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What is an Air Exchanger & How Much Does it Cost?

An air exchanger is a cost effective solution to remove contaminants inside a home. It constantly exchanges stale and polluted air with fresh outdoor air. Over recent years, there has been an added emphasis on energy efficiency and conservation, which has resulted in new homes with issues of indoor air pollution. Through a combination of thermal windows, vapor barriers and caulk, fresh air has been reduced or completely prevented from entering the home and replacing the stale air. Although fresh air may enter the home through the opening and closing of doors, this is not always sufficient to keep the air inside a home clean and fresh. In addition, cleaning agents, aerosol sprays, paints, cooking and excess humidity can cause an unpleasant air-quality situation. Since keeping windows and doors open certainly does not conserve energy, an air exchanger is an excellent device to both improve the air quality and preserve energy savings.

An air exchanger is a single unit device with designs that vary by manufacturer. They all, however, operate on the same primary principle. Basically, fresh air enters the home from an opening to the outside, then passes through the exchanger that is circled by indoor air. The exchanger transfers the heat from the warmer air to the cooler air. At a reduced rate of energy loss, fresh air is supplied to the home. The indoor air is subsequently ducted to a port and discharged outside. Air exchangers are different from a home's heating and cooling system in that they should be run during mild outside temperatures to save energy. Running the air exchanger at night during the summer and during the day in the winter is ideal. 

The Costs

  • The minimum cost of an air exchanger is $980 per unit.

  • The maximum cost of an air exchanger is $1,180 per unit.

The cost of an air exchanger will vary based upon the manufacturer. Fortunately, since it is a single unit device, it is relatively easy for the consumer to compare prices. When buying an air exchanger, it is important to consider the efficiency of temperature transfer between the air coming into the home and the air exiting the home. The transfer range can vary between 50 and 85 percent, so this is a major item to consider when determining the economy of a particular unit. In most circumstances, a slower blower speed results in higher efficiency because there is more time for the air to exchange energy. Another item to consider is the amount of electricity that is consumed by the blower motor in a particular unit.

Generally, an air exchanger will cost approximately $980 to $1,180 per unit. Other costs to consider are the labor and supplies that are required to install the unit. The installation of an air exchanger normally takes about four hours, with total labor costs running between $262 and $352. In addition, the supplies and necessary tools required to complete the installation will cost between $45 and $54. Altogether, a consumer can expect to pay a total cost between $1,286 and $1,586 for the air exchanger unit, installation and supplies. Sometimes there may be some additional minor costs to consider. For example, if the air exchanger is installed in a basement, a condensate pump might be needed to expel the water vapor that condenses during the air exchange process.

Advantages to Air Exchangers

There are several major advantages to installing an air exchanger, with the primary advantage being the significant improvement of air quality within the home.

Air exchangers supply a volume of oxygenated air into the home which is usually distributed through the duct system. On average, a person in a home breathes approximately 2,500 gallons of air on a daily basis, and the replacement of oxygenated air can result in individuals feeling more energetic and mentally alert. Air exchangers help to reduce the symptoms that are associated with raised levels of carbon dioxide, including drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, eye irritation and shortness of breath.

An air exchanger helps with the removal of indoor moisture that can cause mold and bacterial contamination of the indoor air. Although the amount of moisture actually being removed from indoors might be small compared to the amount of moisture created in the home, even minor amounts of eliminated moisture are a benefit. This is especially true for newer homes that have been constructed to be more energy efficient. Air exchangers remove particles such as dust and essentially help to freshen up a home.

Disadvantages to Air Exchangers

Although there are some major benefits to owning an air exchanger, there are several disadvantages to consider as well. An air exchanger will increase the homeowner's utility bills as electricity is required to run the exchanger. In addition, since the air exchanger brings air from outside into the home, this air will need to be adjusted (higher or lower) to match the existing inside temperature. Therefore, this will increase air conditioning and heating costs.

Although it is possible to connect an air exchanger to an existing central ducting system, the exchanger will actually run during the worst outside conditions. This is because the existing HVAC system runs most often during very high or very low temperatures. In addition, the speed of the air flowing through the exchanger is affected from the existing HVAC system. The speed of the air is critical to the air exchanger's performance.

Air exchangers usually do not eliminate enough moisture from the indoor air to completely remove moisture related problems. Therefore, all other methods of indoor moisture control should still be considered. Air exchangers need regular maintenance, which is often overlooked by most homeowners. Specifically, internal motors need to be oiled, interior filters need to be cleaned and the air intakes from the exterior need to be checked frequently for dirt buildup.

Last updated on Jul 31, 2014

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