The Sweaty Penguin

Hosted ByEthan Brown

The most fun you've ever had while learning environmental issues! Episodes include a comedy monologue and expert interview. Welcome to Antarctica's Hottest Podcast.

26. Ventilation

To help prevent the indoor spread of coronavirus, buildings around the world have been checking up on their ventilation systems, often for the first time in a while. And unfortunately, many will find old, poorly designed, or otherwise inefficient HVAC systems that waste energy and money. Today, we’ll cover how many ventilation systems are inefficient, why they’re important for preserving indoor air quality, and how we can improve them, both small and large scale. With special guest Dr. Michael Gevelber: Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Boston University.

This episode is part of a four-episode series made possible by the Sustainability Innovation Seed Grant from BU Sustainability and Innovate@BU.

Though it didn’t seem like the most exciting topic when I first dove in, this episode actually really caught my attention. I didn’t realize that HVACs were the largest energy suck in typical buildings, or that ventilation took more energy than heating and cooling. I also didn’t realize how wildly inefficient many ventilation systems are. For those reasons, this issue is actually really important for both the economy and the climate.

Even though turning ventilation everywhere carbon neutral, as with all things, is a major challenge, there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit too. I really enjoyed hearing about some of the work Dr. Gevelber has done on campus, some of which was actually in Earth House, my former dorm! He did a great job putting some of the frustrations I and many other students often have into context, and pointing out how it’s really easy to get some substantial cost and energy savings.

Ventilation also turned out to be intriguing because despite often being inefficient, ventilation is also really important. I had no idea just how bad indoor air quality gets without circulation. I always find issues with complicated conflicts like this really interesting, since the solutions demand nuance and facilitate debate. Of course, in this case, it’s not too challenging to find solutions that address energy consumption without compromising air quality concerns, but it still serves an important reminder that ventilation requiring so much energy doesn’t mean ventilation = bad; in fact, quite the opposite.

Enjoy this week’s episode! Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for your support of The Sweaty Penguin!



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