Part of guaranteeing your family’s health is quality indoor air, which you can achieve with an ERV. It can be expensive to have one installed so before anyone jumps the gun, they often ask, “are ERVs worth the money?”.
ERVs are worth the money, especially if you prioritize clean, fresh, and quality indoor air. They help regulate indoor temperature and humidity levels which improves your home’s HVAC system’s efficiency. An ERV’s huge one-time payment can’t measure up to the indoor air benefits you and your family can enjoy for more than 20 years.
Of course, not all locations deal with the same seasonal changes and air quality issues. There is still room for debate on whether an ERV is the best option for what your home needs.
In this article, we’ll go over the basics of what an ERV is and how it works. We’ll also answer in detail whether it’s worth the money you pay upfront and what exactly makes it a worthy investment.
What is an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)?
An ERV, or Energy Recovery Ventilator, is an air ventilation system that is becoming more and more in demand across the country.
Everyone wants to breathe nothing but fresh and clean air, especially indoors, where we spend almost 90% of our time. This is why we need clean and fresh circulating indoor air.
But indoors, we cook, wash and dry clothes, and take baths and showers. These daily activities, and even simply breathing, result in emissions. A build-up of these emissions can lead to stuffy indoor air, making it difficult to breathe.
This is what mechanical ventilation systems ERVs help with.
ERVs get rid of this emission build-up and provide indoor living spaces with regularly circulating fresh air. It does so by venting out stale used indoor air and drawing in a new supply of fresh air from the outside.
How Does an ERV Work?
An ERV system consists of two air ducts. The first air duct is for exhausting and venting used stale air. The other is responsible for drawing in fresh air from the outdoors.
There are two air ducts so the entire process consists of two air streams. But rest assured these air streams never mix so the outgoing air does not contaminate the incoming air.
At the ERV’s core is what’s called the heat or air exchanger. When the two air streams pass through this heat exchanger, some of the heat from the outgoing air is retained, recovered, and transferred to the incoming air. This process preheats the new supply of fresh air from outside.
When it’s summer season, instead of heat, some of the chills from the outgoing air are retained and transferred to the incoming air. This precools the new air.
Either preheating or precooling air before it reaches indoors increases your home’s heater or air conditioning unit’s efficiency and performance.
Preheating or precooling incoming air takes a lot off of your HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system’s back so your home’s heater and AC systems won’t have to work as hard.
Another way an ERV system helps you achieve ideal living space conditions is with moisture and humidity.
When the streams of air reach the heat exchanger, it’s not only heat energy that’s retained. Some moisture from the outgoing air is also transferred to the incoming air whenever needed. This helps maintain stable relative humidity levels indoors so it isn’t too dry.
Though ERVs are not dehumidifiers, they can also prevent too much humidity from entering your home. When the incoming air is too humid, the ERV will transfer it over to the outgoing air instead so it doesn’t make it too humid indoors.
How Much Does an ERV Unit and Installation Cost?
One major drawback to an ERVs is the unit itself and the cost of installing one does not come cheap.
ERV installation has a national average of about $2,000.* This usually already consists of the unit itself, labor, and other fees.
Why does it cost so much?
Depending on a variety of factors, this rough estimate can go lower or higher.
The brand and model of the ERV system, your home’s existing ductwork, labor, materials, and your home’s size and location are some factors that can influence ERV installation cost.
You can read more about how much ERVs cost in our detailed guide here.
Are ERVs Worth the Money?
For the most part, yes – ERVs are worth the installation and initial cost.
An ERV can and will provide your indoor living spaces with quality, clean, and fresh air. And if that is of importance to you, then you can see the value an ERV brings to the table.
Sure, installing an ERV requires a huge one-time payment, but you and your family can enjoy the benefits for years to come. An ERV has an approximate lifespan of more than 20 years – so that’s at least 20 years of you reaping the benefits from one unit.
Why are ERVs a Worthy Investment?
