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How Healthy Humidity Levels In Your Home Can Protect You

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

A healthy humidity level inside your home doesn’t just happen naturally. Just as you usually wouldn’t be comfortable simply letting the indoor temperature match outdoor readings, leaving indoor humidity to chance isn’t a strategy for a healthy, comfortable indoor environment, either.

The interaction between water vapor in the air and a healthy home occurs at both low and high humidity levels.

  • Airborne particulates like bacteria, spores and viruses are more active at certain humidity levels. Colds and flu viruses, for example, actually thrive in dry environments where relative humidity is 35% or lower. Mold spores and active mold growth, conversely, as well as certain bacteria types, are activated when humidity rises above 50%.  When humidity is maintained within the 35% to 50% target range, allergic symptoms, respiratory illness and other heath issues may be reduced.
  • Indoor humidity is also linked to increased levels of gases known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These substances—formaldehyde is the best-known example—are ingredients in many building materials as well as carpeting, paint and furniture. When exposed to indoor humidity above 50% for extended time periods, many of these products emit higher levels of VOCs into the air you breathe. Long-term exposure to volatile organic compounds is a known health risk.  

When Humidity Is Too Low …

Low indoor humidity often occurs in dry winter conditions. Gas-fired heating dries indoor air further, causing humidity levels to drop into the unhealthy range. Use of individual room humidifiers—or installing a whole-house humidifier that adds water vapor to the HVAC airflow to maintain precise indoor humidity levels—are the best recourse to keep the indoor environment healthy.

When Humidity Is Too High …

Indoor humidity above 50% is often related to a naturally humid outdoor climate. To keep the indoor environment drier and healthier, these methods are helpful.

  • Air-sealing the home to reduce infiltration of moist outdoor air.
  • Installing a whole-house dehumidifier in the HVAC system to control humidity.
  • Annual maintenance check-up of the central air conditioner to ensure that the unit’s humidity extraction function is operating up to specs.
  • Installing exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms where water vapor originates.

Moist Home? Your Health May Be At Risk…

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Excessive moisture can turn your home into an unhealthy—not to mention uncomfortable—living environment. Chronic indoor dampness may simply result from high levels of water vapor in the air or from persistent sources of moisture that aren’t properly identified and resolved. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that indoor humidity should ideally stay below 50% most of the time and never exceed 60%.  When indoor dampness frequently rises above that level, the risk of certain health issues likewise increases.  

Some of the health-related consequences of a damp house include

  • Mold and mildew. Fungus including toxic mold and mildew require moist conditions to activate and spread. Airborne spores released by growing mold fed by high indoor moisture levels may trigger allergies and even serious illness when inhaled by occupants.  
  • Dust mites. Tiny dust mites thrive in moist indoor environments where humidity reaches 60%. Easily stirred up into the air by human activity, these insects are a frequent cause of nagging allergic responses.
  • Pests and vermin. Many unwanted and unhealthy creatures are attracted to chronically damp conditions inside a house including disease-carrying rodents, mosquitoes and parasitic worms.  

To get a handle on dampness, consider these frequent contributors to unwanted indoor moisture:

  • In locales where outdoor relative humidity frequently exceeds 50%, excess humidity may infiltrate the house through structural cracks and gaps.
  • Rooms that produce high water vapor such as the kitchen and bathroom require exhaust fans to remove damp air.
  • A professional roof inspection of the exterior of the roof as well as inside the attic can identify hidden leaks that cause chronic moisture.
  • Ongoing leaks in plumbing lines routed through areas such as the crawl space or basement can create a continuous source of dampness.  
  • In locales with a high natural water table, rising groundwater can keep the crawl space chronically wet or push water into the basement through foundation cracks.
  • Air conditioner issues such as short-cycling, low airflow or insufficient refrigerant charge may inhibit proper extraction of water vapor from the air.

How to Manage Humidity in Your Home this Summer

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

High outdoor humidity is a fact of life during summer in many locales. Often, it doesn’t stay outdoors. In addition to being a source of discomfort to occupants, persistent indoor humidity degrades building materials and triggers growth of toxic mold. Because your air conditioner runs longer to maintain indoor comfort when humidity is high, monthly cooling costs are also elevated.

