How to improve ventilation naturally

Wednesday September 22 2021

Open windows for light and air. PHOTO/

By Joan Salmon

Free flow of air in our homes is important, otherwise the environment feels stuffy. Ventilation, unlike air conditioning, is a free way to keep the house cool as well as fresh. With proper ventilation, one can also deal with humidity in the house thus avoiding mold. While there are various ways to provide for ventilation before construction (during the design phase), here are some ways to handle it with an existing house.

Adjust the windows

Adrian Nangosha, a construction contractor with Concept MacFaj says one of the aspects to consider is looking at the number of windows one has on the house. “For example, there are some windows people keep shut for one reason or another, say difficult access. However, if one starts opening these up, ventilation will improve because there are more outlets and inlets of air,” he advises.

He adds that the other aspect is that some windows are inoperable by design. “Some windows are only there to let in light but cannot be opened to let in air. Nonetheless, if one can put hinges on them so that they can start opening up, that will improve the quality and increase the amount of air inflow and outflow. Ultimately, natural ventilation is improved,” he says.

Open all the doors and windows

Right from the architectural design of any house, airflow is considered. That is why Lawrence Simiyu, a construction contractor advises homeowners to open up all the doors and windows. “The folly is that one might open a few windows and doors causing the air to take long to get out because the exit is closed. However, when all are opened at the same time, the air flows smoothly in and out thus better circulation and ventilation,” he says.


Simiyu adds that one does not have to open the windows and doors this way on a daily basis, but at least twice a week to avoid the stuffy feeling.

Check the number of people in the house

Akin to being in a fully packed car with windows closed, a house with very many people will feel stuffy, congested and hot because the flow of air is not as good. “As the air in that car is no longer fresh and hot, neither is a house full of people. Therefore, it is advisable to reduce the number of people within a room or the house, if possible. Rather than have people commune indoors, encourage more outdoor living. For example, have children play outdoors and let people sit out under the shade so the house cools,” Nangosha advises.

Open up your house

Limiting the number of people within a room or house might not be possible. However, Nangosha says there is a possibility of remodelling the house with the help of a structural engineer and architect to get rid of some walls. “An open floor plan allows for uninhibited air flow because there are several air-flow paths in the house. However, when there are walls separating the kitchen from the sitting area as well as the dining area, airflow is restricted. The structural engineer and architect will advise on which walls to break down (walls that do not bear load) so that even when there are several people in the house, air circulation is excellent,” he advises.

Another modification is putting medium holes above the ring beam and then introducing vents. Nangosha says the homeowner can use vents such as pompey. “Two or three of these in each room will improve the ventilation of the room and the house in general,” he shares.

Change your fencing

While security is very important, the practice of building towering concrete perimeter walls cuts off the flow of air circulation from the outside into the compound. That also affects the circulation of air within the house because air within the compound is stagnant and thus warm. “That gets even worse when the plot of land with this wall is small as that means there is less space for breezes to flow through the compound. If it is possible, the homeowner could exchange half of the perimeter wall for a natural fence because trees and plants allow for airflow.  Ultimately, the house will feel cooler. Where possible, the concrete wall can be replaced with a total natural hedge such as bougainvillea, pine trees, and bamboo,” Sam Kutosi, a landscaper shares.

Cook outdoors

Cooking emits lots of heat while cooking fuels such as charcoal emit fumes and both affect the air quality in the house. Nangosha advises homeowners to do most, if not all their cooking outdoors to improve the quality of air. “These fumes are usually carbon monoxide which is poisonous while the smoke leaves soot on the walls. That is why cooking outdoors is ideal,” he says.

Mind your curtains

Many homeowners have heavy curtains and put these at the doors coupled with a net. However, Nangosha says the winds, despite the open doors cannot push the heavy fabric. “With a heavy curtain, the only air that will get into the house is that which gets through the bottom where the curtain may not reach. However, in cases where the curtains flow to the ground, no air will get in. If possible, have lighter curtains or open them so that however light the breeze is, it can get into the house. For the windows, draw the curtains and leave the nets only so you can get in as much air as possible,” he posits.

Make use of the night breeze

Typically, temperatures drop during the night and the hot air coming off the building is replaced by cooler air. That is why Lawrence Simiyu advises homeowners to open the windows at night. “Doing so helps to get rid of stuffy and warm air. However, consider your security detail in terms of mosquitoes, crawlers (reptiles), and human intruders. One way is adding mosquito nets to your windows to keep these out,” he advises.