The effect of opening windows on air change rates in two homes

J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2002 Feb;52(2):147-59. doi: 10.1080/10473289.2002.10470775.


More than 300 air change rate experiments were completed in two occupied residences: a two-story detached house in Redwood City, CA, and a three-story townhouse in Reston, VA. A continuous monitor was used to measure the decay of SF6 tracer gas over periods of 1-18 hr. Each experiment first included a measurement of the air change rate with all exterior doors and windows closed (State 0), then a measurement with the single change from State 0 conditions of opening one or more windows. The overall average State 0 air change rate was 0.37 air changes per hour (hr(-1)) (SD = 0.10 hr(-1); n = 112) for the California house and 0.41 hr(-1) (SD = 0.19 hr(-1); n = 203) for the Virginia house. Indoor/outdoor temperature differences appeared to be responsible for the variation at the Virginia house of 0.15-0.85 hr(-1) when windows were closed. Opening a single window increased the State 0 air change rate by an amount roughly proportional to the width of the opening, reaching increments as high as 0.80 hr(-1) in the California house and 1.3 hr(-1) in the Virginia house. Multiple window openings increased the air change rate by amounts ranging from 0.10 to 2.8 hr(-1) in the California house and from 0.49 to 1.7 hr(-1) in the Virginia house. Compared with temperature differences and wind effects, opening windows produced the greatest increase in the air change rates measured in both homes. Results of this study indicate the importance of occupant window-opening behavior on a home's air change rate and the consequent need to incorporate this factor when estimating human exposure to indoor air pollutants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Algorithms
  • California
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Gases / analysis
  • Ventilation*


  • Gases