How to Control the Humidity in Your Home
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- Posted By: TKelley
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- Location: Appling, GA, US
Why is it Important to Control the Humidity?
One main reason for controling the humidity in a home is mold. Exposing yourself to mold can cause a host of respiratory problems inclusing sinus congestion, watery eyes, sore throat, skin rashes, and can trigger asthma attacks. We have a child with asthma so we are especially careful with how we control the environment of our home. Children are at higher risk for negative health effects of mold. If you can smell or see mold, it’s very important to get rid of it. Keeping your humidity under control reduces the amount of mold spores in your home, making it a better place to live.
Dust mites are living microscopic insects that can travel through the air and breed in your home. They like to eat dead skin cells from humans and animals and love to propegate on any type of bedding material. Dust mites can cause poor indoor air quality and are a major cause of days lost from work and school because they can make you sneeze, trigger allergic reactions and a host of other medical problems. Exposure to dust mites and mold causes about 150,000 trips to the emergency room for asthma a year. If you’re allergic to dust mites, you need to learn how to control their population in your home. Dust mites thrive in humidities greater than 60%. Keeing the humidity in your home between 35-50% causes them to die off and improve the indoor air quality in your home.
A house where the humidity is lower than 35% can cause its share of problems. A dry nose and throat can actually help cause colds and other sinus problems. Your house won't be happy either, hardwood flooring, wood trim will shrink and cause cracks in your drywall. It's also rough on eletronic equipment. A friend of mine built a new house and he had beautiful wide plank pine flooring in his den. There was a big fireplace in that room and it reduced the humidity in that room so much that there were 1/4" inch cracks between the planks. He wasn't a happer camper. Part of the problem was the wood wasn't completely cured and the fireplace dried it out too quickly. Even properly cured wood when exposed to very low levels of humidity will shrink.
A Comfortable Place to Live
Keeinping the humidity in your home lower in the summer will make your home feel more comfortable. Humidity makes hot weather undesireable because the higher the relative humidity, the higher the temperature actually feels. For example, a temperature of 90 degrees feels like about 89 degrees when the relative humidity is 35%. However when the humidity reaches 65% that same 90 degrees feels like a sweltering 103 degrees.
Things you can do to help
Buy a Dehumidifer
The spring and fall require the use of a dehumidifier in our area because the temperature in the house is already cool and our heat pump doesn't run often enough to lower the humidity. It does a good job of lowering the humidity in our home during the summer and of course keeps us cool. I don't have very much confidence in our old dehumidifer and I want to buy a new one but there are so many other things on the purchase list right now. This is one of the simplist ways of controlling the population of mold and dust mites in your home. It also makes your home more comfortable in the summer time. Some models have a digital meter that displays the current humidity and allows you to set a setpoint.
Vent Bathroom and Kitchen Exhaust Fans to the Outside
Before we built our house, we did quite a bit of research on improving the indoor air quality of our home. One thing that the American Lung Association. recommended was to vent the kitchen and Bathroom Exhaust fans to the outside of your home instead of your attic. This was especially important for us because we knew at some point we were planning to install spray foam in our roof to improve the energy efficiency and since this seals the attic, dumping the humidity in the attic would effect the indoor humidity.
Consider Spray Foam in your Roof
The underside of our roof is sprayed with insulating foam and the temperature in the attic stays within about 15-20 degrees of the temperature in the living area. Keeping this area conditioned also makes it a little easier to control the humidity in our home. However, I have noticed that the attic humidity is more prone to humidity spikes than the interior of the home. Just pick a day when it's raining at the Self Reliant Home and the real time charts will tell the story.
Buy a Programmable Thermostat with Humidity Control
One cool thing that I purchased this year to help control the humidity is a new programmable thermostat. It allows you to set the desired humidity of your home. It will allow your heat pump to run a little longer to get the desired humidity you're looking for. It's not exact, but it does work. In my house, if I set the desired humidity to be 45% at 76 degrees in the summer, the heat pump might continue running bringing the temperature of the home down to 73 just to reduce the humidity. In my case, the thermostat would take it down to 73 degrees, the humidity would be at 50%, and then the heat pump would shut off. It does'n't match the humidity setpoint exactly because you wouldn't necessarily want the temperature to go low enough to meet the humidity setpoint. If you set the thermostat control to auto heat/cool instead of heat or cool exclusively, it will play tit for tat to keep your house just right. I have a confession to make. I get a little squirmy when I think I'm running my heat pump just for the sake of controlling the humidity. If there is someone in the house that is sick, I make sure I do a better job of keeping the humidity between 35-50%. Please don't take my advice on this one; this is my tightwad nature preventing me from running the heatpump long enough to do the job. I have recently consulted with a heating and air professional in our area and if you are building a new house or it's time to replace your older unit; you might look into the variable speed high efficiency models because I hear thay do a better job controlling the temperature and humidity.
Turn on your Gas Fireplace
After getting the real time charts up and running, I noticed that the gas fireplace makes the humidity take s serious nose dive when it’s turned on. I would think that the heat pump would have a similar result while heating, but we will have to wait and see. When the temperature drops below freezing in Georgia, come back to this page and you will be able to see how we are doing. Although there will be an upcoming article on the subject I might as well tell you that the American Lung Association recommends that your Gas Fire place be vented to the outside. We have a vented Gas fireplace and it heats our house just fine.
Beware of Plumbing Leaks
It would be a shame to spend all that extra electricity controlling the humidity in your home only to have a mold contamination caused by a plumbing leak. I just recently found a leak under the sink in the kitchen. It wasn't a pipe that was leaking it was water dripping from a bad seal where the granite meets the stainless lip on the sink. I bought some silicone caulking and I sealed the crack. I also bought a cheap leak detector and put it in the cabinet under the sink. That way if another leak makes its way to my wood cabinets again, an alarm will sound. I need to buy two more of these devices for each of the bathrooms in the house. One water leak can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home and promote mold growth. Teenagers just don't always think like adults so you need a little help. I have a funny but true story to tell about a leak. One sunday morning we were about to walk out the door for church on a very cold morning. I had been working on an upstairs room getting it ready to close in. I walked up the stairs and I heard something that sounded like a wasp on his back buzzing. I thought to myself; what kind of wasp would be alive at these temperatures? I looked around and I didn't see anything and then all of a sudden this copper pipe bursted in front of my eyes. I was able to cut the water off with no more that a cup of water spilt. When I got back home I was able to fix the pipe. I was very lucky...well let’s call it blessed.
Real Time Humidity Charts in our Home
I'm including a realtime chart(last 24 hours)of the humidity in our home so you can see how we are doing. If you see the chart peak out over 65%, somebody in our home needs to go dump the water out of the dehumidifer. Our primary reason for controlling the humidity is to make our allergies go away but keep in mind that humidity levels is just on aspect of making your home healther for you and your family. We are writing other articles about creating a healthy house in the weeks to come so sign up for the newsletter to get updates. We try to keep our articles limited to things we have tried and give you some way of measuring how we are doing. This isn't just talk this our life.
So in conclusion, keeping your humidity between 35-50% will make you feel more comfortable, keep dust mites and mold from growing and help reduce the side affect of allergies.
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