Posts Tagged ‘humidity’

Do you need a Dehumidifier?

February 18, 2013

humidityAs we look to improve our homes and the air in it, taking control of the airways are very important.  Come wintertime, we often struggle with comfort in more ways that just staying warm.   Sometimes it gets dry too.   People tend to be comfortable with humidity levels a little higher than what is ideal to prevent condensation issues and mold growth.

Winter brings dryer air and a home that is more porous than it should be brings that air inside.  Keep in mind that our homes are like chimneys.   They are smoke stacks drawing from low and exhausting out high.  When exceptionally dry air is brought into our homes it tends to make us uncomfortable.  The quick fix solution is to slap a humidifier on the duct work.  Voila!  Comfort!

This can come with a price, maintenance for one.  If you don’t keep that unit clean it can become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria.  Just the sort of thing you don’t want attached to the air distribution system in your home, sort of like building over a stinky damp crawlspace.

Sealing up air leaks in your home will help control moisture by reducing much of the dry air entering in the first place.  If you still need humidification then keep the unit clean and monitor humidity levels.  Excessive condensation on windows, and mold growth in wintertime are signs that you might have too much moisture in the air.   Take control of your airways and manage moisture too!





Home as microbiology experiment? Moisture, keep it reasonable and stay safe

June 29, 2012

Candida albicans PHIL 3192 lores
There are many sources of moisture in the home.  Cooking, showering, houseplants, and people are some expected sources.  Crawlspaces and basements can add to the humidity as well. And no matter where it comes from, too much humidity can promote the growth of unwanted microbes, mold, mildew and bacteria.  It should be a healthy home, not a lab experiment.

Consider some steps to avoid high humidity in the home:

  • Gutters and good grading can help divert water away from the foundation.
  • Cover dirt floors in crawl spaces and basements with heavy duty plastic, it reduces odors and moisture
  • Ensure that clothes dryers are properly vented to the outdoors.
  • Use ventilation fans to remove moisture generated by showering, bathing, and cooking.
  • Reduce the number of plants in humid areas.
  • If you burn wood, don’t store it in the basement.
  • Do not open basement windows and doors in the summer to dry out the basement. This can make the problem worse by allowing moist outdoor air into your cool basement, causing increased condensation. Crawlspaces (and basements) may not need venting, sometimes it makes it worse. I’ve talked about this here

Most of the time we know we have too much moisture only after it’s too late.  Wet stains on walls and ceilings, rotten wood, condensation on the windows, and musty smells let us know something is wrong.  Clearly indoor air quality suffers, so it’s best to keep your eye out for trouble.   Suffer from allergies?  You might be creating an ideal situation for the growth of the bacteria and mold that cause them.  Our homes are made of mold food: wood, sheetrock, paper.  It should be a palace not a Petri dish!



With Air-Conditioning, Bigger isn’t Better

July 13, 2010
While a huge size may be important when it comes to city-crushing monsters, bigger isn't always better for air-conditioning

While a huge size may be important when it comes to city-crushing monsters, bigger isn't always better for air-conditioning

East Coasters melted in the heat and high humidity last week. Some people are probably wondering if their air-conditioners are big enough.

All too commonly, we see comfort issues caused by air-conditioning systems that are TOO BIG. Too big? A lot of people are concerned about systems that are too small. And many contractors will size up “just in case” and to avoid call back complaints that the air-conditioner isn’t keeping the house cool. Sometimes they’ll replace existing systems with bigger systems. Generally that’s not the right answer.

An A/C that is too big pretty much ensures that you won’t be as comfortable as you should be most of the time. Systems that are too big can cool you house down quickly. But if you live in a humid climate, it’s more often the humidity that really makes us uncomfortable. To reduce the humidity, you need a smaller system that runs longer and pulls a lot more humidity from the air. The smaller system uses less energy per minute, so having it run longer doesn’t mean you’ll be using more electricity. Longer run times also mean that your system hit peak operating efficiency, something that it can’t do if it’s running only for very short periods of time.

There’s an additional problem caused by sticking a larger air-conditioner onto your existing duct system. Often the ductwork cannot handle the increased capacity and air-flow required. And again, this means your system won’t be operating efficiently.

