Ventilation systems can save heat energy by using heat recovery, but consume electrical energy to power the fans. In practice, the energy efficiency of those systems can be lower than expected, when compared to the nominal values provided by the manufacturer. In this paper, results of a comprehensive field tests with 20 centralized and 60 decentralized ventilation systems for residential buildings and the calculation of the primary energy savings of those devices are presented. Factors like volume flow unbalances, shortcuts, temperature change rates and specific fan power have been addressed by tracer gas technology and other means and been used as input factors to calculate the primary energy balance of those devices. Every system showed positive primary energy savings. The mean value for centralized systems was 2.92 Wh/m3 with a high standard deviation of 2.23 Wh/m3, while the decentralized systems showed higher savings of around 4.75 Wh/m3 with a standard deviation of 0.01 to 0.15 Wh/m3. In general, the calculated savings in field tests were significantly lower compared to the case of using nominal values as input parameters.