The characteristics of heat and mass transfer of water permeable membrane were studied. From the point of view of application of such membrane in heat recovery ventilator(HRV), the selection criterion of the membrane was presented. And a general physical model to analyze the performance of various membranes based HRV was built, with which the effectiveness factors of such HRV was studied and the effect of energy saving of such HRV systems used in an emporium located in Beijing was evaluated. The former was validated with experiments. The results demonstrate the advantages of such system: being able to recover the sensible and latent heat simultaneously, being of high heat and moisture exchange effectiveness, without any mechanical components in it, being able to save energy by using it in air-conditioning system for whole year run. The model and results are helpful for the developing the membrane based heat recovery ventilator.