Humidifier or Dehumidifier- What Do I Need?
Monday, March 15th, 2021 by Nico Lemmers
Relative humidity is a measure of how much water vapor is in the air in relation to how hot or cool it is. In our homes we typically want the relative humidity to stay between 30 and 50%. You probably don't think about how dry or moist your air is until you are uncomfortable.
Indoor air quality is a topic that more and more people are concerned with. We want our families to be safe and healthy, but it is hard to know what to focus on. There are many studies on indoor air quality; some focus on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), many talk about mold, and others cover the hot topic of radon. In this article we want to focus on relative humidity and the impact it can have on your home.
Relative humidity is a measure of how much water vapor is in the air in relation to how hot or cool it is. In our homes we typically want the relative humidity to stay between 30 and 50%. You probably don’t think about how dry or moist your air is until you are uncomfortable. High humidity levels will make the environment feel muggy or humid. Low humidity levels will cause dry skin, wood floor shrinkage, and static electricity.
Maintaining an appropriate level of moisture in the air is an important task. It will not only make your home more comfortable, it will help prevent other problems too. Here are a few of the challenges that can be posed by relative humidity that is out of range:
Relative humidity that is too low.
- Gaps in hardwood floors
- Dry skin
- Nose bleeds
- Shocks from static electricity
Relative humidity that is too high.
- Musty odors
- Doors sticking
- Buckling hardwood floors
- Dust mites/dust mite droppings
- Mold and bacteria
- Spiders and other pests
So when you ask the question, “Do I need a humidifier or dehumidifier,” it really depends on your environment. In the Midwest where we have our experience, we usually recommend both. In cities like Omaha, Kansas City, Des Moines, Wichita, Springfield, Sioux City, and Grand Island we experience all four seasons to some extent. This means that we experience the extremes in both temperature and relative humidity.
How to Know If You Need a Humidifier
The farther north you live the more likely you are to want a humidifier. As your furnace runs it also dries out the air. This is why you end up with dry skin in the winter. Many homes have humidifiers installed directly on their furnace and they kick on and off as needed to maintain a set humidity level. This is the easiest way to manage adding humidity in the
winter months. Other homes have added a standalone humidifier. This can be a good way to supplement water vapor for shorter stints, especially in warmer climates that don’t experience long cold winters.
Keep in mind that humidifiers that are connected to your furnace need to be adjusted seasonally. There is usually a summer mode and a winter mode. You don’t want to forget to change the setting because you don’t want to add humidity to the air in the summer when you are already fighting to keep the humidity out! This will actually drive up the cost of air conditioning. Most humidifiers also have a filter that needs to be changed occasionally.
How to Know If You Need A Dehumidifier
Dehumidifiers are needed during non-winter months. Spring and summer are the seasons that typically have the highest humidity levels. If you are running an air conditioner you are asking it to both cool the air and dehumidify it. The higher the humidity level the harder your air conditioner has to work to take moisture out. This uses more energy and will keep the air conditioner running for longer periods of time. Even when the air conditioner is running, it rarely can keep the humidity levels below 50% during the peak summer season. In fact, the lowest level of your home probably has over 50% humidity during spring and summer.
The solution is a dehumidifier on the lowest level of your home. If the lowest level is your basement, you can install a properly sized dehumidifier to handle keeping the humidity level below 50% to prevent mold growth and reduce the load on the air conditioning system. If you have a crawl space, there are additional considerations. A dry crawl space with a concrete floor and no vents can be treated like a basement. However, dirt crawl spaces and those with open vents to the outside must be addressed differently. Installing a dehumidifier in a dirt crawl space without isolating the dirt from the house will not be effective. Leaving open vents would be like running your air conditioner on high but leaving the windows open; the air conditioner or dehumidifier wouldn’t stand a chance in those circumstances.
What Systems Does Thrasher Foundation Repair Install?
Thrasher doesn’t install humidifiers, but we can recommend HVAC companies that specialize in this sort of system. In northern climates a system that is built into your furnace is going to be your best bet.
For dehumidification in basements and enclosed crawl spaces, we recommend the SaniDry Sedona Dehumidifier. We have installed many different dehumidifiers over the years, and this system is the most effective and energy-efficient we have found. It also comes with built-in filtration, which includes the additional benefit of cleaning the air while it dehumidifies. This system can dehumidify the average house at a minimal energy cost compared to big box store models. It also drains automatically so you don’t have to empty buckets of water either.
If you want to learn more about how these systems work, check out this article on Healthline: Humidifier Vs. Dehumidifier: What's the Difference?