Negative Air Pressure: Symptoms, Dangers, Solutions
Does Your Home Suck (in Air)?
Written by CW Suter
You pull open a door in your home and feel like the Incredible Hulk is pushing the door closed on the other side. You know the door isn’t locked. You know the Incredible Hulk doesn’t live in your neighborhood. What’s going on here? Your home may have fallen victim to negative air pressure.
Symptoms of negative air pressure include:
- Doors that take Hulk-like strength to open and/or close
- Random drafts of air
- Whistling and odd noises
- Unusually hot or cold rooms
Houses are more energy efficient and air tight than ever. This is awesome for your wallet and the planet, but it can cause problems if you don’t allow your home to “breathe.” Negative air pressure is one such problem. For negative air pressure to occur, the pressure inside your home must be lower than the pressure outside. This typically happens when more air is leaving the interior of the home than is being replenished from the outside. The difference in pressure causes air to be sucked in through any number of undesirable passages.
Likely negative air culprits include:
- Bathroom & kitchen exhaust fans
- Wood stoves
- Clothes dryers
- Combustion furnaces
Air will get in by any means necessary, and with this unfiltered air comes some serious dangers.
Poor Indoor Air Quality
Negative pressurization is a huge ventilation problem plaguing residential buildings in the United States. Air often travels through crawl spaces, attics, basements, and other filthy spaces before reaching living areas which leads to diminished indoor air quality. There are many adverse health effects related to poor indoor air quality. If you want to learn more, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great article discussing the immediate and long-term health effects of indoor air pollution.
Air pulled in through cracks in your basement floor brings in heavier than air gases, such as radon. Radon poisoning can damage your lungs and cause lung cancer. Symptoms of radon poisoning resemble those of lung cancer: difficulty breathing, wheezing, a persistent cough that doesn’t get better, coughing up blood, and recurring respiratory infections. If you start experiencing these symptoms, it’s important that you get medical help as soon as possible.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If your home is suffering the effects of negative air pressure, both air and possibly deadly gases are being sucked back into your home. Backdrafting of carbon monoxide expelled from fuel-fired appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, and boilers can result in carbon monoxide poisoning or death. If you are worried that your family may be at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning or you want to learn more about it, take a look at our blog post, Carbon Monoxide Threats.
Remember that bit earlier in the article about allowing your home to “breathe?” It may seem counter productive to make your home more air tight only to ensure enough fresh, outside air is being circulated throughout but it really isn’t. Indoor air quality is important, and the proper solutions to negative air pressure will not negatively affect energy efficiency.
When it comes down to it, an expert opinion is always the safest place to start. Our free in-home assessment is only a click or a call away. Most negative air pressure problems that we fix are simple: repairing ducts, adjusting fan motors, and more. Sometimes extra ventilation is needed or your air conditioning unit may not be sufficient for your home. The HVAC experts at CW Suter are well equipped to solve any negative air pressure problem you have.