What is Natural Ventilation?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 02 January 2020
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Natural ventilation is a climate control method which relies on the natural movements of air to keep fresh air moving through a building and to control temperature and humidity levels. While this was the only ventilation option available historically, once mechanical means of ventilation were developed, many builders switched to these methods. In the late 20th century, some of the distinct advantages of natural ventilation began to be recognized, and builders started returning to the use of natural techniques.

There are several ways to create natural ventilation in the structure. One of the most basic is probably also one of the most familiar: create windows which open to generate wind driven ventilation. By opening and closing windows, people can control the flow of air through a structure, opening more windows to encourage fresh air, which can cool a structure in addition to carrying away odors, and closing windows to generate less of a flow of air, keeping a structure warmer and sometimes increasing humidity.

Stack ventilation is another natural ventilation option. With stack ventilation, people rely on natural pressure differences between air in various locations to force air up ventilation stacks. This technique is often used in factories, where tremendous amounts of heat can be generated, with the air being pulled up the stacks along with odors from the factory floor. Stack ventilation is usually facilitated with the use of intake vents which are located low to the ground, generating a steady flow of fresh, cool air.


One of the biggest advantages of natural ventilation is that it does not cost any money to run. Mechanical ventilation and electronic climate control can be quite costly, and may contribute significantly to the overall energy costs involved with running a building. No use of energy also makes this type of ventilation an environmentally friendly choice. Such systems tend to be easier to maintain, as well, with no parts to break or go wrong, they can't disturb occupants of the building with interruptions in ventilation or add to the operating costs for the ventilation system.

For many private homes, efficient building combined with natural ventilation is enough to satisfy ventilation needs. Larger structures may require a blend of natural and mechanical ventilation to keep air quality at a reasonable level. Green buildings are often specifically designed to rely primarily on natural ventilation for energy efficiency reasons, and it is also possible to retrofit buildings to accommodate natural ventilation, for people who are interested in making structures more energy efficient.


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Post 2

Windows are great for natural ventilation. But one thing that helps a lot (and I realize that this is not completely natural but it is close) is a ceiling fan. Having a good strong and quiet ceiling fan can do wonders in keeping the air in your home moving.

I have a house with a lot of windows and a ceiling fan in almost every room. In the summer time I am able to keep the place cool just by opening the windows, running the fans, and blocking out the sunlight at the warmest parts of the day. It is never uncomfortable for me or my guests and I save a lot on my electric bill. Natural ventilation is not some kooky hippie idea. It is a great, easy and cheap way to keep your place cool and fresh.

Post 1

I have lived in a lot of different apartments over the years and I have learned to always look for good sources of natural ventilation. For me this is as important as having hot water in the shower and enough closet space.

Its so important because you really notice it when it is not there. I have lived in several places that had little to no natural ventilation and it felt like the air was dead inside. I also spent so much more to keep the place cooled in the summer.

The place I live now is great. It basically has two full walls of windows that are on opposite sides of my big living room/dining room/kitchen. There is almost always a constant breeze and I rarely turn the AC on in the summer. It is ideal.

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