With the threat of tropical rains in our area, many homeowners may be dealing with something they haven't seen in quite a while -- excess humidity.
What's the cure for a damp living space? For many, it's a dehumidifier.
Dehumidifiers can be out-of-sight, out-of-mind appliances, requiring no attention until their collection bucket needs emptying. Connect a hose to the unit for continuous drainage and the appliance virtually disappears.
Some consumers are surprised to learn a dehumidifier can cost $50 or more a month to run. Depending on the size of the appliance and run time, dehumidifiers can be a sizable part of your electric bill.
A dehumidifier is just one part of a successful moisture control strategy. Consider these additional steps:
- Stop moisture from entering the structure. Start by correcting outside drainage problems. If gutters dump water next to your home’s foundation, add extensions to drain water away from the house. Make sure the soil next to the foundation slopes away from the house to carry away rainwater.
- Waterproof basement walls and floors. A coat of vapor barrier paint may keep invading water in check.
- Get moisture out. Normal activities, like cooking, washing dishes and bathing add to the moisture load. Use exhaust fans in the kitchen, bathroom and other high-moisture areas. Beware of faux kitchen vent hoods that merely circulate air and water vapor right back into the kitchen. Both kitchen vent hoods and bathroom fans should be piped to the outdoors.
- Don’t use contraptions that allow clothes dryers to vent to living spaces. Quarts of water in the damp garments end up inside.
Next, follow these steps to get the most efficiency from your dehumidifier:
- Eliminate guesswork by using a hygrometer to measure relative humidity in the problem area. You can find electronic hygrometers starting at $10 to $15. Ideally, indoor humidity should be less than 50 percent.
- When choosing a dehumidifier, match its moisture-removing capacity to the size and dampness of the space. Consult manufacturers’ charts to help with this.
- Run the dehumidifier on lower settings first so the unit will cycle instead of operate continuously. Increase the setting as needed until mold and mildew disappear.
- Delay installing a hose for continuous drainage of the dehumidifier so you’ll first get a feel for the amount of water being removed as you empty the drain bucket.
- Keep closet doors open in the affected area so air can circulate through them.
- Regularly clean the unit’s coils so it runs at top efficiency.