To learn more about heat recovery ventilators and energy-efficient home solutions, consider exploring the following resources:

  1. Online forums and communities: Websites like Reddit offer forums where you can ask questions, share experiences, and gather valuable insights from other homeowners and professionals in the field.
  2. Energy efficiency and green building organizations: Organizations like the U.S. Green Building Council and the Energy Star program provide valuable resources, tools, and certification programs to help homeowners create energy-efficient and sustainable living spaces. Additionally, many governments offer incentives and rebates for homeowners who invest in energy-efficient technologies like HRV systems. Check with your local or national government to learn more about available programs and how they can help offset the costs of implementing an HRV system in your home.
Dean Casey
About Dean Casey

Hi, I'm Dean Casey, the founder and chief editor of

With over 15 years of experience in the HVAC industry, my passion is helping homeowners achieve optimal comfort and energy efficiency in their living spaces. As a certified HVAC technician and consultant, I have developed a deep understanding of home heating systems, insulation, and energy-saving practices.

I started this blog to provide well-researched, practical advice to homeowners looking to improve their home's heating performance and reduce energy bills. Whether it's comprehensive guides, hands-on product reviews, or expert tips, my goal is to share valuable information with you, my readers.

I enjoy spending time with my family and exploring the great outdoors when I'm not busy writing and researching. I'm also an avid DIYer, always eager to tackle new home improvement projects and share my experiences with you.

If you have any questions or comments about home heating, please don't hesitate to reach out through the contact page on the website. I'm always happy to help!

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