What Is An Air Exchanger & How Much Does It Cost?
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To ensure you and your family breathes in the cleanest air, consider installing an air exchange system. An air exchanger is a cost effective solution to remove contaminants inside your home. It constantly exchanges stale and polluted air with fresh outdoor air.
See the full cost breakdown of all air to air exchangers and their ample benefits below. If the cost sounds right, ImproveNet can always help you find the best HVAC contractors in your area.
Table of Contents
- Air Exchange System Cost
- Air Exchanger Cost Factors
- What Is An Air Exchanger?
- How Air Exchangers Work
- Air Exchange System Advantages
- Air Exchange System Disadvantages
- Air Exchanger Types
- Air Exchanger Maintenance
- DIY Or Hire An HVAC Contractor?
- Find An HVAC Contractor
Air Exchange System Cost
Air Exchanger Costs
Air Exchanger Unit
The cost of an air exchanger will vary based on the manufacturer, but generally, an air exchanger will cost approximately $980 to $1,200 per unit. Fortunately, since it’s a single unit device, it’s relatively easy for homeowners to compare prices. However, in addition to the unit price, most homeowners hire HVAC contractors to install air exchangers. Therefore, you have to consider labor costs as well. You should get multiple HVAC quotes, but chances are, you’ll have to pay at least $250 to install an air exchange system.
Sometimes there may be other minor costs to consider. If the project takes longer than four hours (the average), the pro may charge extra. 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.
Air Exchanger Cost Factors
While the price range is not vast, there are certain factors that can increase or decrease your fresh air exchanger cost.
When buying an air exchanger, it’s important to consider the efficiency of the temperature transfer between the air coming into the home and the air exiting the home. The transfer range can vary between 50% and 85%, so this is a major item to consider when comparing units. In most circumstances, a slower blower speed results in higher efficiency because there is more time for the air to exchange energy. As expected, this will raise your installation cost.
Another item to consider is the amount of electricity that is consumed by the blower motor in a particular unit. Some units use more energy than others. This will of course raise your monthly utility costs. As such, it’s usually cost effective to pay extra upfront and save on your ongoing electric bills.
Finally, the air exchanger’s capacity will affect the bottom line. Some homeowners install air exchangers for individual rooms and others install them for the entire house along with a whole house air cleaner. Additionally, how many people live in the home plays a role. As you might expect, larger families and larger areas to clear increase your air exchanger cost.
What Is An Air Exchanger?
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.
To solve this growing issue, homeowners all over the country are installing basement air exchangers. Air exchange systems remove stale indoor air and replace it with fresh air outside. Commonly used in the winter, when we keep windows and exterior doors closed, air exchangers ensure all that polluted air trapped inside the home leaves as soon as we need it. As such, air exchangers greatly reduce the risk of mold and pollutants in and around your home.
How Air Exchangers Work
While air exchanger designs do vary by manufacturer, they all operate on the same primary principle. Basically, fresh air enters the home from an opening to the outside, and 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 central heating and central 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.
Air Exchange System Advantages
There are several advantages to installing an air exchanger, with the primary advantage being the significant improvement of air quality within the home.
- Improved air quality
- Feeling more energetic
- Reduces drowsiness, eye irritation and shortness of breath
- Removes air pollutants like dust, mold and other toxic materials
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 homeowners feeling more energetic and mentally alert. Air exchangers help reduce symptoms associated with raised levels of carbon dioxide, including drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, eye irritation and shortness of breath.
An air exchanger helps remove 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 better than nothing. This is especially true for newer homes that have been constructed to be more energy efficient. Overall, air exchangers remove particles such as dust and essentially help to freshen up a home.
If you’re unsure as to the quality of air in your home, see what it costs to get your air tested.
Air Exchange System Disadvantages
Although there are some major benefits to owning an air exchanger, there are several disadvantages to consider as well.
- Increased electric bills
- Need central HVAC
- Installation costs increase with no ductwork in place
- Does not eliminate all moisture
An air exchanger will increase your 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.
An air exchanger can not operate on its own. They need ducts and central HVAC systems to function properly. Therefore, if you do not have either set up, your installation cost will skyrocket. After all, the average cost to install air ducts is just under $1,000.
Although it’s 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 by the HVAC system. The speed of the air is critical to the air exchanger's performance. Therefore, if you live in an area that sees extreme temperatures, an air exchange system may not be ideal.
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.
Finally, air exchangers need regular maintenance. We’ll jump into specifics later.
Air Exchanger Types
All air exchangers serve the same purpose. Fortunately, there are a few options on the market, all coming with their own set of pros, cons and price points. Before you purchase any air exchange system, make sure you understand the differences between the following three air exchangers:
Standard Air Exchanger
The most affordable air exchanger on the market is the standard model. As you’d expect, it filters our dirty air and brings fresh air inside. In addition to dust, standard air exchangers also remove odors like smoking, cooking and humidity.
Standard models also help avoid condensation around windows or other related issues like mildew. If your town is humid, a standard air exchanger will certainly help.
Heat Recovery Air Changer
Moving one step up, both in terms of price and perks, is the heat recovery air exchanger. Also known as the heat recover ventilator (HRV), this is the most popular air exchanger on the market. In addition to all the benefits of a standard exchange system, a heat recovery air exchanger can hold onto the heat that occasionally leaves the home with the polluted air. Essentially, it recovers the heat and keeps it in the home. This type of system greatly reduces your energy costs since your heating system won’t have to work as hard.
Energy Recovery Air Exchanger
Finally, the most expensive and most refined air exchanger is an energy recovery air changer (ERV). In addition to recovering all the heat leaving your home with the contaminated air, an ERV system recovers the humidity as well. If your city does not see a lot of humidity, this is the system for you. While the upfront costs are more, you’ll easily save more on utility bills (hence the name) over the lifespan of your heating and AC systems.
Air Exchanger Maintenance
Just like your heater or air conditioner, your air exchanger needs some TLC once in awhile. Do not neglect your air exchange system. Sadly, many homeowners forget these easy maintenance items and as such, do not use their exchanger to its full potential.
- Clean the Filters: Rather than replacing the filters, like a furnace, you should clean the filters with a vacuum. If you can’t vacuum, soap and water will do. Some homeowners even add bleach for extra cleanliness.
- Oil the Motors: Some air exchanger motors require additional oil over their lifespan. Some do not. Check the manufacturer’s instructions and oil as often as recommended.
- Clean Air Exchanger Core: If you have an HRV or an ERV, you have to clean the core. In both instances, you have to remove the core from the system. For HRV, soak it in water and soap. For ERV, just vacuum. Do not use water.
- Check Air Intakes: Look all around the air exchanger to make sure no dirt is piling up. Nothing can block the paths.
DIY Or Hire An HVAC Contactor?
Just like your entire HVAC system, there are many moving parts to an air exchanger. From connecting the ducts to placing the entire exchanger in the right location, installing an air exchange system can get complex. As such, we highly recommend you bite the bullet and pay the $250 labor charge to find a reliable HVAC pro near you.
Find An HVAC Contractor
As you can see, the cost to install an air exchanger is pretty minimal. In fact, given that air exchangers are the most cost effective solution to contaminated-free air, it’s no wonder more and more Americans are installing fresh air exchangers.
If you’re ready for cleaner and healthier air, let ImproveNet help you find the best HVAC contractors near you.
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Last updated on Jun 8, 2018