We’ve all experienced weather changes and the ways they can affect the air. Depending on where you live, changes in weather can bring increased mugginess to your home and condensation to your windows.
If you’re tired of feeling sticky during certain times of the year, a dehumidifier can be a great indoor climate adjuster. By whisking moisture out of the air, it can make your home more comfortable and may even provide some health benefits.
Here are some positives and some things to be aware of when dealing with dehumidifiers.
The ideal level of humidity indoors is 30 to 50 percent. Any higher or lower and you might start noticing some nasty health effects. Here’s how maintaining the recommended humidity level can help.
1. It helps manage allergies
Almost nothing loves humidity more than mold, dust mites, and bacteria. (For example, a relative humidity above 55 percent may allow mold to grow.) All of these can trigger allergic reactions or worse if left unchecked.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping your home’s humidity level between 30 and 50 percent to stay sneeze-free. A relative humidity above 60 percent is not recommended.
2. It discourages pests
Creepy-crawlies like spiders, cockroaches, and other critters with too many legs are attracted to moisture — some may even have a “sixth sense” for seeking out humidity. These bugs can lead to structural damage, disease, or general annoyance. Keep pests away by maintaining a dry home.
3. It may reduce asthma symptoms
Either too-high or too-low levels of humidity could trigger asthma. However, researchers in a 2013 review found no significant improvement in chronic asthma patients after dehumidifier use.
4. It could protect your home from moisture damage
Long-term exposure to high levels of humidity can warp, deteriorate, and damage the wood in your home. Well-sealed homes are at greater risk of this as a result of decreased air circulation.
5. It might reduce your energy bill
Home air conditioners have to work harder in humid climates to maintain comfy temperatures. Removing the humidity allows your AC to function more effectively, thus saving you cash.
6. It could be good for your kids
Kids under age 2 spend a lot of time crawling on the floor, which happens to be where lots of dust mites live.
Some research, including a 2010 study, suggests that increased exposure to allergens like dust mites may lead to an increased risk of developing an allergy. So reducing the presence of dust mites could save your kids some health hassle in the future.
According to heating and air conditioning company Service Champions, there are three types of commercial dehumidifiers:
- Heat pump dehumidifiers
- Dehumidifying ventilators
- Chemical absorbent dehumidifiers
A heat pump dehumidifier uses a fan to suck in air, which is then cooled by a supercold coil. Moisture condenses out of the now-cold air, is collected, and can then be disposed of.
A ventilating dehumidifier sucks in indoor air and expels it outside. At the same time, it takes fresh outdoor air, cools it and filters out moisture, and then sends it inside the home. This produces consistent air circulation.
Chemical absorbent dehumidifiers function like heat pump dehumidifiers, but instead of a cold coil, they use desiccants such as silica gel — the same stuff in those “do not eat” packets in beef jerky. These attract water molecules, resulting in drier air.
Depending on how humid the climate is, a home dehumidifier can absorb 10 to 44 pints of water every day. Because many dehumidifiers collect the water in containers, they need to be routinely emptied.
Also, dehumidifiers are most effective in the room they’re in. So unless your home has an open floor plan, you may have to move the machine to the room you’re spending the most time in.
If you’re not sure whether you need a dehumidifier, look for telltale signs of too-high humidity.
Generally, the air will feel moist and clammy, like you’ve walked into a bathroom minutes after someone has taken a shower. You may notice musty and mildewy smells, fogged-up windows, or signs of rotting wood around your home.
Other signs of high humidity include water stains or discoloration on your walls and a general moist or soft feeling in your walls, shelves, and wooden furniture.
One simple test you can do at home is to place a few ice cubes in a glass, fill it with water, and leave it out for about 4 minutes. If so much moisture collects on the outside of the glass that it’s dripping, then the room is too humid. If no condensation forms at all, then the humidity level is too low, which is also a problem.
However, the best way to test the moisture in your home is by using a hygrometer — a device specifically used to measure the moisture content in the air. You can find these at most hardware stores.
While having too much humidity in your home is a problem, so is having too little moisture. Research suggests dry air can lead to a variety of health issues, such as asthma, nosebleeds, sore throat, and more.
The mucus in your nose is responsible for catching germs before they enter your body, so if your mucus dries out, your respiratory system is more at risk of infection.
Too much dry air also puts you at risk of dehydration. Because there’s too little moisture in the air, the fluids in your respiratory system are more likely to be drawn out into the environment, meaning you’ll have to drink more water.
Dry air can also lead to dry eyes, dry skin, and flare-ups of preexisting skin conditions like eczema. If you’re getting zapped by static electricity, that’s also a symptom of air that’s too dry.
The moral here: Use your dehumidifier wisely. Too much of anything can lead to problems.
Should I speak with a doctor before getting a dehumidifier?
While you don’t need a prescription for a dehumidifier, it could be a good idea to consult a doctor about the risks of drier air. This is especially true if you or those you live with have asthma or are prone to other respiratory illnesses.
It’s also a good idea to take stock of your home layout. Unless you have a very open floor plan, you’ll likely need to rotate the dehumidifier between rooms to prevent one part of your home from becoming overly dry.
Maintaining the right humidity level in your home can be a balancing act — too much or too little can lead to discomfort or even medical issues. A dehumidifier can be a useful tool as the weather gets warmer and the air gets more humid, as long as you aren’t overusing it.
When browsing for dehumidifiers, look for those that have earned an ENERGY STAR label. These use 15 percent less energy than noncertified dehumidifiers while being just as effective. Stay comfortable!