You always hear people say, “It’s not the heat…it’s the humidity.” You completely agree with that saying when a high level of moisture in the air inside your home leaves you sweaty, sticky, and irritated.
More and more people are turning to dehumidifiers as the solution for a comfortable home. But before you run out to shop for one, let’s discuss some vital information about whether it is a great idea to invest in a house dehumidifier and, if so, which type would suit your needs the best. Are whole home dehumidifiers worth it?
If your biggest problem is high humidity but not cooling or heating, it is worth your money to buy a whole house dehumidifier. Your entire home will be protected from high levels of moisture which can cause mold, mildew, dust mites, and a stale smell.
Whole-house dehumidifiers are a much better investment than room dehumidifiers because they are four times more energy-efficient. They are also low maintenance and last longer than portable ones. A whole house dehumidifier can also work together with your AC for optimum indoor comfort.
Humidity is a natural phenomenon and is part of the all-important water cycle. Both plants and animals need enough moisture in the air to cool themselves. It also has a crucial job in the precipitation process and helps stabilize our climates.
Needless to say, humidity is beneficial OUTSIDE or in the open air. But, a high level of moisture INSIDE your home is a different story. It can even cause potential health risks if not addressed.
Why do you have to be interested with the level of moisture inside your home? What are the consequences of too much indoor heat and dampness? Are dehumidifiers the answer? Is a whole-house dehumidifier better than portable or room dehumidifiers? Is whole house dehumidifier worth your money?
We don’t want to leave you high and dry so let’s get right down to the answers.
What You Should Know About Relative Humidity
We do not want to get too technical about it. National Geographic offers the simplest explanation of what humidity is. “Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. If there is a lot of water vapor in the air, the humidity will be high. The higher the humidity, the wetter it feels outside.”
It is well-known that at a certain heat level, water evaporates and turns into vapor. But only a few are aware that the maximum absolute humidity of warm air is approximately 30 grams of water vapor, or 30 g/m3. Past this point, our bodies that expel excess sweat through our skin will not be able to find relief because sweat cannot evaporate that quickly.
You might be familiar with humidity expressed in percentages – like in weather reports. We call that relative humidity.
The Chicago Tribune, a reputable news and weather source, gives a clear definition of why it is deemed as “relative”. It says that relative humidity is “the ratio of the amount of moisture actually in the air to the maximum amount that can be present at that temperature.”
In simple terms, relative humidity is dependent on the current temperature. It changes when the temperature changes. Warm air naturally can hold more water vapor than cold air. So don’t be surprised if you hear that there is 50% humidity during the winter and yet it does not feel the same as 50% relative humidity during summer days.
So, heat plus humidity make a very uncomfortable combination. But beside’s feeling unpleasant, are there serious hazards from incessant heat and excess moisture?
Dangers of High Indoor Humidity
If humidity is clearly a part of nature’s workings, why should we be concerned with all these percentages and temperatures?
Besides feeling uncomfortable, there can be serious risks to our health if the indoor dampness is too high. The main reason: MOLD.
Humid places are hotbeds for mold, mildew, dust mites, and other disease-carrying pests. These organisms thrive on moisture and feed on almost anything that can be found in your home. Bread and cereals are their favorites since carbohydrates can energize them to reproduce quickly.
Molds and mildew eat away at wood and wallpaper glue. You will know you have a mold problem hiding behind the walls if you start to see some discolorations of brown turning into black spots on your wall or the ceiling. Actually, it is a sign that mold and mildew have been living there for weeks or even months!
Mold doesn’t just ruin the aesthetics of your house. If a house is infested with mold due to high levels of humidity, there is a distinct stale smell that is more pungent in places with the least ventilation.
Mold Busters: The Mold Removal Experts, specialists who performed professional mold testing, inspection, and remediation services, relate that molds sometimes vary in smell.
“Some molds produce earthy effluvia, others produce sweeter smells and some even smell like fermenting alcohol or rotting meat,” their website states.
This musty smell is produced by mold spores or when molds are in varying stages of their life such as digestion, growth, or reproduction. The unpleasant odor, however, is only the beginning of the problem.
Prolonged mold exposure can cause allergic reactions such as wheezing, rash, watery eyes, runny nose, itching and redness of the eyes, and coughing, as outlined by MedicineNet. Children and pets are very susceptible to these symptoms. All these health hazards come down to uncontrolled high indoor humidity.
Certain places around the house will normally have higher levels of moisture such as bathrooms, kitchen, basement, or attic. But if left unchecked, the humidity will no longer be contained in these areas and could creep to the other parts of the house.
How Dehumidifiers Make the Indoor Air Better
Decades ago, before technological advancements came such as the cooling and heating systems, people have various ways to feel cool and comfortable. Some decided to live in an underground home, under the shade of big trees, or build a house with thick walls, high ceilings, and chimneys. Others chose to chill in their outdoor porches with big hand fans for extra coolness.
However, as industrialization progresses, these ancient cooling techniques were no longer enough. Believe it or not, when the first version of dehumidifiers were made, it was not built for a home but for a printing plant.
The truth is, the inventor of dubbed as the “Father of Air Conditioning”, Willis Carrier, first experimented with the laws of humidity before applying the refrigeration concepts that later became the foundation of modern air conditioning units designs.
It might not be as popular and flashy as its other HVAC peers, but dehumidifiers use the same technology as air conditioners.
