Jeff Flowers on April 21, 2016 2 Comments You can’t see humidity, but you can sure feel it. This is especially the case if you live near a coastal or tropical region where the air is susceptible to high levels of moisture. While a little humidity in the air is necessary for your indoor air quality, too much can make you feel miserable. This is precisely what dehumidifiers are designed to prevent. But how do these devices work, exactly? Why You Would Use A Dehumidifier We’ve previously discussed the many benefits of and uses for dehumidifiers, and I would encourage you to give both of those articles a read if you’re interested in learning more about this type of appliance. However, for the sake of this article, we won’t dive too deep into the details. Instead, we’ll simply recap the primary benefits of owning a dehumidifier. The main reason anybody uses this type of appliance is to remove moisture from the air allowing you better control of the relative humidity in your home, as well as the overall air quality. Dehumidifiers also work great at removing the musky odors that may be lingering from having too much moisture in the air. Click Here to View All Home Dehumidifiers Dehumidifiers are especially important to use if you recently had a flood or standing water in your home. This includes small leaks that may have been due to a tiny hole in the roof or a pipe dripping within your walls, both of which are common scenarios that generate fear in homeowners. Simply mopping up the standing water doesn’t necessarily remove all the moisture. In fact, there may be mold or mildew growing in areas that you never even thought of. Dehumidifiers can help remove moisture from those areas, helping prevent a small problem from growing into a catastrophic one. The Consequences of Excessive Indoor Humidity On average, the human body is made up of approximately 50-65% water. However, this doesn’t mean that our bodies are made for a humid environment. Excessive humidity creates a damp and muggy feel in the air. This sensation can make the air feel uncomfortable, especially indoors where you expect it to be cool and comfortable. Another downside of having too much humidity in your home is that it creates the perfect environment for dust mites, cockroaches, bed bugs and the growth of mold, all of which contribute to a wide spectrum of health issues. In fact, moisture in the air creates the building blocks for dangerous fungi and mold that are known to cause respiratory-related problems. Visual Signs of Excessive Humidity A simple eyeballing of a room will give you a good gauge of a room’s humidity level. When performing a visual scan, keep your eyes peeled for the following: Wet stains on walls and ceilings Condensation on windows Peeling wallpaper Musty smell and odors Presence of mold, which appears in the form of black or greenish blotches If you notice any of these, then you have a moisture problem and would benefit from using a dehumidifier. How a Dehumidifier Works Understanding what a dehumidifier is, how it works, and why you can benefit from one will go a long way in determining whether you need one to help improve your indoor air quality. Let’s take a closer look at how dehumidifiers work. A dehumidifier can be likened to a vacuum cleaner: it sucks in air, filters out the moisture, and siphons it back out into the room. The collected moisture is stored in a tank that you empty out much the way you would with a vacuum bag. When it comes to the specific mechanism, most dehumidifiers work in one of two ways: through refrigeration or absorption. 1. Refrigeration Dehumidifiers with refrigeration technology contain a grille on one side where warm air is sucked through using an electric fan. The internal mechanisms contain a refrigerated evaporator in the form of coolant-cooled pipes that chills the air. As the air cools, the water vapors separate from the air and drips into a tank. The air, now moisture-free, passes through a set of heated pipes to bring it back into its original temperature as it is blown back into the room through a second grille. 2. Absorption While refrigeration is the typical method utilized by most dehumidifiers, some models work by absorption. Where refrigeration can be compared to a vacuum, the absorption mechanism can be likened to a mop or sponge. Air is sucked in in the same manner using a fan and grille, but once inside the unit, the moisture is “soaked” up using silica gel or some other desiccant material. Silica gel is a form of silicon dioxide made from sodium silicate and has long been used as a drying agent due to its ability to absorb and extract moisture. Since the absorption method doesn’t cool the air before dehumidifying it, it is recommended for cold climate areas only. How to Get Best Results From a Dehumidifier Regardless of the model you choose, there are some tips you can follow for maximizing a dehumidifier’s efficiency. Do not vacuum while a dehumidifier is on. Vacuuming sends dust particles and mites into the air, which will be absorbed by the machine, causing it to clog and wear prematurely. Set the dehumidifier away from walls, curtains, and furniture. Vacuum or wash the unit’s filter after every use. Most models allow you to set the humidity range. For best results, set the range to about 30% to 50% of the room’s humidity. The simplest way to determine humidity levels is to use a hygrometer, which is similar to a thermometer and can be purchased cheaply. Dehumidifier Capacity Dehumidifiers come in different capacity sizes and are measured in terms of the number of pints of moisture they are able to filter within a 24 hour period. As a rule of thumb, 10 pints are needed for every 100 to 200 square feet of space. A room’s size, however, is only one determining factor, and the figure recommendations are for mild humidity levels around 50% to 60%. Tack on an additional 10 pints for the following: Multiple occupants in the household Humidity levels over 60% Rooms with multiple doors and windows Rooms with a washer and dryer in the vicinity Whole-House Dehumidifiers vs. Portable Dehumidifiers Homeowners and businesses also need to decide between large whole-house units and portable models. Each has its respective advantages and disadvantages, which we have outlined below. Choose a whole-house dehumidifier if: You wish to dehumidify an entire facility. You want a relatively maintenance-free system that automatically switches on or off according to humidity levels. Energy efficiency is a priority. You want to have the system installed out of sight with your HVAC or duct system. Choose a portable dehumidifier if: You only wish to dehumidify a single room or two. You do not wish to invest in a costly whole-house unit that requires installation by a professional technician. You want an easy-to-use system; just plug it in and flip a switch. Natural Dehumidifiers Some houseplants also have moisture absorbing abilities, which is important to know if you are looking for a natural alternative. Such plants include the tillandsia, the Boston fern, the reed palm, and the peace lily just to list a few. In fact, English Ivy has been shown to help reduce mold. Incorporate some of these into a room for a nature-made dehumidifier. However, it must be noted that these houseplants will never be able to remove the amount of moisture as fast or frequent as a dehumidifier can. If you have a serious moisture problem in your home, houseplants will do very little to help solve the issue. These plants should only be relied on as supplemental resources for maintaining stable levels of humidity in your home. Keep Your Home Under Optimum Humidity You can feel it all over your body when humidity is high; it’s a sensation that feels uncomfortable and sticky. While there is not much you can do when outdoors, you can drastically reduce excess moisture floating in your indoor air with the proper sized dehumidifier. Be sure to measure your space and assess your needs to ensure that you pick the right dehumidifier for your home or work space.