Whether or not garage vents are a requirement has been a topic of discussion for such a long time. If you are a homeowner looking to remodel or repurpose your garage, you have probably had concerns about this topic. However, people who are building their homes from scratch are the ones who research a lot on this subject. Is there a code that requires you to have a vent in your garage?
Garages are not required to have a vent. According to the International Building Code (IBC), the natural ventilation from when the garage door opens should be enough ventilation for the garage. However, if you are to install a water heater or a furnace in the garage, then a garage vent is required.
Technically, by code, a garage vent is not required. However, we’ll take a look at some compelling reasons why you should consider venting your garage, as well as some garage venting options available. Now, let’s discuss, in detail, why garage vents are not required.
Why garage vents are not required
The International Building Code (IBC), according to Wikipedia, is a model building code created by the International Code Council (ICC). This code sets the standards for building construction companies and contractors. It also provides them with rules, regulations, and best practices for building projects. Essentially, the IBC is created to ensure public health and safety for buildings.
The IBC code has a section known as Occupiable Space. According to the code, occupiable space refers to a room that is designed for human occupancy in which individuals congregate for amusement, educational, or similar purposes.
These include all public places such as malls, shops, schools, theatres, hotels, offices, banks, etc. Our residential spaces, such as our kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and the corridor are also part. The code talked about the required ventilation for all of these spaces.
The garage was, however, categorized under Type U Occupancy. The “U” stands for utility. In essence, the garage is seen as a utility room or space for storing equipment, and not considered a living space. Utility rooms are not required to have ventilation, according to the code
The document briefly talked about the ventilation requirement for a garage, and here it is. The general ventilation requirement for a single vehicle in a garage is 100 cubic feet per minute (CFM). However, in my opinion, this value was given for formality’s sake. Why do I say this?
Natural ventilation from any time you open your garage door is enough to provide the required ventilation in a garage. The garage door’s size is big enough, anytime it gets opened, allows a lot of air into the garage. This is why, according to IBC, the garage doesn’t need a vent.
This is confirmed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Condition Engineers (ASHRAE). The ASHRAE 62 standards, which referenced the IBC’s Occupiable Space, commented on the garage space ventilation requirement as “Normally satisfied by infiltration or natural ventilation.”
For this reason, building contractors consider the garage when they are setting up the HVAC systems in our homes
Reasons to consider venting your garage.
By code, a vent is not required in the garage. However, that is not to say having a vent in the garage is totally irrelevant. There are still very good reasons why you should ventilate your garage. Let’s take a look at some of these reasons.
1. It is required if a water heater or furnace is installed in the garage.
Having a water heater or a furnace installed in the garage can get the room very hot. With that much heat in the garage, natural ventilation from opening your garage won’t be enough to cool the room. Also, it’s simply not safe to have such heat in the garage without any sort of ventilation. It can easily lead to a fire outbreak.
There is a code that requires you to have a vent in the garage if you have a water heater or furnace installed. The recommended type of ventilation for this instance is mechanical ventilation, such as an exhaust fan, or a roof turbine vent. More on that later.
2. Garage vent helps get rid of fumes from vehicles.
Fumes from cars is a poisonous gas you shouldn’t tolerate in your home. Anytime we get home, we simply open our garage, drive inside, close the garage and turn off our ignition. All the fumes that the car emits remain in the garage. These fumes can seep into the living area through cracks on the wall or mainly through the access door from the garage to the living area.
Fumes are very hazardous to health, and extended exposure to it can cause heart diseases. You certainly don’t want to expose you or your family to the health hazards of carbon monoxide. This is particularly an issue in the winter. We barely keep our garage doors open, so fumes remain in our homes for an extended period.
Having a vent in the garage will ensure proper airflow in the garage, even when the doors are closed. Which means there will be low levels of carbon monoxide present in your home.
3. It is recommended if you are repurposing your garage.
Nowadays, the garage is not seen just like a parking lot for our vehicles. It has become that extra room in our home where we can use it for whatever we want. Some homeowners have converted it into a man-cave, others have turned theirs into a gym, an office space, a laundry room, or a playroom for their kids.
Whatever the case may be, if you have plans to convert your garage into a living space, then I highly recommend installing a garage vent. This is because you will be spending a considerable amount of time in the garage when it is a living space. But, the temperature condition in the garage is not suitable to be in. You’ll definitely feel uncomfortable being in the garage for an extended period if there is no ventilation.
Venting the garage will also help remove any musty smell in the garage by replacing it with fresh air. Suppose you are planning to convert the garage into a living room, home office, or a place where you will spend a lot of time. In that case, I recommend you look into getting a ductless mini-split air conditioner for added comfortability.
4. It reduces cooling costs in the summer.
Your garage can get extremely hot during the summer. That’s because garages are usually not included in the heating and cooling systems in our homes. It gets worse when the garage is not insulated, and there are no vents.
The garage’s heat is transferred to our living spaces through the walls and the garage’s access door. This will increase the electricity consumed by your AC, in an attempt to cool your home.
However, if you have a vent in the garage, it will help exchange all the hot air in the garage with cold and fresh air.
The Different Garage Ventilation Options Available
Now that you know about garage ventilation and how useful they can be let’s take a look at the different garage ventilation options available. The option you go for will be based on your needs and budget. Let’s get into it.
Yes, a regular old window can be all you need. Installing at least two windows on both sides of the garage will bring in a lot of air to replace the stale and hot air in the garage. It will also help get rid of fumes from your vehicle to keep you and your family safe.
Just as you would expect, these windows are installed on the walls. However, some garage vent companies have also found a way to install them on the garage door. Simply go for whatever works for you and fits your budget.
Something to keep in mind is, it’s crucial not to forget to close the windows, especially in the night. You don’t want a situation where a thief breaks into your home through these windows.
I recommend exhaust fans for your garage if you are going to spend a lot of time there. Exhaust fans are excellent for garage gyms, laundry rooms, and workshops. They drive any stale air or moisture from the garage and bring in the fresh air. Because this is a mechanical vent that uses electricity, it will force airflow because it does not rely on the wind. Meaning, regardless of the weather condition, this will function just as well.
Roof turbine vents
This is also an excellent option for a couple of reasons. First, it drives fumes and hot air from your garage through the ceiling, making it very effective. Secondly, it doesn’t require electricity. It spins with the current wind speed. Meaning you will save on energy costs in the long term.
However, the downside is that it is not easy to install, unlike the exhaust fans. This will require an expert to install, and that comes at a cost. If you are DIY-savvy with some technical skills, you can fix it yourself, no problem.
You don’t need a garage vent if you simply park your car in the garage. However, if you have a water heater or furnace installed in the garage or the garage is used as a living area, it must have a vent in the garage.