Demystifying dehumidifiers

Could Too Much Moisture in Your Air Be Costing You?

by Lee Doppelt

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You smell a subtle mold scent in your bedroom and maybe you even wake up in the morning feeling clammy or perhaps even damp. When was the last time you tested the humidity in your house, specifically in your bedrooms and in the basement or crawl space? This is no time to be cheap! Run over to one of the big box stores such as Lowe's, and for under about $5, you can buy a hygrometer for every room in the house including the basement to keep a close watch on humidity levels inside your home. This little device works and looks like a thermometer but measures humidity rather than temperature.

Above average humidity in your home can affect your health and do permanent damage to your home.

According to, 30% to 50% is the recommended humidity level within your house with 45% being ideal. If it is humid outdoors, however tight your house is, you can expect higher humidity levels indoors.

A house that is consistently too humid can cause mildew and mold to develop and can ultimately rot wood. This is especially true in wood that is hidden, such as in the crawl space under your home. Wood moldings and baseboards and wood floors can retain water from the air and ultimately warp.

The health of your family can be negatively impacted by a house with humidity levels that are consistently too high. Sleeping can be more difficult in a bedroom that is too humid, according to Depression is sometimes even a side effect. Don't worry about the frizzier than usual hair from being in a too-humid home. You should be more concerned about the stuffy air leading to more colds and other respiratory problems.

Why is your house so humid inside?

Humidity in the house can fluctuate greatly within the course of a day. Long steamy showers can temporarily raise levels. A dryer that doesn't vent to the outdoors can keep moisture in the house, as does hanging wet clothes in a laundry room, bathroom, or bedroom. Cooking food in pots without lids can even increase humidity. It surprises many people to hear that human beings emit moisture, which contributes to moisture in the air of your house. To see for yourself, measure the humidity in your home before and immediately after you have had a house full of visitors!

How can you lower the humidity inside your home?

Paying attention to some of the easy-to-resolve issues mentioned above is your first line of defense against a too-humid house. Opening windows can help, as long as the humidity outside is lower than the humidity inside. Exhaust fans located in strategic spots can also help circulate and dry out air. If you are running your air conditioning in the summer a bit more than usual, then perhaps a dehumidifier is your best option for keeping things dry enough in the house.

Dehumidifiers can get pricey in cost and utility usage as you add more features.

The size of the dehumidifier determines the square or cubic footage of space it will maintain at desired humidity levels. A very small machine may cost under $100, but it will only work in a small room like a tiny bedroom, bathroom, or closet. It may ultimately be more cost effective to go with a larger dehumidifier for closer to $300 to impact larger parts of the house.

Where to use the dehumidifier and how to drain it are two important factors to consider before purchasing one.

The cheaper dehumidifiers typically do not have drainage systems. Therefore, the water will need to be frequently emptied manually by you. If you spend a bit more, you can buy one that drains, but then you still need to figure out where you want it to drain. For example, a dehumidifier that comes with a draining system that will go in your bedroom with attached bathroom could possibly drain into the shower drain if you can position things just right. An entire house dehumidifier, costing $900 or more, can be set in the basement or crawl space and hooked right into the drainage system and even the sump pump for easy self-draining.

Eliminate all obviously sources of humidity in your house before beginning a serious search for a dehumidifier.

Take the Next Step:

  • Take humidity readings to find out if you have a problem.
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