Reuben's Home Inspection Blog


HRVs, Part 3 of 3: Installation Defects

For the last two weeks I’ve blogged about HRVs. In part one, I covered what HRVs are for and how they operate. For part two, I covered HRV maintenance and operation. Today I’ll discuss installation defects.

The most common defect I find with HRVs is that they were 
never balanced. When HRVs are installed, a technician needs to balance the system to make sure the air getting exhausted is equal to the air coming in. If more air comes in than what goes out, you’ll have a pressurized house… and vice versa. Neither of these conditions are good for the home.

To make sure an HRV is balanced, I look for a balancing sticker and I check to make sure that the balancing damper controls have been screwed in place. If they’re not screwed in place, a balancing sticker means nothing. If I don’t see a balancing sticker, I don’t make a big deal about it, but I’ll often make a note in my report that it’s missing. If there are no balancing screws, I recommend having the HRV professionally balanced.

HRV Balanced

Most HRVs are installed hanging from straps or chains and springs to minimize the transfer of any annoying vibration from the fans. If an HRV gets mounted to the wall, I check the installation manual to make sure that this is an acceptable installation, and I listen on the other side of the wall to see how loud it is. When they’re mounted incorrectly, they can be very noisy!

As a rule of thumb, the intake and exhaust locations at the exterior of the home should be located at least six feet away from each other. I’ve never seen an installation manual that allowed anything less. It’s also important to make sure the intake is at least ten feet away from any sidewall vented gas appliances, such as a powervent water heater or furnace. The intake should also be located at least ten feet away from anything smelly, such as where the garbage containers get kept.

HRV Intake & Exhaust

The ductwork that feeds the intake from the exterior and exhaust to the exterior needs to be properly insulated. If it’s not properly insulated, you’ll feel an obvious cold draft.

If the HRV ducts are only attached to the furnace’s return air, they must be at least three feet away from each other, and the furnace’s blower fan must turn on with the HRV to prevent the air getting added to the house from short-circuiting and getting pulled back out of the house. Every manufacturer recommends connecting the furnace’s blower fan to the HRV for optimal performance, but it’s not always a requirement.

HRV Connected To Return Air Plenum

Every HRV needs to be plugged in to an outlet. If the HRV is running off an extension cord, this is an improper, unacceptable installation. Repair requires the installation of an outlet.

That’s about all of the HRV installation defects that I can think of, and that concludes this mini-series on HRVs. As always, please email or post any comments or questions!

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections


Comment balloon 4 commentsReuben Saltzman • December 29 2009 06:02AM


Reuben, thanks for doing this series on HRV's----I will be linking to them in my reports when I see these things now:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Ditto:  Great explinations and pics.  Very nice!

Posted by Jim Allhiser, Salem, Oregon Home Inspector (Perfection Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Charles - thanks, that's exactly why I wrote these.  I still refer to your blog on multi-wire branch circuits in my reports when I need to.

Jim - please do.


Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

Ditto, nice job with the explanations. The pictures are a big help in understanding the system.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago