E-Z Breathe Ventilation Systems

Submitted by DavidAndersen on Thu, 02/14/2013 - 17:29.
 E-Z Breathe Ventilation Systems

"Eliminate asthma & allergy triggers, excess moisture, odors, pollutants and toxins from your entire home. Guaranteed!"

The question asked is "does this work?".

So let's take a look at it, and see what does this system actually do?

It removes air from where you have excessive moisture within the building which is producing colonization of mold and other indoor air quality symptoms.

Truth: E-Z Breathe's major point is that ventilation is important to good indoor air quality.

Fact: weatherization standards specifically address ventilation and if you do any work to your house to decrease outdoor air infiltration (which is an efficiency loss) you potentially create sick building syndrome.

Cause and effect: for every modification that you make to your house, there is a "reaction" to that modification. In this case you are removing old nasty stale air from inside the house and replacing it with (as they say) "dry fresh air from upstairs". The effect of creating this ventilation is a weatherization loss. The air just doesn't come from upstairs, it has to come from outdoors. The same volume of air that leaks out of the house or is forced out of the house through forced convection (which this equipment is) must be replaced by the same volume of outdoor air.

Problem: this system utilizes a negative depressurization system into the house to remove air. What is the effect of removing air?

They claim reduced radon levels; If there is significant thermal bypass (subsequent energy efficiency losses through air infiltration) fresh air from the outdoors will replace the ventilated air. However, if the building is "excessively weatherized" it will reduce atmospheric pressures in the basement and cause radon located in the ground to enter the house. Radon testing between the entry point of air into the house and  the E-Z Breathe ventilation system may have excessively high radon concentrations because the system is depressurizing the basement. It is however less likely for radon to reach the upper floors where most occupancy occurs. Wouldn't it be better to have a properly installed radon system that removes radon gas "before" it ever enters the house?

E-Z Breathe claims reduced moisture levels: Where does the moisture come from in the first place?
Water intrusion comes from three potential sources which I have covered in other blogs. One of the most significant water issues that I encounter on a daily basis is the water that does not leak through the roof, or occurs from plumbing lines (supply and sanitary drains). Water frequently comes from the outdoor air being drawn into the building and coming in contact with the air conditioned air which is below the dewpoint temperature of the entrained air and subsequently sheds its moisture in the liquid form into the building envelope! 

Like every mitigation system designed, we attempt to address the adverse condition before it enters the building not afterwards. You don't allow moisture to enter the house and then try to dehumidify the house. Doing so causes moisture from the exterior to move even more rapidly into the house due to vapor pressure differential. If you have a radon problem you don't want to suck it through the house and ventilate it, you want to prevent it from ever entering the building. If you have mold in the house, where to the spores come from? Outdoors!

E-Z Breathe claims this system is a dehumidifier replacement. Why do we need a dehumidifier in the first place?
Generally because the HVAC system is not properly designed to handle moisture in places like the basement. A dehumidifier is nothing more than an HVAC cooling system that does not discharge condenser heat to the exterior. When you dehumidify your basement in the summertime you raise the temperature in the basement due to equipment operational requirements (an adverse effect of its utilization *see cause-and-effect). You can calculate this load increase by simply converting the equipment nameplate amperage rating to a BTU value.

E-Z Breathe claims that dehumidifiers are expensive to use, however if you are operating your HVAC system anyway and it is properly designed and installed, you shouldn't need a dehumidifier in the first place.

E-Z Breathe claims your basement air is replaced from cleaner and dryer air from upstairs.
Is the air upstairs actually cleaner and dryer when that is where the highest percentage of occupancy occurs? Elevated moisture comes from cooking in the kitchen, dishwashers, taking showers, evaporation from cleaning, transpiration of plants, perspiration of occupants etc. Does cooking and occupation of the remainder of the house not produce pollutants?

Basement modifications often include cutting into the existing HVAC system that was never intended or designed to control the existing heating and cooling load of that space. Many people finish their basements  or construct houses with basements that were never really prepared for occupancy by addressing moisture infiltration. The HVAC system must be significantly undersized in a basement area because the basement is located below ground and the temperature outside of the foundation wall is in the 50s most of the year. We neither have to heat or cool the basement space very much to maintain comfort, rather must remove latent heat (moisture) which requires an undersized HVAC system that operates for a extended period of time to circulate the air and remove humidity.

Proper solutions: the HVAC system should be properly designed, installed, and maintained.
It's not about blowing conditioned air into the space, it's about removing air from the space and running it through a properly sized HVAC system whether it be an air conditioner or a dehumidifier. Cutting into the first-floor HVAC duct for the basement causes cold air to fall out of the duct faster than it is forced into the upper floors due to its density. This decreases the temperature below the comfort levels in the basement and increases the potential for condensation to occur throughout the basement.

Introduction of ventilation air from the outdoors should be filtered and the humidity removed before introduced to the interior of the building to prevent condensation and introduction of outdoor pollutants into the house. The HVAC system is a filtering system and it removes moisture. Any air that is being pulled into the house to replace the ventilated air should pass through the HVAC system so that it can be filtered and dehumidifed. Even in the winter months, comfort levels will suffer from pulling outdoor air through the building envelope causing uncomfortable drafts to occur. Drawing the air through the HVAC system will treat the air to the proper temperature reducing drafts and discomfort.

As E-Z Breathe design does not specifically address these issues ( which have the most adverse effects on building and indoor air quality that we find during building analysis) I would be reluctant to endorse this system without other significant modifications to the building, which if performed correctly would eliminate the need for an E-Z Breathe system altogether.

There is no doubt that ventilation is overlooked and insufficient in most houses, however the E-Z Breathe system style of ventilation is nothing more than turning on a bathroom fan controlled by a humidistat. The adverse conditions caused by this type of ventilation far outweighs the ability to breathe E-Z as evident in the large number of building analysis cases we work on. 

Installation of a ventilation system (or any other type of mediation system) should be accompanied by a "test in" process that measures and analyzes the actual performance of the house before any attempts to modify its performance is considered. Installing improper ventilation in many parts of the country may create a forced hydrologic cycle within your house accelerating its deterioration.


Submitted by DavidAndersen on Thu, 02/14/2013 - 17:29.


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