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Your Utility Bills: Open windows to clear the air

Dear Jim: During winter when we heat or summer when we air condition, the indoor air becomes stale. How can we get fresh air into the house without losing a lot of heat or letting in hot sticky humid air? – Carol M.

Dear Carol: The unpleasantness of stale indoor air may be the least of the problems. It is not uncommon for indoor air in an energy efficient house to be more polluted and unhealthy than outdoor air. Household products such as cleaners and synthetic materials emit unhealthy chemicals, many which have never been tested for safety.

Although it sounds inefficient, opening a couple of windows on opposite sides of the house for a few minutes during winter does not lose much energy. House building materials don’t lose heat that quickly. During summer, this is not as effective because it allows humid air to come in along with allergens such as pollen and mold spores.

If you choose to try this low-cost fresh air technique during summer, run a room-size dehumidifier in the room where the outdoor air comes in. The specific room may change based upon the wind direction. The dehumidifier pulls more moisture out of the moisture-laden air. The air conditioner will circulate the fresh air throughout the house.

The most effective method for year-round fresh indoor air is an automatic heat recovery ventilation (HRV) system. It can save more than 70 percent of the energy. Incoming cold fresh outdoor air captures heat from the outgoing warm stale air during winter. During summer, incoming hot fresh outdoor air is precooled by the outgoing air-conditioned stale air.

Two blowers running in opposite directions are ducted from indoors to outdoors. The air flows through a heat exchanger where heat from the warmer air is transferred to the cooler air without mixing. Stale air is drawn from bathrooms or the kitchen and fresh air is ducted to a living room or hall.

This system works well in many climates; however, in very dry or humid climates, the fresh indoor air becomes uncomfortably dry or humid. Even though the HRV system has an effective air filter, extremely dry or humid indoor air can exacerbate allergies and skin issues.

In these areas an energy recovery ventilation (ERV) system is better. An ERV is similar to a HRV except the heat exchanger also transfers moisture. This is effective year-round, but most effective during summer because outgoing cool stale air dehumidifies the incoming fresh humid air.

The most commonly used automatic control method is a humidity sensor. Stale indoor air tends to be more humid. This sensor determines how long and how fast the blowers run. There is a manual sensor override to run it for extra fresh air.

The following companies offer HRV’s and ERV’s: Aprilaire, (800) 334-6011,; Broan, (800) 558-1711,; Fantech, (800) 747-1762,; Honeywell, (800) 328-5111,; and Renewaire, (800) 627-4499,

Pro should fix door

Dear Jim: Our sliding glass door is getting more difficult to slide open. I found a small metal cylinder in the track. Did this cause the problem and how can I fix it? – Mike H.

Dear Mike: The small metal piece probably was a roller from the gliding assembly. Also, it is important to fix it so that your door is aligned properly for an airtight, efficient fit.

Although most home center stores have sliding door replacement parts, in most cases, it is best to have it professionally repaired and adjusted. The door panel is heavy and difficult to handle.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Buffalo News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit