Humidity can make a warm day feel miserable, and when the mercury soars, humidity management in your home is a high priority. Too much moisture can also result in problems with mold growing in your home, an issue that may affect the health of those in your household. If you recognize that your home’s humidity is excessive, you may wonder about solutions.
What is Humidity Anyway?
The air that you breathe has water in it. Even though you’re not wet, most of the air has water in the form of a gas called water vapor.
There are two main measures of humidity: absolute humidity and relative humidity.
Absolute humidity is the amount of water vapor divided by the amount of dry air in a certain volume of air at a particular temperature. The hotter the air is, the more water vapor it can hold.
Relative humidity is the ratio of the current absolute humidity to the highest possible absolute humidity, which depends on the temperature of the air.
Relative humidity is an important factor in determining if your air conditioner is working properly. You may hear your HVAC technician talk about an RH percentage, that’s the relative humidity percentage.
The air is like a sponge. When the relative humidity is 100%, that means that the air can’t hold any more water vapor. It’s completely full.
When clouds form in areas with 100% relative humidity, it rains!
How does humidity affect comfort?
Your skin uses the air around you to get rid of moisture from your body in the form of sweat. As moisture evaporates it carries heat with it, and away from your body which makes you cooler!
When the relative humidity is very high, you feel hotter than the actual air temperature. That’s because the air is already too full of water vapor, and our sweat won’t evaporate.
When the humidity is low, we can feel cooler than the actual temperature. That’s because your sweat can evaporate faster than normal.
Imagine the temperature outside is 75° F. A relative humidity of 0% would make it feel like it’s 69° F, while a relative humidity of 100% would make it feel like it’s 80° F!
One of your air conditioner’s jobs is to dehumidify the air. When the air passes over the condenser coils in your HVAC system, the water gets slurped up onto the metal grates like a straw – and dry air is circulated to your home.
When is Humidity a Problem?
How can having too much humidity be a problem?
Because when the humidity is above a certain point, it encourages the growth of mold. Mold can have a variety of negative impacts on your health from chest tightness to causing asthma.
What Are the Causes of High Humidity?
Most people don’t realize how volatile the relative humidity level is in their homes.
Activities like taking a shower, cooking, running the dishwasher, running the clothes washer and dryer, and even mopping the floor can all significantly impact your relative humidity levels.
On top of that, there are many often undetected causes of high humidity like leaking roofs, leaking pipes, and improperly draining gutters.
Another common cause of high humidity is improperly designed vapor barriers.
You would think that you’re always helping the situation to prevent water from coming in, but sometimes vapor barriers can prevent a damp building from drying fast enough which also leads to mold.
This is a common problem in schools. Changes in building practices over the last 20-30 years have resulted in more tightly sealed buildings that may not allow moisture to escape easily.
Remember earlier when you learned that one of your air conditioner’s jobs is to remove humidity from the air?
Well, if your air conditioning unit is too big for your house that could be the cause of your humidity issues.
If you notice that your air conditioner gets to the temperature set at the thermostat very quickly, that’s a sign that the unit is too big for your house.
Your unit needs to be running in cycles of 30-40 minutes to be able to remove humidity properly from the air.
If you’ve had HVAC technicians inspect your unit only to tell you that it’s working as it should, and you’re not having cooling problems, but you still can’t get the relative humidity level below 60% this could be your problem.
If you suspect that your unit is too big for your space, you’ll want to call Engineered Air or an HVAC professional in your area and ask for a Manual-J analysis. This is the analysis HVAC professionals use to size units to homes.
Finally, the source of a hidden mold problem could be in your crawl space.
Often, when an HVAC technician inspects a crawl space and doesn’t get wet or muddy down there, he might assess that it’s “pretty dry” in your crawl space.
But a building scientist might go into your crawl space with a digital psychrometer and a moisture meter, discover that there is a high dew point level and high moisture content in the wooden structural members, and see ten ways from Sunday that it’s not dry down there.
If this turns out to be the case, sometimes closing the vents down in the crawl space can remedy the issue.
You can find a Building Performance Institute certified contractor here to get a more detailed analysis of your crawl space. If there are none nearby, locate a BPI testing center in your state here and ask for a recommendation.
Equipment Maintenance is Important
Your cooling system is the primary defense against excessive humidity in your West Palm Beach, FL, home. If the equipment doesn’t run in optimum condition, dehumidification may be adversely affected. In turn, you may notice more mold, sweating walls, and odors in your home.
In order to be sure that your equipment is in top operating condition, you should schedule a tune-up with the Comfort Specialists at Engineered Air to make sure your system is ready to handle the heat and humidity Florida dishes out.
Ventilation May Help
If you are noticing that some rooms are worse than others, you may want to examine ventilation for those spaces. Bathrooms and laundry rooms are particularly prone to humidity problems, and leaving doors open may help in diffusing excess moisture.
If the issue is a whole-home problem, an energy recovery ventilator may help in providing a means of exhausting moist air and bringing in fresh air. An ERV includes a paper core that dehumidifies the incoming stream of air, helpful for keeping the indoor setting fresher without exacerbating the moisture problem.
Dehumidifiers and Advanced Air Conditioning Systems
It is possible to install a dehumidifier to address excess moisture in your home. However, you may also want to explore advanced air conditioning equipment to compare the costs and benefits. Today’s designs include options with multi-stage compression, excellent for enhanced dehumidification even when cooling activity isn’t needed.
You will typically experience the best dehumidification from a traditional air conditioner when the heat is at its height. When temperatures decrease, and cooling isn’t a huge issue, the moisture may still be a problem. Multi-stage compression solves this concern for many homeowners.
Fix Humidity in Home in West Palm Beach, FL
If you aren’t sure whether new air conditioner installation, dehumidifiers, ventilators or maintenance will best address your needs, just call Engineered Air to discuss your indoor air quality concerns. In addition to AC repairs and maintenance, we offer indoor air quality consultations and solutions. We can help you by evaluating your home’s moisture issues and pinpointing the source of the problem so that you don’t have to guess about solving it.