What Is a Ventilation System?

Ceiling air vents are a common component of mechanical ventilation systems.
Areas with poor ventilation are often breeding grounds for mold.
Commercial warehouses and garages often use exhaust fans to push out air containing toxins or pollution.
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  • Written By: Angela Marcum
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  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2014
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A ventilation system is a system which circulates fresh air throughout a confined space or spaces, while removing contaminated or stale air. Ventilation systems are used in various settings, including homes and workplaces. The many uses of these systems may include maintaining a constant humidity and temperature, ridding the air of dust and allergens, and providing the proper exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

There are various types of ventilation systems, which are typically classified as natural or mechanical systems. A natural ventilation system relies on atmospheric conditions, while a mechanical system is a man-made device that assists in the filtration and circulation of the air. The most common form of a natural system consists of an outlet on the roof and openings throughout the lower part of a building. This allows air to rise and exit through the roof, and new air to enter from below, providing constant circulation.

Mechanical ventilation systems actively pull fresh air in and push old air out. They may have other capabilities, including heating and cooling, and require some form of energy to operate. One common form of mechanical ventilation system is the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) units which are used in homes and other buildings.


Advanced ventilation systems are used within certain industries as a safety measure. This kind of mechanical ventilation system may be required by law, depending on the industry. They are often required in mining, underwater, and majority of manufacturing industries.

The exact type of advanced mechanical ventilation system used will ultimately depend on the individual needs of the company and any applicable laws. Some of these industries may have to comply with stipulated air quality guidelines regarding requirements of such equipment. This may be dependent upon the geographical location of the particular facility. The main purpose of ventilation systems in such settings is to filter harmful substances from the air, provide a constant supply of oxygen, and maintain a healthy atmosphere for breathing.

A ventilation system can be used in conjunction with other equipment to establish desirable temperatures and to maximize the air circulation. It is not uncommon for large buildings and warehouses to be equipped with exhaust fans that assist in bringing in fresh air in while pushing the old out. These fans may be placed at various ventilation openings throughout the building or on the roof. A ventilation system with exhaust fans are often used in buildings that generate substantial amounts of heat or contain fumes.


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Post 5

As a ventilation person, I would recommend an HRV and a heat pump.

Post 4

What kind of kitchen ventilation system do I need if I am opening a sandwich shop? I am researching expenses and working on a business plan so I would appreciate any advice. I do not want to spend money on an unnecessary system, but I also want to comply with any regulations. I would also like to leave open the possibility of expanding my restaurant.

I am looking to open a sub shop that serves premium quality sandwiches, not your run of the mill sub shop. That being said, I need to accommodate an oven, a salamander, a grill/griddle, and a six top burner. I would appreciate any feedback.

Post 3

@georgesplane- A heat recovery ventilation system is a good idea for a colder climate, but it requires an overhaul of the entire system. That would probably be something better for a new build, or if the building is in need of new HVAC units.

The building I work in uses a ventilation control system that monitors carbon dioxide in the different rooms. I am not sure exactly what components are necessary for the system, but I do not think there are too many. It should be easy to retrofit any building to accommodate this system.

In each of the rooms are a number of monitors on the ceiling. The ventilation system adjusts the amount of air circulation based on the amount of carbon dioxide in the room. The more people breathing in a room, the more carbon dioxide to the sensors, and the more ventilation. It takes the human error out of operating a ventilation system, making it extremely efficient.

Post 2

@Georgesplane- I am not sure what climate you are located in, and what you mean by break the bank, but I have an HRV heat ventilation system in my house. I am sure they make similar technology for commercial properties. Heat recovery systems use the heat in the outgoing air to warm the incoming air, significantly reducing the amount of energy needed to heat the building.

The way the system works is simple, yet ingenious. The system has two fans/motors, one for incoming air, and one for outgoing air. The trick is where the fans pump the air. The incoming air is pumped through a heat exchanger past the outgoing air. The air never mixes, but the heat from the exiting air is absorbed into the incoming air, reducing the energy that needs to go into it from gas or electricity.

My system cost about $2,500, but it will vary on the ventilation needs of the building. I would say to look into it.

Post 1

I own a small office building and what I have noticed is the commercial ventilation system is one of the biggest drains on energy in the building. I am trying to make improvements to the building so I can attract a tenant in this tough commercial real estate environment. I am not necessarily looking to attract an eco start-up, but I am trying to tune in on the crowd that will appreciate low operating costs, conservative energy use, and so forth.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to reduce the energy consumption of my building, specifically by making improvements to building ventilation? I am hoping to do something that will not break the bank, but will save money on building operation.

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