What have Trickle Vents ever done for us? Quite a lot actually! - July 2014
In response to original article "Trickle vents? I hate 'em!" (featured in Clearview magazine) Tyson Anderson, Sales and Marketing Director at Titon explains why trickle vents are necessary.
It was surprising to read Andrew Halsall’s views on trickle vents (complete with Monty Python comparison) in July’s issue of Clearview, although his article certainly enforced the need for more education to be provided about the role of trickle vents!
Titon is probably the largest trickle vent manufacturer in the UK, producing them for over 40 years. Now, when Mr Halsall questions the need for vents when it is "obvious" to "open a door or window", it is at this point where understanding background ventilation is vital.
It's easy to confuse the three different types of ventilation defined in the UK Building Regulations. We all know about extract ventilation, such as fans in bathrooms and kitchens for preventing moisture build up during cooking or showering. However, it’s more difficult to understand the need for background ventilation as opposed to purge (or rapid as it used to be called) ventilation. The latter covers opening a window when a large amount of air needs to be moved – if someone is decorating, or the toast has burnt, for instance.
Background ventilation is where trickle vents come into play. Every dwelling requires air to be continuously changed to remove indoor air pollutants which emanate from the human environment. These include VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and all sorts of particles which shouldn't stay in the air indefinitely. These issues are even more pressing now, due to the proliferation of household electronics which encourage the build up of electro static dust in the habitable atmosphere.
Movement of air also helps disperse general moisture in other habitable rooms (besides bathrooms and kitchens). If the moisture doesn't escape, it can build up, leading to potential mould growth problems, affecting not only occupants’ health but also damaging the building itself. This air movement can't be provided on an ongoing basis by simply opening windows, due to energy loss and security concerns at certain times of day or season.
As better quality windows are installed in properties, either in new build or retrofit projects, the dwelling becomes more tightly sealed - meaning the air doesn't get exchanged the way it used to years ago, via cracks in the building fabric: such as through ill-fitting doors and windows. Indeed, companies such as Mr Halsall’s are indirectly the cause of the proliferation of vents!
Many in the window industry would argue that night vent positions on multipoint locks and handles provide this background ventilation. However, the Building Regulations don't recommend night vent positions for obvious reasons: it isn't secure and, from a quick glance, it isn't always obvious to see it has been left in that position. However, for a burglar, it provides an easy point of entry. Insurance companies would point out if there's a break-in where a window has been left in the night vent position, then it was in fact left open – making it unlikely they would pay out.
There is also lack of control, as a night vent position regularly over-ventilates a room with greater risk of draughts – discouraging occupants from using it. So, when a low level of ventilation is required, they are left with a sealed room that has an increased risk of condensation!
Trickle vents are the best way to provide background ventilation, as they can be left open without compromising security, even when you leave the building for any length of time. Plus, they can be closed, or partially closed by the occupant(s) whenever they wish, for instance if it’s very windy outside. There are even some vents designed to attenuate certain levels of external noise.
What surprises us as manufacturers is why some window companies haven't used these reasons as part of a marketing campaign, adding value to a window. This would more than cover the cost of the fabrication and installation of the vents.
So, trickle vents may be unfairly deemed unwanted, but they are definitely needed. Simply dismissing them on the grounds of aesthetics – labelling them ‘ugly’ or ‘stupid looking’ – is hardly objective and overlooking their purpose. Indeed, it's about time the message spread to the window buying public. They are the ones setting their indoor living conditions, more often than not with no idea of the implications of poor indoor air quality.
Article written by Andrew Halsall, Managing Director of Origin Frames. Featured in Clearview, July 2014 issue, page 56:
"Trickle vents? I hate 'em!
As a user of doors and windows for more than half a century, I can honestly say that I have never once had the occasion to use a trickle vent. To me, it is obvious that if a room is too hot or maybe poorly ventilated, you open a door or window after all, they do open, that is part of their actual function.
I’ve yet to hear anyone say – in a home, shop, hotel etc – “I’ll just open a trickle vent as it’s a little stuffy in here.”
Having got that off my chest, I admit that my personal employment background is outside of the door and window industry – so I have a very limited technical knowledge of how things actually work and the underlying reasons for them. But when I came into this industry, one of the things that struck me as really odd was the insistence of trickle vents on door and window products.
From my point of view – as a manufacturer of aesthetically attractive products that need to be manufactured to minimal tolerances – the inclusion of trickle vents is an ugly addition that puts extra pressure on the fabrication process. It also adds an extra “potentially” moving part that has the capacity to fail. Finally it adds extra costs to the product that the customers have to stand.
If this is a safety feature, surely it cannot be down to the operator to engage it?
I doubt if I am the only person who believes that the trickle vent is just an idea that has been universally accepted as correct when in reality it is a bit of nonsense. It is useless. What architect or designer would suggest that a building should be ventilated by the discretion of an untrained user? Who would suggest the desecration of a “well-designed” door or window with the addition of an unsightly trickle vent that is genuinely not wanted or required? It just appears to be another case of making the simple and elegant increasingly more complicated.
I cannot for the life of me imagine the conversation that preceded the introduction of trickle vents: it must have been like a Monty Python sketch.
SCENE 1 – A MEETING AT THE MINISTRY OF SILLY DECISIONS, A COMMITTEE OF FIVE:
Chairman: “How should you improve ventilation in a house?”
1st person: “Open a door.”
2nd person: “Or a window.”
3rd person: “Ventilation bricks.”
4th person: “Trickle vents.”
Chairman: “What’s a trickle vent?”
4th person: “It’s a stupid-looking thing you can attach to a door or window that someone could open to let air in or out.”
Chairman: “Would it make manufacturing more difficult?”
4th person: “Oh yes.”
Chairman: “Would anyone ever use it?”
4th person: “No, of course not.”
Chairman: “Would it add to costs?”
4th person: “Of course.”
Chairman: “Wow that is genius, it is probably our silliest decision ever but hey, we will never get away with it!”
As I have said earlier, I am not from this industry and I am prepared to become a complete convert – if someone could show me where a conscious decision to open a trickle vent has saved the life of a person (or a small furry animal).
If not, please – in an industry currently being overrun by red tape and regulation – help me to influence the decision-makers to change their ideas on trickle vents in door and window products.
Let’s banish trickle vents once and for all!"