Some rooms do not have easy options for ventilation. For example, a garage or basement does not often have windows that you can open. To improve ventilation and airflow you have a few options:
- Use and improve natural ventilation to your advantage
- open doors between rooms and air out the house
- Using a fan to improve ventilation
- Turn up the heater, increasing (warm) airflow
- check, maintain, clean or update your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system
- install a (solar-powered) ventilation grille or air brick
Additionally, this article covers the following topics:
- Why ventilation is important but airflow is not
- How to improve air quality without good ventilation: useful appliances
- Common indoor air quality advice that doesn’t actually help
You should avoid spending a lot of time in unventilated areas. Air quality rapidly worsens without proper ventilation and affects your health. The best way to improve the ventilation of your room is to install proper ventilation such as windows and vents. If you currently do not have the option to improve ventilation in this way, you can consider the abovementioned options. However, these are not sufficient for the long term and come with some conditions.
If you are not sure if you need more ventilation or have poor air quality, I recommend reading my article: How to check the air quality in your home without measuring instruments.
Use natural ventilation to your advantage
Natural ventilation is the air exchange between indoors and outdoors caused by natural factors such as wind or temperature differences (which lead to airflow). It is normally provided by small openings in walls or windows, often by grilles or air bricks. Some windows also provide a grill that can be opened and closed, called a trickle vent.
Old houses often fully rely on natural ventilation while many newer houses have mechanical ventilation systems aiding natural ventilation. Mechanical ventilation has the advantage over natural ventilation by having more control over the amount of ventilation. Additionally, mechanical ventilation allows for ventilation without heat loss through heat exchange. You can read all about heat-recovery ventilation in my article here.
Newly insulated houses are at risk of having blocked most natural ventilation. Therefore, extra attention is required for the ventilation of older buildings that have improved insulation.
How to improve natural ventilation
To improve natural ventilation in an unventilated room, your best bet is to increase air exchange with rooms that are well ventilated. You can improve airflow in several ways.
Open doors between rooms and airing out the house
The easiest way to allow for ventilation is to increase the ventilation in adjacent rooms and open doors between rooms. In this way, fresh air coming into the rooms that you can ventilate is also being exchanged with the air in the hard-to-ventilate room.
If you do not like or do not have the option to continuously (partly) open internal doors, I would suggest airing out the room when it is not in use. In this way, you can at least make sure that the air is as fresh as possible the moment you start using it.
Using a fan to improve ventilation
A desk or ceiling fan creates airflow. However, it only circulates the air that is already in the room. It can, however, help ventilate a poorly insulated room when used to create air exchange with another room that is well ventilated. See if you can install your desk fan or ceiling fan in such a way that it increases airflow between the rooms.
Do not use a fan simply to circulate the air in the room without fresh air exchange. This leads to a deterioration of the air quality because dust and other harmful particles present on surfaces now become airborne again. This leads to increased inhalation of potentially harmful particles. You can read all about indoor air quality in my article: The complete indoor air quality guide for your home.
Turn up the heating to increase airflow
When your poorly ventilated room is in contact with another room that can be ventilated, you can turn up the heater to increase airflow. By heating the air in the room, the air will start to rise, and colder, fresher air from the adjacent room can flow in.
Check, maintain, clean or update your HVAC system
If you have an HVAC system that should help with ventilation, you need to make sure it is in a good condition. Make sure it is functioning properly by cleaning it and when necessary replacing its filters.
It is best to contact an expert to check whether your HVAC system can help ventilate your windowless room. Maybe your HVAC system can be updated to provide sufficient ventilation. Also, your VAC system might benefit from additional air-cleaning filters.
Install a (solar-powered) ventilation grille or air brick
If you have the option to install actual ventilation, you can install ventilation grilles or a so-called air brick. These will allow for passive air exchange between the outside and your room.
Another great option is to use active ventilation such as solar-powered ventilators. Check them out here on amazon.com.
Ventilation without heat loss
If you are considering improving or replacing your ventilation system or vents, you should consider heat-recovery ventilation. You can read all about heat-recovery ventilation in my article here.
Why ventilation is important but airflow is not
Ventilation: the exchange between indoor and outdoor air.
Airflow: the movement of air.
Ventilation makes sure stuffy, unhealthy air is being refreshed with clean (outdoor) air. This is very important to maintain a healthy living space. Bad air quality can result in all kinds of health issues such as fatigue, headache, and irritations of the eyes, nose, or throat. You can read all about common indoor air quality problems and their solution in my article:
Airflow without ventilation, however, is not desirable. Airflow causes air pollutants such as dust to become airborne again. This increases the number of particles in the air and therefore reduces your air quality.
How to improve air quality without good ventilation
Some appliances help improve indoor air quality. Either by detecting the presence of air pollutants, allowing you to take action or by actively filtering the air.
Air quality monitors: know whats up
An air quality monitor continuously measures what’s in your air, and reports on its findings. In this way, you can take measures to improve the air quality. The most common measure against high levels of air pollution is to increase ventilation. However, finding and removing the source of the pollutants is another tool to improve the quality of the air.
An air quality monitor has the advantage over an air purifier in that it tests for more compounds than an air purifier can remove. For example, an air quality monitor informs you about the presence of carbon monoxide and radon. An air purifier does not and cannot remove these compounds from the air.
Get a 10% discount on Airthings air quality monitors
I managed to arrange a discount for people reading my website! By using this link to the Airthings wave Mini air quality monitor, you will get about 10% discount! The Airthings Wave Mini is a small battery-operated device that measures total VOCs, temperature, and humidity levels.
If you are willing to spend a bit more to be absolutely sure about your indoor air quality, the Airthings Wave Plus is an excellent option. This air quality monitor not only measures VOCs, humidity, and temperature but also CO2 levels, air pressure, and radon. Just like the Wave Mini, it comes with an app that shows your latest data. By using this link to the Airthings Wave Plus air quality monitor you will get a discount of about 10%!
Air purifiers help clean the air
An air purifier is a device that actively cleans the air. It runs the air through several filters using a fan, and can remove airborne particles and certain gases, depending on the filters that are used.
Air purifiers have the advantage over air quality monitors in that they actively clean your air. However, you will not be notified of what air problems you actually have and if all of them are addressed by the filters you have installed.
An air purifier doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, the Coway Airmega is one of the best-rated air purifiers available and costs less than 200$. It contains all the best filters, including a HEPA filter, and a deodorization filter. You can find the current pricing on amazon.com here.
If you are interested in knowing more about creating a healthy living space, I recommend reading my article: Rental apartment indoor air quality guide (common pollutants, health effects, and preventive measures)
Common natural air purifying advice that doesn’t actually work
Houseplants are not able to create good indoor air quality. Ventilation, good cleaning habits, and eliminating sources of air pollution are the main ways of tackling indoor air quality issues. However, houseplants do have other benefits. You can read all about houseplants in my article: Do house plants improve indoor air quality? (surprising results).
Himalayan salt lamps are sometimes mentioned as air purifiers or dehumidifiers. This is simply false.
Beeswax candles do not clean the air (at all). They actively deteriorate the air by releasing all kinds of compounds when burning.
You can read more about salt lamps, beeswax candles, and other ‘natural air cleaners’ in my article: How to naturally purify the air in your house (a critical review + what actually works).