Energy recovery ventilation (ERV) is the energy recovery process in residential and commercial HVAC systems that exchanges the energy contained in normally exhausted air of a building or conditioned space, using it to treat (precondition) the incoming outdoor ventilation air. The specific equipment involved may be called an Energy Recovery Ventilator, also abbreviated ERV.
During the warmer seasons, an ERV system pre-cools and dehumidifies; During cooler seasons the system humidifies and pre-heats. An ERV system helps HVAC design meet ventilation and energy standards (e.g., ASHRAE, improves indoor air quality and reduces total HVAC equipment capacity, thereby reducing energy consumption.)
ERV systems enable an HVAC system to maintain a 40-50% indoor relative humidity, essentially in all conditions. ERV’s must use power for a blower to overcome the pressure drop in the system, hence incurring a slight energy demand.
Nearly half of global energy is used in buildings, and half of heating/cooling cost is caused by ventilation when it is done by the “open window” method according to the regulations [define method and include citation]. Secondly, energy generation and grid is made to meet the peak demand of power. To use proper ventilation; recovery is a cost-efficient, sustainable and quick way to reduce global energy consumption and give better indoor air quality (IAQ) and protect buildings, and environment.
An ERV is a type of air-to-air heat exchanger that transfers sensible heat as well as latent heat. Because both temperature and moisture are transferred, ERVs are described as total enthalpic devices. In contrast, a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) can only transfer sensible heat. HRVs can be considered sensible only devices because they only exchange sensible heat. In other words, all ERVs are HRVs, but not all HRVs are ERVs. It is incorrect to use the terms HRV, AAHX (air-to-air heat exchanger), and ERV interchangeably.
During the cooling season, the system works to cool and dehumidify the incoming, outside air. To do this, the system takes the rejected heat and sends it into the exhaust airstream. Subsequently, this air cools the condenser coil at a lower temperature than if the rejected heat had not entered the exhaust airstream. During the heating seasons, the system works in reverse. Instead of discharging the heat into the exhaust airstream, the system draws heat from the exhaust airstream in order to pre-heat the incoming air. At this stage, the air passes through a primary unit and then into the space being conditioned. With this type of system, it is normal during the cooling seasons for the exhaust air to be cooler than the ventilation air and, during the heating seasons, warmer than the ventilation air. It is for this reason the system works efficiently and effectively. The coefficient of performance (COP) will increase as the conditions become more extreme (i.e., more hot and humid for cooling and colder for heating).
The efficiency of an ERV system is the ratio of energy transferred between the two air streams compared with the total energy transported through the heat exchanger.
With the variety of products on the market, efficiency will vary as well. Some of these systems have been known to have heat exchange efficiencies as high as 70-80% while others have as low as 50%. Even though this lower figure is preferable to the basic HVAC system, it is not up to par with the rest of its class. Studies are being done to increase the heat transfer efficiency to 90%.
The use of modern low-cost gas-phase heat exchanger technology will allow for significant improvements in efficiency. The use of high conductivity porous material is believed to produce an exchange effectiveness in excess of 90%. By exceeding a 90% effective rate, an improvement of up to five factors in energy loss can be seen.
The Home Ventilating Institute (HVI) has developed a standard test for any and all units manufactured within the United States. Regardless, not all have been tested. It is imperative to investigate efficiency claims, comparing data produced by HVI as well as that produced by the manufacturer. (Note: all units sold in Canada are placed through the R-2000 program, a standard test synonymous to the HVI test).