Melody is a volunteer for the Center for Disease and Control Prevention. She enjoys sharing her personal experience with others.
Dehumidifier Benefits and Uses
The benefits of using a dehumidifier in your home outweigh the cost. Removing excess moisture is essential for homes with basements, but they have useful effects in all homes. High humidity levels are known to affect the people in your home, wood, electronics, and even pets. This simple home appliance can also prevent mold growth.
There are many recommendations about the right temperature for your home. But what about the best level of humidity? Humidity is the measure of atmospheric moisture. It is given in the form of a percent and referred to as relative humidity or RH.
The National Health Institute recommends humidity levels between 40% and 70% to reduce bacterial growth. The Center for Disease Control recommends humidity levels between 30% and 60% to reduce mold growth. Some research suggests keeping the humidity lower than 60% to reduce corrosion in electronic devices.
Through this article, we will explore the following benefits of owning a dehumidifier:
- Prevents mold growth
- Reduces use of air conditioner
- Improves air quality
- Reduces some odors
- Improves painting projects
- Reduces allergens
- Reduces shrinking and swelling of wood
- Extends the life of electronics
If you live in an area with high humidity, have any moisture problems within the home, suffer from allergies, are planning a painting project, have a lot of woodwork or antique furniture, or have a lot of electronics, you need a dehumidifier in your home.
Consumer Misconceptions and Dehumidifiers
The more area you need to dehumidify, the bigger unit you need. It can be hard to do the math, but people with large homes often skip this home appliance, mostly because they don't know how much money it could have saved them.
Some consumers are under the misconception that dehumidifiers are too noisy. Perhaps that group has not gone to their local Home Depot or Lowe's to see the new, quieter models. Some of which even measure gallons and pints to help users comprehend fluid levels.
As a homeowner, I consider the dehumidifier to be as important as other appliances. The idea that it prevents mold alone is enough, but there are just too many reasons to own one. I won't tell you which one to buy; instead, I hope readers learn about the importance of having a dehumidifier in the home.
Below is a table that provides information about the different ways your home can benefit from a dehumidifier, as well as suggested optimal levels for each situation.
Desired Humidity Level Chart
Prevent mold growth
Reduce air conditioner use
Improve air quality
Improve painting projects
Prevent shrinking and swelling of wood
Lengthen life of electronics
Dehumidifiers Prevent Mold Growth
Even though there are lots of reasons to own a dehumidifier, preventing mold growth is reason number one. There has been a great deal of research done to investigate the relationship between humidity and mold growth. Too much moisture in the air, wet air, causes mold to grow in places we might not even consider, like in air ducts and between the walls or floors.
Not all mold is as dangerous as black mold; however, all mold can cause symptoms in sensitive people and sometimes healthy ones. If you have a mold problem in your home, you must engage in a full remediation process. Oftentimes, a professional is the answer, and even they will recommend dehumidifiers.
Dehumidifiers don't clean up mold; you have to do it or have it done. What they can do is remove excess moisture and help prevent future mold growth, which is essential to human well-being. Most research suggests that the ideal humidity to prevent mold growth is between 30% and 50%.
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Even homes without basements can be exposed to high humidity in some climate zones. If you live in a place that endures high humidity, then a dehumidifier is an important investment in your home and for your health.
Extend the Life of Your Air Conditioning Unit
Humidity makes us feel hotter. According to the MIT school of engineering, we sweat more on humid days because our sweat evaporates more slowly than when it's less humid. This is why one 80-degree day may feel fine, and a different 80-degree day might feel insufferable. The discomfort on a humid day might tempt us to lower the air conditioning.
It is true that air conditioners help lower humidity; however, they require a great deal of energy to run. Dehumidifiers extend the life of your air conditioning unit when used in tandem.
Air conditioners cycle on and off; set your dehumidifier to cycle on while your air conditioner is in the off cycle. This will promote a more comfortable temperature without pushing the air conditioner harder than necessary.
People in humid climates find that their energy bills go down when they use this tactic. Air conditioning is an expensive home appliance, and expensive to run, too. Moderating both the temperature and the humidity is a conscientious way to maintain comfort without straining resources.
Improve Air Quality
Dr. Pallavi Karunakaran, a pediatric surgeon, discovered that humidity and condensation increase bacterial growth. Since she concluded her research, microbiologists have confirmed that lower humidity levels slow the growth of bacteria on surfaces.
We already discussed the fact that high humidity encourages mold growth, but now we know it also encourages bacterial growth; the same looks true of fungi as well. EMSL Analytics, INC, a notable environmental testing firm, reports that Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) measurements often overlook bacteria.
This leaves a lot of people in the dark about the relationship between air quality and humidity. It's a well-known fact that dehumidifiers reduce the dust mite population, which we will discuss below. However, the indirect relationship between humidity and bacteria is lesser known.
Humidity, being moisture in the air, creates condensation. This moisture creates a hospitable relationship for bacteria to grow, thereby decreasing air quality. Indoor air quality greatly affects our health and our lives. A benefit of using a dehumidifier is lowing the moisture levels in the air, which in turn reduces the condensation that could lead to mold growth.