The dehumidification process begins by drawing warm indoor air from the room with the help of a fan. The heat from the air will then turn into condensation as it hits the cold coils. The collected moisture will drip into a basin inside the unit. The dehumidifier will then pump the processed air back to your home, now free from the heat, cooler and drier.
This process goes on and on until the desired moisture level is reached which is around 30% to 50% relative humidity.
A fair warning, though. Since dehumidifiers make the air dry, it may be harmful if you are already using it in an already dry climate. It impacts the skin and hair if used excessively, and may even aggravate conditions such as dry cough, stuffy nose, eczema, or pneumonia.
But with balanced and correct usage, dehumidifiers are good investments for a comfortable and healthy home life. It keeps away mold and dust mites which thrives in humid places, thus reducing allergy triggers. Dehumidifiers are also believed to be helpful to asthma patients to breathe easier.
Why Whole House Dehumidifiers are Worth It
Now that we are convinced that mold and respiratory problems can be prevented by the use of dehumidifiers, we want to go further and know which type of dehumidifier suits our family needs best. Many wise homeowners go for whole house dehumidifiers to keep their home dry and pleasant to live in with very low maintenance. How?
As described above, a basic dehumidifier pulls in the warm moist air through a fan. Once inside the machine, it will be cooled to reverse the process of evaporation so that condensed droplets will be produced. These drips of moisture will be redirected to a reservoir like a pan or a bucket to be discarded later.
There are two kinds of dehumidifiers available, whole house dehumidifiers and room or portable dehumidifiers. Their purchase prices, maintenance and repair costs, energy consumption, and lifespan vary greatly.
Buying a piece of new equipment for your home is an important decision to make. So if you are going to invest in a dehumidifier, which type should you go for? A whole house dehumidifier or a portable one?
Let us break down the pros and cons of each to help you decide and use your hard-earned money wisely.
Whole-House Dehumidifier Features
To be better equipped in deciding which type of house dehumidifier to purchase for your home, it is helpful to know the various whole-house dehumidifier features versus a portable or room dehumidifier and compare them against each other.
Whole-House Dehumidifier Pros
• Maintain the right level of humidity for your whole home
• Up to 4 times more energy-efficient than room dehumidifiers
• Require minimal maintenance
• Have better air filters than portable dehumidifiers
• Collected condensation can be directed to drains
• Usually tucked away in basements so it is not visible to guests
• Make less noise
Whole-House Dehumidifier Cons
• Require the help of a professional installer
• The purchase price is higher than portable dehumidifiers
• Larger and heavier and may be harder to move to a different location
Room or Portable Dehumidifiers
Portable Dehumidifier Pros
• “Plug-and-go” that do not require a lot of installation work
• Cheaper than whole-home dehumidifiers
• Can be moved to different parts of the house
• Some models come with digital controls
Portable Dehumidifier Cons
• Can only dehumidify one continuous room at a time
• Most designs consume more energy than whole house dehumidifiers
• Bucket or pan of water has to be collected every time it gets full
• Can get loud while running
• Can ruin your room aesthetic as it is sitting in the room
• Have a shorter lifespan than a whole-home dehumidifier
Needless to say, if you are looking for equipment that can give you long-term benefits, without giving you too much hassle in the years to come, the clear choice is a whole home dehumidifier.
But if you already have an existing heating and ventilation system, will the addition of a whole-house dehumidifier mean sky-high energy bills? Not necessarily. Here’s why.
Added Benefits of AC and Dehumidifier Duo
What if you already have a fully functional air conditioner, yet you still want to lower the moisture level in your home environment for increased comfort? Will it be okay to use a dehumidifier? Or will you be committing some type of HVAC no-nos?
The answer lies to your own individual living condition and the overall temperature and humidity levels in your area.
Since an air conditioner is already removing some humidity in your home as part of its cooling process, you should already feel pretty comfortable. But if you want increased comfort throughout the year, especially during the seasons that are not exactly hot but it feels moist, a dehumidifier can act as a backup to your air conditioner.
If you need to reduce the moisture level AND cool your home at the same time, we recommend you go for a quality air conditioner instead. If properly sized, an AC can effectively make your living space cooler and less humid. The same logic applies to furnaces if you are more concerned about your heating needs than mugginess.
But, having both an AC and a dehumidifier can be an option for those times when you would like to reduce the humidity without needing to cool your home. Or, if your air conditioner is in between cycles, the dehumidifier can continue removing the humid air to maintain a pleasant indoor feeling. With the right combination of both a dehumidifier and AC, you will have greater savings and a much more comfortable living environment.
The air conditioning unit will not have to run all day or year-round so you will preserve its life longer. Also, with less humidity in the existing air in the room, you can increase the level of your thermostat and save more energy!
You might wonder if it is cheaper to just run your dehumidifier instead of your air conditioner. Because the dehumidifier has a simpler mechanism than an AC, it is not surprising that the dehumidifier consumes less energy.
Remember: If your family needs both lower humidity levels AND a cooler environment, the best dehumidifier cannot replace even a basic air conditioner. While it can have a supporting role and work WITH your AC, it cannot act alone.
The key to deciding is to weigh the pros and cons based on your own specific needs and not just be carried away by any whole-house dehumidifier advertisement or promotions of some AC brand. After all, the ones who will be reaping the benefits of your good decision, or suffer if it turns out to be a wrong one, will be you and your family.