LBNL Report Number
Traditionally, houses in the U.S. have been ventilated by passive infiltration in combination with active window opening. However in recent years, the construction quality of residential building envelopes has been improved to reduce infiltration, and the use of windows for ventilation also may have decreased due to a number of factors. Thus, there has been increased interest in engineered ventilation systems for residences. The amount of ventilation provided by an engineered system should be set to protect occupants from unhealthy or objectionable exposures to indoor pollutants, while minimizing energy costs for conditioning incoming air. Determining the correct ventilation rate is a complex task, as there are numerous pollutants of potential concern, each having poorly characterized emission rates, and poorly defined acceptable levels of exposure. One ubiquitous pollutant in residences is formaldehyde. The sources of formaldehyde in new houses are reasonably understood, and there is a large body of literature on human health effects. This report examines the use of formaldehyde as a means of determining ventilation rates and uses existing data on emission rates of formaldehyde in new houses to derive recommended levels. Based on current, widely accepted concentration guidelines for formaldehyde, the minimum and guideline ventilation rates for most new houses are 0.28 and 0.5 air changes per hour, respectively.