How High Is Too High?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends maintaining the indoor humidity level at a range of 50% to 60%. During summer, most locations in the U.S. exceed that level in either morning or afternoon measurements. Therefore, special effort is required to keep the indoor environment less humid than outdoors. Here are some things you can do to reduce excessive humidity in the house this summer:

  • Maintain the air conditioner. Indoor humidity control is an important function of the air conditioning process. Dry air cools more efficiently than humid air. Schedule annual professional A/C maintenance including servicing the indoor evaporator coil that extracts water vapor from air and checking refrigerant charge to ensure optimum humidity reduction. Also, change the air filter monthly to keep system airflow up to specs.
  • Air seal the house. Outdoor humidity naturally migrates into drier zones indoors. Small cracks and gaps in the structure of the house allow humid air to leak into the interior and raise indoor levels. Check the weatherstripping around doors and windows and replace if its worn or missing. Look for cracks in the structure around exterior walls and gaps along the baseboard; seal with silicone caulking.
  • Exhaust humid rooms. High levels of water vapor in kitchen and bathrooms are common and should be controlled with ceiling exhaust fans. Make sure the fan exhaust duct extends all the way to the exterior of the house, not just into the attic.
  • Install a whole-house dehumidifier. These units, connected to your central HVAC ductwork, automatically extract water vapor from the system airflow to keep indoor humidity levels at the desired setting. All air circulating through the entire house is continuously dehumidified as long as the system is running.

How to Stop Mold Growth in its Tracks

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Mold growth inside a home is a dynamic process that requires very specific conditions to thrive. Dormant mold spores exist everywhere in nature, including inside your house. However, if the spores are deprived of mold-friendly conditions, mold growth will not activate and gain a foothold. Taking early measures to inhibit active mold growth may prevent contamination from reaching an advanced state.

Eliminate Moisture Sources

  • Repair any plumbing leaks and roof leaks and stop any infiltration of water through structural cracks such as the basement walls or foundation.
  • Dry out a wet crawl space, including installing a vapor barrier to prevent moisture rising up through the soil.
  • If incidental leakage or water spillage occurs anywhere in the house, dry out the area quickly and completely—mold growth can be triggered in only 48 hours after exposure to water.
  • Use mold-killing products to clean bathroom surfaces that are wet repeatedly.  
  • Make sure the central air conditioner drip pan in the air handler drains properly and does not retain water.

Lower Humidity

Water vapor in the air can trigger dormant mold spores into active growth mode. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping indoor relative humidity between 30% to 50% to inhibit mold growth.

  • A basic moisture meter that displays humidity is an inexpensive investment and helps you keep indoor humidity levels in the mold-free zone.
  • Run exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms to vent humid air.
  • Make sure the clothes dryer is properly vented and the vent pipe is cleaned regularly.
  • In humid climates where indoor levels are difficult to control, consider installing a whole-house dehumidifier in your HVAC system.

Remove Contaminated Items

Signs of incipient mold contamination may be discovered in absorbent materials including building materials like ceiling tiles, as well as fabrics such as carpeting and carpet pads. These points of origin can become sources of spreading mold. Often, the simplest, most straightforward option is to immediately remove them from the house and dispose of them. Porous materials are extremely difficult to decontaminate even with fungicides. Eliminating contaminated items from the home environment permanently is the best mold-preventive course of action.

How to Keep Indoor Humidity High Enough in Winter

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Cold weather outdoors and low indoor humidity seem to go hand-in-hand. It’s a natural fact of physics that cold air doesn’t retain moisture as efficiently as warm air. Thus, winter months tend to be periods of reduced humidity. Generally speaking, humidity inside the house should average around 40% if possible, year-round. When levels drop below that comfort zone, however, a number of consequences occur:

  • Physical symptoms such as dry skin and scratchy throat are common.
  • Airborne viruses like cold and flu thrive longer in dry air and are thus more likely to infect occupants.
  • Annoying static electricity shocks occur frequently.
  • Because the house feels colder in low humidity, furnace thermostat settings are often adjusted upwards to compensate and heating costs rise. Forced air furnaces also remove some humidity from the air, further exacerbating the dry conditions.
  • Shrinkage and splitting may occur in wooden components such as flooring and cabinetry.

Preserving a comfortable, healthy indoor environment in winter requires some pro-active steps to compensate for the dry conditions outdoors.

  • Outside air seeping inside contributes to overly dry conditions in a house during winter. Seal air leaks to prevent infiltration of cold, dry air. Renew worn weatherstripping around doors and windows. Locate cracks and gaps in exterior walls and the ceiling and fill with caulking.
  • Consider adding a whole-house humidifier. Installed inside your HVAC ductwork, the unit continuously monitors indoor humidity and automatically adds water vapor when required to maintain the desired setting. Because the entire indoor air volume circulates through the ductwork multiple times each day, consistent humidity control throughout the entire home is assured. Plumbed directly to the household water system, these units operate continuously and do not require user effort such as adding water or cleaning.
  • Room humidifiers add humidity to limited individual spaces (such as a bedroom). These portable units can be moved from room-to-room if necessary. Most models include a water reservoir which must be manually refilled, usually on a daily basis.

