Heat ventilators and snow on the roof: How to handle both of them

Q: I have an HRV (heat recovery ventilator). I have been told it needs to be balanced.

What does that mean and how do I do it?


This is the darkest, coldest period of the year when people spend the most time indoors, so having a properly functioning ventilation system is particularly important. A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) must be balanced and tuned so that it delivers as much air as it exhausts. Because the resistance to air flow varies with different lengths and types of ductwork used in the system, an unbalanced system may deliver too much or too little air, and operate inefficiently. Balancing an HRV involves measuring and adjusting the airflows through the unit, and it should be done by a professional with the proper metering equipment. A sticker should be placed on the HRV noting when it has been serviced.

A homeowner can still perform a basic inspection.

This includes cleaning the filters in the unit, and making sure that the intake and exhaust grilles on the outside of the home are clear of snow and debris. In the rooms, the supply and exhaust grills should also be examined to be sure they are open, clean and moving air without obstruction.

Q: I have a roof with a very steep pitch. I’m worried about snow sliding off my roof and damaging my gutters. What can be done about this?

Because of November’s icy rains, unprotected gutters may be more vulnerable than usual this year, particularly those made of plastic which may not be able to handle the additional weight.

Unfortunately, it may be neither safe nor even physically possible to deal with the problem now. Next summer, when the roof is clear of snow, there are several things you can do to prevent snow from damaging gutters. If the roof is metal, then snow stops are often cheap insurance and will not only protect the gutters, but any people or property that could be struck by melting snow in the spring. Vulnerable areas such as chimneys and entryways can also be protected by a cricket, which creates a berm that will divert sliding snow to either side.

If you plan to buy new gutters, then professionally installed seamless gutter systems are worth a look.

Metal gutters are typically made on-site in long sections using a forming machine. They are attached through the fascia with long fasteners and are, in general, much stronger than standard gutters.

Since the snow will likely stick to the roofs in Fairbanks with greater tenacity this year, keep an eye on those areas that could be vulnerable to falling snow when things start to thaw — it may be wise to put up some temporary signs to warn passersby.