If your system is older, you should consider replacing it with a system that is “right-sized” and more efficient. In terms of efficiency, look for Energy Star as a minimum—and a higher efficiency in warmer climates. And ask your contractor to size properly using “Manual J”—ask for the report. Multistage and variable speed equipment can help, too. If your current system doesn’t seem to be keeping you and your home cool enough, there may be other things that make a lot more sense than a bigger A/C. Good insulation, tight ductwork, and controlling heat gain are all important strategies to make you more comfortable and save money.

Learn more about your cooling and heating system.


8 Tips on How Not to Lose Your Cool

July 24, 2008

With much of the country sweating through the second heat wave of the summer, and the cost of energy spiraling ever upwards, homeowners are searching for ways to stay within their home cooling budget. Bumping up the thermostat, or opting for fans rather than air conditioning, are two obvious options, but there are some simple things you can do now to achieve significant savings on energy, while still keeping your family comfortable. Here are eight tips from GreenHomes America that will help you keep the bills down, and comfort up, this summer:

1.     Start by keeping cool air in, and hot air out! When the temperature drops at night, if it’s cooler outside than in, open your windows. In the morning, shut them, and keep shades down to block out direct sunlight.

2.     Focus on your attic.  In the summer, temperatures in the attic can climb to more than 150oF.  This tremendous heat can conducts down into your home in a variety of ways.  Insulating and air-sealing your attic will have a huge impact. 

·       Carefully air seal any leaks between the attic and the area below. Common air leak sources include recessed lights, gaps around chimneys, plumbing penetrations, and the attic hatch (which contractors often overlook when insulating the attic).

·       Only after you’ve done air-sealing, put an extra layer of insulation on the attic floor, on top of the insulation you currently have there.  Sixteen to 24-inches is not excessive —and will help keep you warmer in the winter, too!

3.     Use efficient lighting and appliances.  With incandescent and halogen lights, most of the electricity goes to producing heat rather than light.  Not only does this mean you’re overpaying for lighting, but you’re creating a lot of unwanted heat in the rooms you’re trying to keep cool.  Compact florescent light bulbs have improved greatly over the past several years, so there’s no need to worry about the humming, slow starts, and ghoulish colors of years past – and they’re efficient and run cooler. With lighting or appliances, look for Energy Star® qualified models. 

4.     If you have a central or window air-conditioner, keep it tuned up. Clean the filters so they’re not clogged, and vacuum the dust and cobwebs out of the condenser fins.  If it’s more than 10 years old, consider replacing with a high-efficiency unit, one that at least qualifies for Energy Star.

5.     Do you have a forced air heating or cooling system? Seal and insulate the ductwork in attics and crawl spaces.  As much as 30% of the air you cool (or heat in the winter) can escape outside through leaky ducts.

6.     Use a bath fan vented to the outside to remove the heat and humidity created by showering. If you don’t have a bath fan, install one. If you do have a bath fan, make sure it’s powerful enough to do the job (often builders skimp on this). To check, close the window, turn on the fan, and close the door to the bathroom so its open just a crack: standing on the inside, can you feel air moving through the crack? If not, consider upgrading your fan.

7.     Similarly, use a kitchen exhaust fan to remove heat and moisture created by cooking.  This has the added benefit of removing pollutants, especially if you cook with gas.

8.     Planting deciduous trees on the south side of a house can help keep your home cool in the summer.  In many parts of the country, maples, oaks, and birches are good trees to consider.  Because they drop their leaves in the fall, they let sunlight through to help warm your house in the winter.

Many of these tips are simple things you can do to start saving right away.  With some advice from your local home center, and two or three free weekends, a handy homeowner can tackle these projects. The energy savings, and effect on comfort, are cumulative, so do as many as you can. To get even deeper savings, get a comprehensive home energy assessment, and let trained and certified crews install your improvements. 

And whether you do the work yourself or you have it done by a contractor, after you make any changes to the house you should have any combustion equipment like furnaces and water heaters tested to make sure they’re running safely and efficiently.  

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