Humidity has a dramatic effect on apparent temperature. Controlling humidity in your home can make it feel cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Humidity control will increase your energy efficiency and result in a utility bill savings that will help you with your green living goals. With a little understanding, monitoring and humidity control, you can save your energy dollars and be more comfortable year round.
An understanding of humidity is the place to begin, along with a way to measure it. A humidistat can usually be purchased for less than ten dollars at your local hardware store. Having a humidistat or two is a great way to get a feel for what the humidity in your home is like. Humidistats show measurements displayed as a percentage. It is recommended that you maintain your home between 35%-55% RH. The RH stands for relative humidity. Humidity measurements are relative to the current temperature. Warm air can hold more water, cold air can hold less. Lowering the temperature of humid air, to the point where the air becomes saturated and can no longer hold the excess water, causes conditions like dew and condensation.
Extremes of humidity cost you money and make you uncomfortable. Humidity that is too high can make your home feel unbearably hot, increasing your need to crank the air conditioner. Excess moisture can damage interior finishes, causing paint to peel and materials to swell. High humidity can stimulate mildew and mold growth. On the other hand, humidity that is too low can make your home feel cold, causing you to crank the heat. Low humidity promotes dehydration that can contribute to dry skin, dry hair and scratchy throats, increasing your susceptibility to colds and flu. Low humidity also results in an environment conducive to static electrical imbalances, causing small shocks, often when kissing a loved one or petting your beloved pet.
Once you understand humidity and have a humidistat to measure it with, you are on your way to controlling it and saving your energy dollars. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers are worth the cost and effort to run. They are an essential part of any energy friendly home. There are many makes and models to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. Dehumidifiers remove water from the air, decreasing the apparent temperature, making it feel cooler. Humidifiers add water to the air, increasing the apparent temperature, making it feel warmer.
Dehumidifiers are essential during the summer. They can be used to remove humidity any time after renovations, flooding or water penetration. Air conditioners typically dehumidify a home, but can benefit from the presence of a stand-alone dehumidifier, depending on the size of your home and the size of your air conditioning unit. Dehumidifiers should be purchased based on the square footage they will serve. Using a unit with an optional drain line, to avoid having to empty the dehumidifier’s condensate bucket manually, is preferable. The presence of a built in humidistat to turn the unit on when added humidity is needed and off when desired humidity levels are reached is essential.
Humidifiers are often needed in the winter, when furnaces dry the air out dramatically. Furnaces often have humidifiers installed on their cold air return duct work. While these built-in humidifiers refill themselves automatically, cutting down on the work of refilling them manually, they can cause some expensive problems. Built-in humidifiers add moist air directly into metal duct work. This set-up may cause hidden mildew and corrosion issues in the ductwork itself. Leaking built-in humidifiers are often responsible for causing costly damage to furnaces. Built-in humidifiers can work great, but need seasonal maintenance and monitoring. Stand-alone humidifiers are highly recommended. Stand-alone humidifiers should be purchased based on the square footage they will serve. A good humidifier is designed with an automatic switch to turn the unit on and off automatically as needed.
Minimal running costs, effort and maintenance are required to monitor and control the humidity in your home. Using humidistats, humidifiers and dehumidifiers as needed can make your home more comfortable all year round. Controlling humidity can lower your risk of colds and flu, help your home avoid mildew, mold and moisture related damage, and make your energy dollars stretch further. If you are looking to increase your energy efficiency, your utility bill savings and support green living, then controlling your home’s humidity is a must.
By Craig Pen
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