If you are worried that bacteria might be an issue in your home, getting a dehumidifier might not be enough. It could become necessary to bring an HVAC specialist to clean that air ducts in your home and to check for proper ventilation.
Reduce Some Odors
The relationship between humidity and smell needs more research, but this is another situation where high humidity has an indirect relationship to the perception of odor. When you read research papers, such as those from the National Institute of Health, they often speak in terms of perceived odor. It makes sense; most of us know that we grow accustomed to many odors and become unable to smell them.
A benefit of using a dehumidifier takes us back to reducing moisture. Humid air is wet; the moisture in the air will eventually drop from the air and settle on to surfaces. This can create a musty smell. When the moisture vaporizes, the moisture becomes a gas, and this can also become a perceived odor.
You don't want air to have less than 30% humidity, as the dry air may be more troublesome than wet. But, by using a dehumidifier, you can slow the chain reaction that might lead to a strange or musty odor in your home.
We must take these types of smells seriously, as research suggests that high odor and humidity together are more likely to develop Sick Building Syndrome. SBS has a negative correlation with health and well-being.
Improve Results of Indoor Painting Projects
Dehumidifiers can reduce damage to some types of home improvement. We all know not to paint when it is really hot and wet out, but sometimes we don't factor indoor humidity during painting projects. This is a mistake. Before you paint, make sure the relative humidity is below 85% or below 70% to be extra careful that your paint job will turn out nicely.
Surfactant Leaching is the technical term given to the damage done when paint is exposed to moisture. Too much humidity in the air leads to streaking, bubbling, and staining.
Even though you can purchase paints that can withstand high temperatures from Home Depot, Lowe's, or Ace Hardware. None of these paints stops the leeching process that happens when moisture reaches paint that isn't dry.
Not only does high humidity affect wet paint, but it also affects silicone sealants and caulking. To prevent humidity from ruining your paint job, run a dehumidifier in the area you plan to paint.
You can buy a hygrometer from any hardware store or cheaply through Amazon to measure indoor air humidity. If you own a dehumidifier, its sensors will know the humidity and adjust to the level you set in the input panel.
Reduce Shrinking and Swelling of Wood
Dehumidifiers can reduce the amount of shrinking and swelling to the wood in your home. Moisture caused by humid air "dropping" water back to surfaces can cause damage over time.
I live in an older home, nearly 100 years old. I have witnessed how high humidity can cause the wood in the door frames and the doors to shrink and swell, making them difficult to open and close.
That same moisture can affect many parts of the structure, and furniture, causing it to warp over time. This is expensive. Dehumidifiers won't reverse the damage caused by moisture, but it can prevent it. This is one of those things you have to think about ahead of time and know that it's working.
On the flip side, did you know that not enough humidity can cause hardwood to dry and crack? The optimal level for humidity for the wood in your home is between 35% and 70%. Too low, and your wood will dry out over time; too much, and it will shrink and swell over time.
Humidity and the Electronics in Your Home
High humidity can damage the electronics in your home. Over time, the excess moisture can cause the sensitive parts inside your electronics to fail. We often don't even realize that living in a highly humid environment shortens the life of our electronics.
If you have ever known anyone who maintains servers, you might notice they are obsessed with the temperature and humidity that the servers are located. Even though our mobile phones, TVs, computers, and now even smart home appliances are less sensitive, over time, their life will be shortened if they are continually exposed to lots of humidity. The best relative humidity (RH) level for electronics is suggested to be between 30% and 60%.
This is a newer problem in society, but one that is easily remedied by using a dehumidifier. Just like with wood, there is a flip side. Not enough humidity in the air can cause electronic parts to become brittle and easily damaged.
Dehumidifiers Are Good for Humans and the Home
Now you have read about the many benefits of a dehumidifier. They are not only good for health, but they are healthy for the home. They can make our home and the items in it last longer and prevent mold growth and dust mites from becoming a problem.
This common household appliance isn't just good for people with wet basements and allergies but is good for anyone who experiences a humidity problem within the home.
I hope you will take the time to analyze the ways that controlling the humidity levels in the home can benefit you and your family. When you understand how it works and the logic behind it, then you understand why the expense of a dehumidifier pays itself back in the many returns that they give to homes and the people who live in them.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013. Indoor Environmental Quality. ANSI/ASHRAE 55-2013
- Aspire Corporation. 2015. Effects of Humidity on Electronic Devices. http://www.apiste-global.com/enc/technology_enc/detail/id=1263
- A V Arundel, E M Sterling, J H Biggin, and T D Sterling. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Indirect health effects of relative humidity in indoor environments. Environ Health Perspect. 1986 Mar; 65: 351–361. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8665351
- Elizabeth Dougherty. Oct 11, 2011. MIT School of Engineering. Why do we sweat more in high humidity?. https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-do-we-sweat-more-in-high-humidity/
- PLoS One. 2013; 8(8): e72385.Published online 2013 Aug 26. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072385
- Dr. Pallavi Karunakaran. 2012. Effect of Temperature and Humidity on Bacterial Growth and Infection of Eggs. University Of Akron Research Paper
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Melody Collins
Dianna Mendez on October 08, 2018:
My husband uses one in his office. It makes the air lighter and it does eliminate the humidity in the room. Before, his paperwork would dampen and wilt.