Ventilating (the V in HVAC) is the process of "changing" or replacing air in any space to provide high indoor air quality (i.e. to control temperature, replenish oxygen, or remove moisture, odors, smoke, heat, dust, airborne bacteria, and carbon dioxide). Ventilation is used to remove unpleasant smells and excessive moisture, introduce outside air, to keep interior building air circulating, and to prevent stagnation of the interior air.
Ventilation includes both the exchange of air to the outside as well as circulation of air within the building. It is one of the most important factors for maintaining acceptable indoor air quality in buildings. Methods for ventilating a building may be divided into mechanical/forced and natural types.
"Mechanical" or "forced" ventilation is used to control indoor air quality. Excess humidity, odors, and contaminants can often be controlled via dilution or replacement with outside air. However, in humid climates much energy is required to remove excess moisture from ventilation air.
Kitchens and bathrooms typically have mechanical exhaust to control odors and sometimes humidity. Kitchens have additional problems to deal with such as smoke and grease (see kitchen ventilation). Factors in the design of such systems include the flow rate (which is a function of the fan speed and exhaust vent size) and noise level. If ducting for the fans traverse unheated space (e.g., an attic), the ducting should be insulated as well to prevent condensation on the ducting. Direct drive fans are available for many applications, and can reduce maintenance needs.
Ceiling fans and table/floor fans circulate air within a room for the purpose of reducing the perceived temperature because of evaporation of perspiration on the skin of the occupants. Because hot air rises, ceiling fans may be used to keep a room warmer in the winter by circulating the warm stratified air from the ceiling to the floor. Ceiling fans do not provide ventilation as defined as the introduction of outside air.
Natural ventilation is the process of supplying and removing air through an indoor space without using mechanical systems. It refers to the flow of external air to an indoor space as a result of pressure or temperature differences. There are two types of natural ventilation occurring in buildings: wind driven ventilation and buoyancy-driven ventilation. While wind is the main mechanism of wind driven ventilation, buoyancy-driven ventilation occurs as a result of the directional buoyancy force that results from temperature differences between the interior and exterior.