Clegg's Blog

Do I need a dehumidifier?

800px-Maytag_dehumidifier1If you have noticed your home feels damp, smells musty or you have signs of fungus growth, you may benefit from a dehumidifier. High moisture content in the air in your home, basement or crawl space can cause a variety of problems, including fungus growth that can damage your property and health, damage your wood furniture or the wood used to build your house, cause metals to rust, or even cause your framed artwork to curl at the edges. Moisture also draws in a number of unwanted pests, including termites.

Fungus spores can exist in a dormant state for years and become active, spreading rapidly, when moisture is present. The only way to prevent the growth of fungus and other moisture-related damage is to remove some of the moisture. A dehumidifier is designed to remove moisture from the air in an enclosed space and expel it outside, leaving the relative humidity inside at a lower level. (Note that a humidifier does the opposite, adding moisture to the air when levels are too low – for example, when a heating or A/C unit leaves the air dry.)

The optimum relative humidity levels – or moisture in the air – in our homes is between 45-50%. Our bodies are most comfortable at these levels and the amount of moisture is not high enough to cause damage.

If your house has a basement or is built on a crawl space, there is a good chance that the humidity levels in these spaces are much higher than those inside. Relative humidity in your basement or crawl space should be no more than 50-60% to prevent water damage. In cases where you have seen very wet weather, or the drainage around your foundation is not adequate, you may have a hidden issue in your basement or crawl space and not even be aware of it.

The best way to test the moisture levels in your home, basement or crawl space is using a moisture meter. This tool measures the moisture level in the space. If you do not have a moisture meter, you can often judge by the look, feel, and smell of the area. If the basement or crawl space looks fine but feels damp and has a musty odor, the humidity is probably higher than it should be. The presence of water spots in concrete walls, visible mold or mildew on beams or items stored in the area, or puddles of water are definite indications of a moisture problem.

Fixing Moisture Problems

Left untreated, moisture problems can result in damage to your health, your personal belongings, and even structural damage to your house. You should inspect your home for signs of problems and fix moisture-related issues as quickly as possible. In most cases, the primary risk is to the basement or crawl space, so check those first. If you discover that moisture levels are high, consider adding a commercial / industrial grade dehumidifier. These are the best option for larger areas. While there are portable versions, most homeowners will want to have the dehumidifier installed in the affected area. Commercial dehumidifiers may include insulated ducting to reduce noise, draw lines and/or a condensate pump so the unit does not have to be manually emptied, and a humidistat (sensor) to gauge humidity levels and turn the dehumidifier on and off, as needed. Once these units are installed, all that is required to maintain them is a quarterly filter change and cleaning.

Depending on the situation, in addition to adding a dehumidifier, homeowners may wish to have a professional review the grading and drainage around the foundation of their home. There are options to push moisture away from the foundation, making it easier for the dehumidifier to keep moisture levels in check.

How Do I Choose a Commercial Dehumidifier?

Commercial dehumidifiers are rated based on the number of pints of liquid they can remove in a 24-hour period. The base comparison for all industrial products is called the AHAM Rating (note that residential products are not always rated the same way). The standard used to ensure an accurate product to product comparison is pints removed in 24 hours at a temperature of 80 degrees and 60% relative humidity. The other factor to be considered is the number of cubic feet of air the dehumidifier can move each minute (CFM or cubic feet per minute). The CFM should be chosen based on the size of the space where the machine will be placed.

Clegg’s Termite & Pest Control offers a variety of moisture control services to protect your home and property. If you are worried you may have a moisture problem, call us today at 1-888-MR-CLEGG to schedule a free property inspection.


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