When is Professional Dehumidification Needed?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

professional dehumdifierSuccessful water damage remediation entails removing all the water from the house: both the water you can see and the water you can’t see. Visible water means the flooding, pooling and puddles resulting from the original incident. Invisible water, meanwhile, manifests as extreme indoor humidity. In the wake of any water intrusion, evaporation into the air from standing water and absorbent materials inside the house is a major factor that determines the extent of damage.

Only in the most limited cases—such as minor pooling on the hard floor of a single room which is removed promptly—is dehumidification not a part of the professional water damage recovery process. Here’s why:

  • Water vapor travels places where water itself never goes. High humidity readily migrates to rooms and upper levels of the house where water in a liquid state isn’t present.
  • Exposure to high humidity and accompanying condensation causes secondary damage to absorbent building materials, carpeting, and household possessions such as books, paper materials, and photographs.
  • High humidity slows the drying process of building materials that have absorbed water. This extends the time period to achieve total water damage recovery.
  • Water vapor infiltrates internal areas of the structure where airborne mold spores collect. Contact with liquid water isn’t required to activate toxic mold. Indoor humidity as low as 55% can trigger some forms of mold and 70% indoor humidity virtually assures mold growth.

To prevent the consequences of high humidity, professional water damage remediation employs techniques that include:

  • High speed fans. As standing water is removed and water is extracted from materials such as carpets, water damage technicians utilize specialized fans that move air in very large volume. These fans can be focused to direct the flow of air at specific areas such as along surfaces like the floor or walls.
  • Industrial grade dehumidifiers. These units incorporate coils that circulate refrigerant, causing water to condense out of air pulled through the coil by a powerful fan. Dehumidifiers usually run continuously during the water damage recovery process until indoor relative humidity reaches the target level.

How and When to Use a Humidifier Indoors

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

room humidifierBecause dry air is far more common during winter in most parts of the country, that’s usually the time of year when most people consider adding a humidifier to their home. The most common motivation is relief from physical symptoms—itchy skin, sore throat, dry eyes, cough and other discomforts are associated with low humidity. Indoor humidity below 50% is proven to promote replication of airborne viruses including cold and flu. Other household issues also arise: painful zaps from static electricity are more frequent and wooden building materials such as hardwood floors tend to shrink, causing gaps between planks and splintering.

How Dry Is Dry?

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping indoor humidity levels between 30 and 60 percent. Humidity dropping below 30% will often cause one or more of the above dry air symptoms. Humidity above 60%, conversely, degrades indoor comfort and raises a different set of health concerns such as mold and mildew become an issue

Once the need to raise indoor humidity is established, you have two options:

Room Humidifiers

These units add humidity to the air in limited enclosed spaces. They are free-standing, generally portable and require addition of water to the reservoir tank on a daily basis, as well as periodic cleaning. Small room humidifiers can treat rooms up to 300 square feet, while the largest models placed centrally inside a home can handle up 1,000 square feet.

Room humidifiers are typically available in two types:

  • Warm mist models include a heating element to boil water in the reservoir into steam, which is then released as water vapor directly into the air.
  • Cool mist units emit a stream of room-temperature mist composed of ultra-fine water particles.

Whole House Humidifiers

Mounted directly inside your home ductwork, these units add humidity directly into the HVAC air flow that circulates throughout every room in the house. Most are directly plumbed to a household water line and require no refilling or other daily user input. Automatically operated by a wall-mounted humidistat—much like a thermostat—the whole house humidifier allows precision setting of desired humidity in the entire residence.

4 Situations Where Using a Humidifier Makes Sense

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

humidifierAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency, the household humidity level should ideally range between 40% and 60%. Due to seasonal changes and other factors, however, the “ideal” may be hard to maintain. In winter, outdoor air is naturally drier and forced-air heating installed in most homes lowers humidity even more. During summer, extended use of the air conditioner also extracts humidity from the air and may overly dry the indoor environment. A humidifier can help restore balance and keep household levels within the EPA-recommended range. Here are some scenarios where use of a humidifier makes sense:

