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The Carbon Footprint of Poor Ventilation and How to Reduce It

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The Carbon Footprint of Poor Ventilation and How to Reduce It

By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Jan 05, 2024

When considering the carbon footprint, we tend to refer to the amount of energy used, food consumed, and waste produced. However, poor ventilation can also significantly contribute to the carbon footprint and ultimately, climate change.

This article explores the impact of poor ventilation on the environment and provides strategies to help reduce the carbon footprint, whether for commercial or residential design.

The impact of poor ventilation on the environment 

When indoor air quality is poor, it can lead to the need for increased ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems to compensate. If these systems don´t function efficiently they can use extra energy  and therefore create higher CO2 emissions. 

Additionally, poor ventilation can lead to the build-up of harmful pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, which can significantly damage human health and the environment.

What causes poor ventilation?

Inefficient ventilation systems can contribute significantly to a higher carbon footprint. Common examples of poor ventilation that can impact the world’s objective to reduce the carbon footprint include:

Outdated heating and ventilation systems

Older systems that lack energy-efficient features consume excessive energy. This leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Poorly maintained ventilation systems 

It’s essential to maintain ventilation systems to help reduce the carbon footprint.  Clogged filters or malfunctioning components may force the system to work harder, which increases energy consumption.

Inadequate ventilation design  

The design of a building’s ventilation system has a massive impact on its contribution to reducing the carbon footprint. Inferior design can result in an uneven air distribution. This can lead to over-conditioning in some areas and under-conditioning in others, causing unnecessary energy usage.

To reduce the carbon footprint old-fashioned ventilation technology, poor maintenance and inadequate design need to be addressed. 

Good to know

  • UK employers have a legal obligation to provide a well-ventilated working environment.

Reducing the carbon footprint through proper ventilation 

The most up-to-date government figures available state that the average carbon footprint per household in the UK was 21% lower in 2020 than in 1996. While this is heading in the right direction, there is still a long way to go to reach the 68% reduction by 2030 (compared with 1990) set out in the legally binding Paris Agreement.

To put this into perspective, in February 2023 Open Access Government reported that the UK emits over 5 times more C02 than recommended by the Paris Agreement.  This means we need to speed up our methods to reduce the carbon footprint. Everyone can play their part in improving energy efficiency, which is crucial for the survival of our planet.

Good to know

Around 7 million people across the world die every year from ambient and household air pollution (World Health Organization).

By implementing energy-efficient strategies, such as ensuring proper maintenance of ventilation systems, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to a greener future. You’ll also make savings on your energy bills.

Energy consumption is another consideration. Have you analysed the best scenarios in which to run your ventilation systems?  Failing to adjust the unit settings can contribute to unnecessary energy consumption. By optimising the performance of ventilation systems, buildings can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels for power, consequently reducing their carbon footprint.

There are smart ventilation systems that are equipped with advanced control strategies that can also optimise energy usage based on real-time occupancy, humidity and CO2 levels (amongst others). This ensures that ventilation operates efficiently when needed, reducing unnecessary energy consumption and associated carbon emissions.

Which type of ventilation? 

There are two main types of ventilation:

  • Natural
  • Mechanical

Natural ventilation comes from breezes and the wind and forces air into and out of a building through windows or openings. This is often in conjunction with trickle/background ventilators. Natural ventilation is mainly controlled by the climate, but the trickle vents can also be opened or closed, and there are options available for acoustic background ventilators for areas where noise is deemed to be an issue.

Mechanical ventilation is provided through options such as fans, centralised systems and MVHR that are able to provide certain airflows based upon the requirements of a building. . Mechanical ventilation is available in both extract and supply options and is adaptable, with the ability to be adjusted to suit the needs of the building (localised to particular rooms, controls temperature variations, can heat and cool rapidly). 

As professionals address the need to reduce the carbon footprint rapidly, home and building design is changing. Passivhaus technology uses mechanical ventilation to automatically control the clean air supply and sustainable heating options to control the temperature. The energy-efficient design also benefits from state-of-the-art mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) systems to capture and distribute excess heat.

Choosing the correct form of ventilation, whether natural or mechanical can help reduce carbon emissions.  Understanding the building, whether your home or office and how it reacts to airflow is crucial to effectively managing its ventilation.


The need for energy-efficient ventilation arises from its positive impact on environmental sustainability, cost savings, reducing the carbon footprint, and the well-being of occupants through improved indoor air quality and comfort.


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