When Do You Need an Indoor Dehumidifier?
A new college student made the move to Olympia, Washington, the state's capital city. He noticed immediately the air was damp; almost 'misty' but the sun was out and there were no clouds. After a month of school at the university, he noticed the black mold around his dorm window and actually found mold growing on his car body! A section of both sides of the white surface was covered with greenish-black mold: and taking it through the car wash didn't remove it.
Once he returned home when the semester was over, the stubborn mold on his car crusted up and fell off without hi washing it! The dryer air in his hometown was a stark difference from the continuous mist in the air in Olympia. He even noticed the inside of his family's home was fresh and there was no black mold on the window sills.
This is an extreme example of living in a damp climate. But many areas of the world are prone to humid weather that penetrates the inside of homes, offices, and other buildings. In these areas, many people own or are ready to purchase a whole house dehumidifier to make their inside environment safer.
The Right Amount of Humidity
'Humidity is always relative' meteorologists like to say!
What is relative humidity? And how does it affect your indoor environment? Absolute humidity is the actual amount of moisture in air. But, in order to understand how the moisture affects you, relative humidity has to be considered.
Relative humidity is the maximum amount of moisture the air can hold. It is not just the moisture level in the room or outdoors, it also has to do with the temperature inside or out. If the relative humidity is 100%, that translates to the amount of water the air can hold at the current temperature. So if the temperature in your home is 75 degrees and the relative humidity is 80%, the air is holding onto 80% moisture at that temperature. If the temperature rises, the relative humidity goes up as well.
People are affected by relative humidity because our skin rids itself of excess fluid through the air. If you're sweating, the body is trying to cool itself by releasing moisture. When the air is too wet, or at 100% humidity in a room with a temperature of 75 degrees, it means the sweat will not be able to evaporate off your skin. This will make you hotter and more uncomfortable.
A temperature of 75 degrees will feel like 77 degrees with 100% humidity inside your home or office. With an inside humidity level of only 20%, 75 degrees feels like 72 degrees. (See the calculator here.) A lower amount of humidity in your home will help you feel cooler!
Also, when the moisture level in the air is high in your home, and the temperature cools down, the air will 'shed' water. You see this when a glass of iced tea is taken outside to humid, warm air. Condensation forms from the water being released by the air. Problems arise in your home, office, RV, or other indoor spaced when condensation increases. This is where a small dehumidifier is perfect for a small room or if you have too much condensation in your garage, you can purchase a dehumidifier for garages.
The suggested level of humidity in your home is 40 to 60%. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, recommends 30 to 50% moisture for indoor air. Indoor humidity levels over these amounts for a long period of time will increase the negative effects of high humidity in your home.
The Perils of High Humidity in Your Living and Working Space
Humidity enters your home or work space just by normal everyday activities being carried out; washing, exercising, cooking, and yes, even breathing! Some homes are built on a crawl space that traps moisture and infiltrates your home. Even apartments can be too humid from influences like building design to the weather around the building. So what is the big deal about high humidity?
You need a certain amount of humidity inside to feel comfortable. But too much can cause havoc in many areas.
High humidity in your home can cause microorganisms and allergens to build up and thrive, making allergy sufferers sick. Humidity levels in excess of 75% will provide a thriving breeding ground for dust mites and other allergy culprits.
Damp air inside your living or working space will affect respiratory ailments like asthma, COPD- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and PH - pulmonary hypertension. The dangerous molds and fungi that exasperate these conditions grow freely in moist indoor air. Even people without these medical conditions, can suffer from difficult breathing if the humidity inside is over 75%.
Bugs love high humidity! When it's warm and humidity levels are 70-80% or higher, creepy crawlers and bug mites love to make their home in your living space causing an increase in spiders, roaches, beetles, fleas, and more.
The inside of buildings contains many building and décor products that are made from materials that contain small amounts of chemical contaminants such as formaldehyde. A process called 'off-gassing' happens normally as these small amounts of chemicals are released into the air. High humidity will increase the rate of off-gassing, increasing the toxicity of your air.
Electronics hate humidity. Condensation can cause corrosion on electronics and moisture can short circuits. This includes any electronics, which we all have much of in today's society: computers, televisions, cellular phones, tablets, and home security and comfort gadgets.
Viruses and bacteria do very well in damp, humid environments. Air that contains 60% humidity and above, can increase your chances of getting air borne illnesses in your own living space. A work office with high humidity levels is a mixture for danger when you add coworkers who are sneezing and coughing. Those bacteria and virus germs multiply and spread quickly in humidity.
WALLS and FURNITURE
Think about your walls and your furniture. Stains from excess humidity can indicate rot in the wall materials and wallpaper can peel from the dampness. Ceilings may end up with rings of moisture stains and too much humidity can distort furniture and make cabinets hard to close or chairs that don't sit flush on the floor anymore.
How a Dehumidifier Helps
A dehumidifier provides quite a few benefits whether you use it at home or at your office. Homes may have damp basements that are prone to flooding and moisture buildup. Apartments are typically at the mercy of other units around them and their tenants. Temperature changes in mobile homes or RVs may cause condensation. All are valid circumstances for too much moisture in your indoor air.