  • When you experience dry skin. Dry air often results in dry, chapped skin that itches and causes other irritations. Restoring proper humidity to the air is often a more long-term solution than using topical skin lotions that offer only temporary relief.
  • When allergy symptoms occur. When air is excessively dry, certain microscopic allergens such as common dust, mold spores and lint particles are more likely to be stirred up and remain airborne where they may be inhaled. Increasing humidity generally keeps airborne particulate counts lower.
  • When your home is getting creaky. Older houses are often affected by conditions of chronic low humidity. Building materials shrink and split over the years as wood naturally dries out. Paint also dries up and flakes and caulking that seals windows and other joints becomes hard and deteriorates. Squeaky wooden floors are another sign of a dry environment and resultant shrinkage may also cause gaps between floorboards. A humidifier keeps humidity levels more consistent in all seasons and prevents drying of wooden structure.
  • When static electricity is a problem. When indoor air is overly dry, an electrostatic charge builds up as you walk across materials like carpeting or slide across a sofa. Touching a conductive surface like a doorknob then zaps you with a shock that is painful and annoying. Higher indoor humidity causes static electricity to naturally dissipate and makes daily life less shocking.

Saving Structural Areas Of Your Home After A Flood – Know The Facts

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

water extractionApplied structural drying brings together a comprehensive knowledge base and state-of-the-art technology to dry homes rapidly and efficiently. As the clock ticks after a water damage incident, minutes and hours are critical. The structural components and building materials of a house are increasingly compromised as water migrates deeper and secondary consequences such as toxic mold growth become more widespread. Applied structural drying uses a data-driven, systematic approach to minimize damage to materials and optimize drying results quickly. As much as possible, water extraction and drying is accomplished using non-destructive procedures and with as little disruption as possible. Real-time progress is documented at regular intervals until complete drying is verified.

The science of applied structural drying is based on industry-standard principles that include:

Rapid Drying
Getting water out of the house is first priority. Teams utilize powerful truck-mounted extractors to eliminate water. Depending on origin and contamination potential, water may be extracted from carpeting and other materials without removal of these materials. Vacuum squeegees pick up water from hard floors and high-volume pumps clear flooded spaces such as basements. Structural cavity drying systems (SCDS) can dry moisture that has spread into hard-to-reach voids.

Humidity Reduction
High humidity spreading throughout the house exacerbates water damage by causing secondary damage to areas not even contacted by water. Powerful tools include axial fans and centrifugal air movers to flush water vapor out of the house. High-volume dehumidifiers designed for interior water damage remediation use hygroscopic desiccants to dry circulating air.

Continuous Monitoring
Psychrometry is the science that guides and documents the water damage restoration process. Measurements are taken throughout the house at scheduled intervals during the project. Moisture sensors chart the extent of water intrusion, invasive and non-invasive moisture meters take spot measurements in affected areas and thermo-hygrometers chart relative humidity. Other technology such as borescopes to inspect structural voids and thermal cameras are also utilized to evaluate the drying progress. Precise measurements provide necessary data to confirm when dryness targets are achieved.

How To Control Extreme Humidity In Your Home

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

excess humidity
Humidity control helps preserve the house and its contents, as well as keeping the indoor environment healthier. Because today’s homes are built to higher energy efficiency standards, they are very tightly sealed. This means accumulating water vapor can rise to extreme levels that cause ongoing damage such as warping/rotting wooden structural components and peeling paint as well as triggering growth of toxic mold. Overly humid homes also feel hotter in summer and clammy cold in winter, raising cooling and heating costs.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends maintaining indoor humidity “ideally between 30% and 50%.” Here are some methods of humidity control to keep your house in the ideal range.

  • Exhaust humid rooms. Bathing and cooking are sources of high indoor humidity. Exhaust fans should be installed in bathrooms and kitchen to vent water vapor through dedicated ducts all the way to the exterior of the house. Also make sure the clothes dryer is adequately vented to the outdoors and the vent is regularly cleared of lint.
  • Maintain your HVAC system. A forced-air furnace helps dry out humidity in winter and an air conditioner extracts water vapor during summer. Proper airflow through the system is critical to this process so make sure the filter is changed regularly in all seasons and that HVAC ductwork is intact and does not leak conditioned air.
  • Check the crawlspace. Rising groundwater that keeps soil under the house chronically moist can form a source of water vapor that migrates up into living spaces. Installing a vapor barrier to contain soil moisture reduces humidity infiltration. Also look for ongoing plumbing leaks as well as uninsulated pipes that “sweat” and produce large amounts of condensation.
  • Consider a whole-house dehumidifier. Installed in your HVAC ductwork, the system continuously senses humidity level in the airflow and extracts excess water vapor. Because all air volume in the house passes through the ductwork multiple times daily, comprehensive humidity control is achievable. These units are permanently plumbed into the household drain system and require only annual cleaning.

Prevent moisture damage and mold with effective humidity control.