Dehumidifiers are quickly becoming commonplace in many homes across the United States. Chances are if you purchased a new central air conditioner system that the company you purchased from also tried to sell you on a central dehumidifier. But, what exactly is a dehumidifier? What benefits can you expect to achieve from using one? Let’s take a look.
First, to understand what a dehumidifier is we need to understand the concept of humidity. Humidity in short, is water vapor in the air. This water is in vapor form and is not in the form of fog, clouds, or rain. A desert will typically have low humidity whereas a jungle will have very high humidity.
Having excess humidity in your home can cause a host of problems. Humidity is not visible to the naked eye, but there are signs of it. For example, if you take a hot shower and then step out of the bathtub and notice the mirror is fogged over. That is an example of the humidity displaying itself to you. You normally see humidity problems in enclosed rooms with poor ventilation such as bathrooms or kitchens. You may also begin to see water droplets forming on the inside of your windows, and in some cases even along your interior walls. These are all examples of excess humidity within your home.
So, what’s the big deal if your home has excess humidity? Too much humidity can cause problems, especially to those in your home that suffer from allergies or asthma. A high humidity environment is perfect for dust mites, mildew, fungi, and mold to thrive in. These allergens can result in a stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, difficulty breathing, and even skin rashes. In extreme cases the mold or fungi can cause severe asthma symptoms. Reducing the humidity in your home can prevent these allergens from taking root.
My father is a rather severe asthmatic. It is now to the point where my mother has to warn him that she will be vacuuming. He can’t be in the house for hours afterwards or else he’ll have a flare up. To help mitigate his symptoms they have a central humidifier installed as well as multiple air purifiers throughout the home. Even with all of this he still has trouble on certain days. I cannot even imagine how bad it would be without these extra protections of air quality.
Having a dehumidifier installed in your home, rather it be a portable or a central system, will work to reduce the humidity within your home. Most models come with a humidity target number that you can program just like you would do with a thermostat. In the summer the recommended setting is fifty percent humidity and in the winter they recommend thirty percent.
Once your dehumidifier is installed and operating you will begin to notice the benefits. Firstly, that damp or musty smell that you can find in basements a lot will eventually go away. So, let’s say for example you have a finished basement and use it as a hosting area for when you have friends over. Everything looks great down there… except the fact that you have that musty smell throughout the basement. By setting up a portable dehumidifier in your basement you will be able to combat that smell and eventually get it to go away entirely.
Along with removing that musty smell dehumidifiers can make the room, or home, that it is installed in much more comfortable. As I’m writing this article it is a few days from July and I am based in Kansas City. I just checked the humidity levels outside. It is at ninety percent humidity and will be around ninety-five degrees. Those are some crazy number. As you all know, a dry heat and a wet heat can feel much different. That is why if you go to California when it’s one-hundred degrees and Kansas City when it’s one-hundred degrees it will feel quite different. Your central air conditioner does it’s best to remove excess humidity but when you are faced with a ninety percent humidity level it can be hard to keep up.
This is where your dehumidifier comes in handy. It can give your air conditioner that extra boost and aid to remove that excess humidity in your home. By removing that humidity you get close to that ‘dry heat’ feeling and your home feels overall more comfortable. On top of that, by adding a dehumidifier to your home you take some of the load off of your air conditioner. This will result in monthly energy savings and the extension of life for your central air conditioner.
The next benefit I want to mention is the overall quality of air. Earlier in this article we mentioned that with excess humidity you can have allergens began to grow within your home such as dust mites, mildew, fungi, and even mold. You may even begin to see the mold begin to grow on the walls, floors, and curtains. In extreme cases the mold can take hold and begin to grow on your bed sheets and even your clothes.
A dehumidifier will actively work to reduce the humidity in your home and the less humidity the less desirable of an area for these allergens to take root. A lot of times you may not even begin to see some of these problems forming in your home though. So, as a rule of thumb, if you have someone in your family or even if you are suffering from allergies while in your home then it may be time for a dehumidifier. It could be itchy/watery eyes, it could be sneezing constantly, or it could even be a rash. A dehumidifier may solve your problem, or at least lessen the symptoms. Another thing that you can do along with your dehumidifier is to purchase a higher quality air conditioner filter. For more on that, you can read our article on how to select an air conditioner filter.
Having the combination of a dehumidifier with a higher rated MERV filter will greatly aid in improving the quality of air in your home. While allergies may not motivate you enough to improve the air quality in your home then an asthma sufferer will. Earlier in the article I mentioned my father who suffers from asthma. We have to do everything we can to improve air quality. If we do not then he constantly has trouble getting a breath and will have more frequent flare ups. It’s never fun to watch a family member suffer with allergies and asthma and you can even lessen their burden by adding a dehumidifier.
The last benefit that I want to mention is extending the life and quality of your home. Excess humidity in your home over a long period of time can actually result in the wood soaking up some of that excess water. When I say wood I don’t just mean pieces of furniture. No this excess moisture can actually soak into your walls and even your support beams. This can cause warping and overall deterioration. Having a dehumidifier installed will prevent this from occurring.
Now that we understand the overall benefits of dehumidifiers I want to make another point before we close this article. Running a dehumidifier in your home is treating the symptoms of a problem. It does not attack the disease. This is like the doctor giving you a painkiller instead of popping your shoulder back in the socket. Obviously, you need both pain killers and the shoulder relocated.
Let’s say for example you are running a dehumidifier in your basement due to some water pooling in one corner of the basement. While the dehumidifier will get rid of the water and the excess humidity it will not solve the problem. How did the water get into your basement? Where did it come from? That is a whole other story that you will have to troubleshoot and resolve. If you are purchasing a dehumidifier to get rid of a mold problem then the dehumidifier will stop the mold from spreading and prevent it from taking root again… but you will still need to remove the existing mold.
If you are in the market to purchase a dehumidifier then I recommend that you check out our purchasing guide. In this article we go into everything you would ever need to know when it comes to purchasing a dehumidifier.