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How to control humidity in your home
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How to control humidity in your home

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Dehumidifier

A single-room dehumidifier is an ideal tool for removing limited amounts of moisture from the air. You'll need to regularly dump the water.

The old saying “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” has a lot of truth to it.

Fortunately, humidity is not entirely out of your control. The most comfortable home is one that’s balanced in a variety of elements. Humidity can upset that delicate balance by being too low or too high. A humidity level of about 45% is ideal. You don’t want it higher than 50% or lower than 30%.

Problems caused by humidity

High humidity tends to be a big problem in newer homes. More recently built homes have a tightly sealed interior envelope, which tends to keep the humidity inside. If it causes condensation, you’ll get moisture buildup around the house, including behind walls and ceilings. Too much humidity promotes the growth of fungus and mold.

Low humidity, meanwhile, can cause cracks in wood floors and damage electrical equipment. You can develop dry skin and susceptibility to cold and flu germs.

A quick way to check your humidity level is with a hygrometer. You can purchase a basic model for less than $20 at many hardware and big-box stores. Make sure you take readings in different rooms; the humidity will vary around your house.

How to control humidity

If your humidity level is below 25%, consider purchasing a humidifier. Most options cost less than $75 and can effectively boost the humidity in a room.

Fortunately, increasing humidity is a fairly simple process. All you need to do is introduce more moisture into the air, and humidifiers simply evaporate water and pump it into the air. Indeed, the most low-tech method to increase humidity is placing shallow dishes of water around the house, near vents and sunny windows. As water evaporates, it adds moisture to the air.

Regrettably, dehumidifying a house is a more complex operation, since you must mechanically remove moisture from the air and direct it elsewhere.

You do have a number of DIY options to minimize humidity before you bring machines into the equation, though. For instance, opening windows, leaving doors open throughout the house, increasing ventilation, and using exhaust fans will all bring down humidity levels. (Pro tip: Make sure your dryer vent directs air outside and has no leaks. Accidental heat loss from dryer vents is a big cause of humidity!)

If you want to acquire a technological solution, you can install small room-sized dehumidifiers. A unit for a very small room might cost about $50; systems for larger rooms start at around $175. This is a relatively efficient approach, though you’ll have to regularly dump water out of the collection chambers.

For a broad-based permanent solution to excess humidity, consider installing a whole-house dehumidifier. This attaches to your home’s HVAC system and removes moisture from air as it cycles through the returns. These don’t come cheap; expect to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 for a unit. Make sure you hire a licensed HVAC installer who is experienced with these kinds of systems.

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