If you still aren’t sure, read below on why we consider ERVs a worthy investment:
Guaranteed fresh air and improved indoor air quality
To ensure your family’s health, you should always take indoor air quality into consideration. With an ERV in place, you are sure to only provide clean, quality, and fresh indoor air.
ERVs come with built-in filters. These filters prevent dirt, dust, pollutants, insects, pollen, and other allergens from making it inside your family’s indoor living spaces.
Ventilates indoor air
Indoor air can be very stuffy without proper ventilation.
An ERV in your home’s HVAC system ensures there is a regular and constant supply of fresh outdoor air. In no time, you will not only see a decrease in your energy bills but also a huge improvement in the quality of your sleep and health.
Prevents humidity issues
Both extremes of the humidity spectrum have major drawbacks.
Air that’s too dry and without necessary moisture causes dry skin and sore throats. A too-humid environment, on the other hand, is a breeding ground for molds and mildew. Both these can cause respiratory issues and can negatively affect your home’s structural integrity.
An ERV can prevent this from happening by regulating humidity and keeping them at stable levels.
Regulates indoor temperatures
ERVs help regulate and maintain optimal indoor temperatures. It does so by retaining heat energy from the outgoing air and transferring it to the incoming air. This either preheats or precools air even before it reaches your home.
An ERV system effectively filters out contaminants from both incoming air and the air that’s already in your home. This helps homeowners have better odor control. This includes odor from smoke, cooking, or pets.
With an ERV system, you can expect indoor air to always smell fresh and clean.
How Do Energy Recovery Ventilators Help Save Money?
Indoor air can be stuffy. To solve this, your mind might go to opening a few doors or windows to let some fresh air in.
This is simple and can be effective, yes, but doing this could also mean you’re throwing your money on heating and AC out the window.
An ERV system in place improves the performance and overall efficiency of your home’s HVAC system. At the same time, it provides much-needed indoor ventilation.
According to Architect Magazine, the ERV has a payback period of about three months to three years. In this short timeframe, you can expect your energy savings and benefits to pay for the initial cost of investment.
If you compare this typical payback period to its lifespan of more than 20 years, you can get back what you paid for in a relatively short amount of time.
Prolong Your ERV’s Life to Maximize Your Investment
ERV units and installation come at a very hefty price so you would want to do your best to protect your investment. You can prolong your ERV’s life by:
Installing the right ERV size
ERV units come in varying sizes. Which size you should get depends on how much airflow and air exchange your home needs.
There are two ways to calculate the CFM (cubic feet per minute) your home requires: with the square footage method and the room count method.
For more detailed information on how to calculate the correct ERV size for your home’s HVAC system, click here.
Having it professionally-installed
ERV installation can be hard and mind-numbing, especially if you have no prior experience in undertaking such a huge DIY project. It’s highly suggested to have a licensed and professional ERV contractor do it for you.
Get someone who has enough experience and credibility under their belt. This will guarantee they do it right according to what your home needs.
It’s also important to have a copy of your unit’s installation requirements just so you know things are going without a hiccup.
Proper maintenance and care
Prolonging your unit’s life doesn’t end at the installation stage. Ensuring you properly maintain and care for your ERV will go a long way in prolonging its life.
The good news is, ERVs don’t require much maintenance.
All you need to do is have it professionally inspected every few months. You would also need to clean and replace the filters every three to four months. You need to clean and vacuum the unit’s core at least once a year to ensure efficient performance.
More and more households across the country are making the conscious choice of installing an air ventilation system like the ERV. It’s not a secret that ERV units and the cost of installing them are not cheap. Many are wondering and asking, are ERVs actually worth the money you would have to pay for them?
For the most part, yes – ERVs are worth the money. ERVs provide homes and buildings with quality and fresh air, preventing stuffy indoor air. They also help work out humidity issues by keeping stable moisture levels. And retaining heat energy from outgoing air improves the performance and efficiency of HVAC systems.
And that has been our answer to the question, “are ERVs worth the money?”. You can reach out to us below if you have more questions!
*national average at the time of originally publishing this article 3/2023