May 12, 2022

Airtight Homes That Breathe

In this episode of NS Podcast, I want to tackle some of the common questions and concerns that homeowners have about airtight homes. What makes a house “airtight”? Is that always a good thing? Doesn’t a house need to breathe? Great questions that deserve satisfying answers. So let’s get started.


I’m currently going through training to become a certified passive home builder. It’s an intense course, but I’m loving it. In addition to learning the ins and outs of passive home construction, I’m gaining an even greater appreciation and understanding of what truly makes an airtight home. Interestingly, it’s less about the product—you don’t have to use the most expensive products to achieve the desired result. It’s more about the thought, care, and intentionality that goes into the building process—a concept that really aligns with the NS Builders brand. 

So, here’s a simple definition of an “airtight” home: It means building a home that is energy-efficient by minimizing air movement in and out. When you control air leakage, you can save on heating and cooling costs, as well as maintain moisture control. Airtight construction can provide a more comfortable living space—no more drafts or cold air pockets. 

That being said, many people are concerned about having a home that is too airtight. They worry about trapping stale air indoors (including pet dander, cooking gases, household chemicals, or steam from showers) and potentially undermining their health. However, just because a house is airtight doesn’t mean you won’t have fresh air to breathe.  


You and your home need to breathe fresh, pollutant-free air to be healthy. So how does an airtight home breathe? 

A healthy dose of fresh air is introduced into the home via mechanical ventilation. In other words, instead of outside air coming in around your doors, windows, or poorly-insulated walls, it is precisely directed and filtered in through an ERV (energy recovery ventilation) or HRV (heat recovery ventilation) system. ERVs and HRVs are similar in that they both supply fresh air to the home while removing stale air. They can greatly improve indoor air quality by diminishing allergens or pollutants, and help to retain relative humidity. 

What’s the difference between ERV and HRV systems? An ERV allows some of the moisture from the air to stay in the home. An HRV removes air from areas of the home with higher humidity (e.g., bathrooms, laundry room), delivers fresh air into bedrooms or living rooms, and cools the air in the summer or heats the air in the winter.  


Some homeowners have heard that older homes are better because they aren’t as airtight as a newer home. They leak in plenty of air—natural ventilation—and may have less issues with moisture in the walls. In the past, these leaky homes were deemed acceptable.  

But here’s a question: Would you rather breathe in clean, fresh air, free of dangerous particulates via a mechanical ventilation system or breathe in air that has leaked in through dusty, dirty wall cavities? Air that has passed through old insulation? 

As building codes and attitudes have changed in the industry, the focus now is on preventing energy loss AND having a healthy level of air exchange. One shouldn’t be sacrificed for the other—they should work in harmony. Insulation and ventilation must be equally considered. As builders, we have the ability and knowledge to design and build better homes—a higher performance home where we can control the quality of filtered, fresh air and provide excellent energy efficiency. 

We spend so much time in our homes—let’s make it the safest, most comfortable experience possible. And it all starts with a team approach—the architect, builder, and homeowner—determined to build an airtight home with the utmost care and highest attention to detail.

It’s time to discover what NS Builders can intentionally design and build for you! Contact us today to get started on your custom dream home. Together, we can make it happen. 

—Nick Schiffer


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