A dehumidifier can help in reducing humidity in the air of your home and – in turn – improve your overall health reducing the risk of respiratory syndromes.
Taking care of your home and the health of the people living in it is never an easy task. If you live in humid or tropical areas humidity is a problem that you will most likely have to face, and it can be quite a challenge.
Too much humidity due to poor air circulation, an unspotted leak or simply the climate you live in, can lead to serious mold infestation and can lead to structural damage to your home, and it can even exacerbate various health problems like allergies or asthma.
A dehumidifier is an device that – essentially – removes moisture from the air you breathe.
If you or your family members have asthma or allergies, a dehumidifier can help relieve symptoms and improve your health.
This article will help you decide whether a dehumidifier is a worthwhile investment for your living space.
What is a Dehumidifier?
A dehumidifier is a machine that removes moisture from the air by condensing it into liquid water. They can be very useful tools to help remove humidity from your home, prevent moisture-related problems and improve the overall air quality. Similar to how a humidifier helps to add moisture, a dehumidifier can be especially useful in the basement, crawl space and bathroom – all areas of your home that tend to accumulate excessive moisture. Over 15% of households use a dehumidifier, with the highest use in areas subject to very humid weather.
In this article we will examine how dehumidifiers work and explain what does a dehumidifier do for your home and health.
How does a Dehumidifier work?
A dehumidifier works by pulling warm air into its coils through a fan. The warm air getting in contact with the refrigerated coils produces condensation that is collected within the dehumidifier.
As water collects through condensation, it normally drips into a storage tank attached to the dehumidifier. Cooler, drier air is then released back into your home.
Dehumidifiers should be able to bring the moisture in the air down to the optimal relative humidity level of 30% - 50%. Most dehumidifiers come already integrated with a meter that measures the relative humidity.
But how does a dehumidifier gets the moisture out of the air? For that, we will need to talk about humidity itself. A given quantity of air can only hold a certain amount of water molecules, and that amount can change depending on the temperature of the air. War air can hold more moisture than cool air because it occupies more volume. That is why 90% humidity on an warm day feels way worse than the same humidity on a colder day. This phenomena is known as relative humidity.
What Does a Dehumidifier Do?
Dehumidifiers help with allergy symptoms
Airborne allergens can cause health symptoms like:
- chest pain
- eye irritation
Other common allergy triggers can include:
- dust mites
- animal dander
Drying the air in your home helps keeping these triggers to a minimum.
Dust mites, in particular, need a relative humidity level of 65% to survive and reproduce. That’s a level that can be easily achieved by using a dehumidifier. Additionally, dehumidifying the air helps in controlling molds growth.
Dehumidifiers can help control asthma
When the air is too humid it becomes heavier, and often more difficult to breathe. That’s why high-humidity environments can be challenging for people who suffer from asthma.
A dehumidifier can make the effort to breathe easier on the lungs, making mugginess disappears and making the air cooler and more comfortable.
There’s also some evidence to support the use of a dehumidifier as an actual treatment for chronic asthma.
Dehumidifiers can create a healthier environment
By eliminating mold and dust, you’re also eliminating invaders like silverfish, cockroaches, and spiders. Lower humidity levels may also benefit people who suffer from COPD.
If you live in a humid climate, a dehumidifier can also cool off your home and reduce your air conditioner use, saving you on the energy bill.
Benefits of using a Dehumidifier
Keeping household humidity low with a dehumidifier is great for your house’s structural integrity, but it is good for your family’s health as well. More importantly, humid conditions are ideal breeding grounds for a number of allergy triggers.
A dehumidifier may help reduce mold growth
Mold thrives in damp, humid conditions, and when mold thrives, it releases mold spores. The National Institutes of Health suggests using a dehumidifier as one method to control exposure to allergy triggers.
A dehumidifier can help with dust mite allergens
Humid air also supports a healthy population of dust mites. Dust mites and their by-products are among the most common allergens in the household air. Using a dehumidifier can have significant impact in reducing the number of live dust mites and dust mite related allergens.
Potential side effects of Dehumidifiers
A dehumidifier might not be great for everyone as it can have some potential side effects.
As we saw, dehumidifiers make the air drier. If you live in an already dry climate, or use gas or electricity to heat your home, a dehumidifier might not be needed.
Conditions like pneumonia can actually become worse if the air is made too dry.
Your skin and hair can be affected, too, if your home becomes an extremely dry place. People with suffering from eczema may be especially prone to flare-ups in a drier environments.
And if you have a dry cough or stuffy nose, running a dehumidifier might do more harm than good, too.
Do you need a dehumidifier?
The areas in your house where high humidity problems are most common may have poor ventilation or do not get the benefit of air-conditioning. Naturally, that means your basement and your attic are the prime spots for humidity problems to arise. If you do not have a window or fan in your bathroom, this can also be a cause for humidity problems.
Regularly, the signs of a humidity problem can be as simple as walking into the room and feeling that the air is muggy or clammy. A musty smell can be another significant sign of problematic humidity levels and could indicate a growing mold problem.
When humidity is especially high, you will start to notice more visible signs, like:
- Surfaces in the area can become wet to the touch.
- Soft surfaces like carpets, wood or ceiling tiles might show damp spots or stains.
- With time, wood may become discolored and even start to rot.
Rotting joists in your house’s structure are a major problem that can end up costing you thousands of dollars to restore.
You might need to use a dehumidifier even at moderate humidity levels if you store sensitive items in your attic or basement. Books and photographs and other paper items are extremely sensitive to humidity and will deteriorate quickly if the humidity isn’t kept in check.
Dehumidifiers work best in areas where damp air collects, like basements. Some signs you might want to buy a dehumidifier include:
- Anyone in the home has a prolonged allergy season, year after year.
- You’ve recently moved and your allergies seem to be flaring up more often or worse than they used to.
- You have persistent symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and runny nose.
- Your space experiences water leakage after heavy rainfall.
- You notice muggy air in your home when you enter, indicating you can actually see the water vapor in the air.
- There’s a persistent damp smell in an area of your home where you frequently spend time.
- Anyone in the home has an allergy to dust mites.
- You’ve noticed an increase in unwanted pests, such as spiders, cockroaches, moths, or silverfish.
- Your clothes smell damp or moldy even when they have been freshly washed.
A conclusive note
The overall goal when using a dehumidifier is to improve the indoor air quality in your home. Another way to improve air quality, especially if you have an allergy to mold or dust mites, is to use a specialized air purifier which can destroy mold and dust mite allergens, unlike most air purifiers that simply collect them on filters.
Controlling humidity levels is crucial for good air quality and may help with asthma or allergies, and it may also help preserve the structural integrity of your home. If you live in a humid climate.
All in all, the main benefit of a dehumidifier is reducing the presence of allergens and irritants in damp areas of your home. Dehumidifiers are accessible and easy to purchase. Giving one a try might make a difference in the comfort level you experience at home.