When designing a dehumidifier, manufactures create a compact system that brings in air and runs it over very cold coils to remove the moisture by condensation. The air is then passed over warm coils before being blown back into the room or area it's setup in. Air conditioners may remove a bit of water from air, but not nearly as much as a dehumidifier. The condensation leaves behind excess water which flows into a collection area built into the dehumidifier or in the case of a whole house unit, through a hose and down a drain.
Crawl spaces must be kept dry, but rain, flooding, and storm runoff wreaks havoc on the humidity level below your home. A dehumidifier made for a crawlspace needs to be able to remove up to 90 pints of water a day. These units are slimmer, typically sit on castors to keep them off the wet ground, and use more power to run the motor.
Whichever application you need a dehumidifier for, the options and size will vary based on the capacity and amount of work it has to carry out.
Dehumidifier Capacities and Options
PINT CAPACITY: Based on the relative humidity in a home or office, as little as 10 pints or as much as 50 pints of water can be removed from indoor air. Often, buyers purchase a 30 pint dehumidifier because it's smaller and they count on it being quieter and more energy efficient. In actuality, the larger 50 and even 70 pint units are just as quiet and cost effective as the 30 pint machines.
Depending on the size, you may need a smaller dehumidifier for a bathroom, or a dehumidifier made especially for a crawlspace. But a 30 pint capacity one will be fine for a room or separate area in your home or office. The pint capacity equals how much water can be removed from the air in the space the humidifier occupies over 24 hours.
PERMANENT OR PORTABLE: You can have a dehumidifier unit installed in a permanent location in your home or a specific area in an office. There are usually higher pint capacity models. A whole house dehumidifier is a permanent system. Portable systems are smaller and many come with wheels for convenient placement anywhere in your living space. They are made lighter and often come with a handle for lifting.
ELECTRONIC OR MANUAL: There are still units you can find that have a manual dial for a controller. Most new systems are electronic based. This is based on personal preference.
HUMIDISTAT: A humidistat keeps a running measurement of the relative humidity in the area it's placed. It's essential you know where this level is to determine if your dehumidifier is operating at the proper levels. A unit with the humidistat built in is much easier to use and can make changes to the dehumidifier automatically. Although you can buy a separate humidistat, it's much more convenient and efficient to have it built into your machine.
AUTO RESTART: If the power goes out, a machine with an auto restart feature will turn the machine back on after the power is restored. If you aren't at home when this happens and there is no auto restart, you risk the air moisture content building up again.
COLLECTION CONTAINER: In order to accommodate the unit's pint capacity, you'll need a good sized collection container. With a hose connected for drainage, you usually don't have to keep an eye on the condensation output. But the more portable units for your home or office will have collection containers. This is a preference based on how often you will have to empty the extracted water. Never use this water for consumption!
AUTO-OFF: This feature shuts the unit off when the collection container is full. This is a handy option so when the container is full, the unit will turn off to avoid spillage of the condensate.
There may be other options to consider based on the type of situation you have. At times, people may even need a dehumidifier for a gun safe! These will be starkly different from a room or home unit.
Dehumidifiers for RVs will be made differently than one for an apartment or home. If you need a smaller unit for your bathroom, it wouldn't work well as a crawl space dehumidifier. But they are all designed to do one thing; reduce the amount of humidity in the air thus reducing the risk of allergens, bugs, and damage.
One side effect from moist indoor air can be odors that go with mold and mildew causing a musty or old, rotted smell. When the air permeates with these odors, you know the mold causing it is being breathed in and spreading throughout your home. A dehumidifier will greatly reduce or eliminate the mold hidden in dark, warm moist areas. Mold can also gather on curtains, draperies, in carpeting, and on your clothing.
People in the deep south-eastern states of America know how it's almost impossible to keep dry foods from becoming stale or worse, soggy when the humidity and hot temperatures of summer creep into your home. Breads will mold faster and cereals will become stale. A dehumidifier will create a safer environment for your family by keeping the moisture levels low and foods fresher.
Using a dehumidifier will also prevent germs from multiplying and spreading and will keep dust at bay to reduce allergens. Dust will float out of windows, can be vacuumed up, removed with dust rags, and be eliminated with a dehumidifier. Removing excess moisture from the indoor air prevents the dust from becoming moist and heavy and makes it easier to get rid of. You will find you don't have to clean as often also. Of course, less indoor humidity will reduce respiratory system irritants and allow you to feel more comfortable in your home.
Another great benefit of a dehumidifier is saving money on energy costs to run your air conditioning. Air conditioners run more efficiently when there isn't as much warm, moist air in your home or office. The air conditioner has to work harder to remove the moisture when air is damp. More energy is needed and the unit will likely wear out sooner.
According to your outdoor and indoor environment and regional weather, a dehumidifier can be a valuable and healthy asset.
Is it Worth Investing in a Dehumidifier?
Yes! If you have a high moisture problem and mustiness in your home or office. Seasons, climates, and locations will affect the relative humidity of your indoor environment. Once you notice signs like mold, condensation on windows, water stains on walls or ceilings, or detect the musty odor of heavy, wet air, it's time to look into purchasing a dehumidifier.
Dehumidifiers are not loud and will not be a nuisance in your home or office. You'll hardly know it's there. The energy cost to run them is minimal versus the advantages. When you consider the benefits for your health, preservation of your home or office and belongings, the protection of the numerous electronic devices we live with, and the safety benefits for foods and even clothing, a dehumidifier is a practical and smart investment.