When cooling your home, humidity is just as important to consider as temperature. If you can reduce your in-house mugginess along with the temperature, your body can do a better job of cooling itself, and you and your family will be more comfortable.
For starters, invest in a hygrometer, which measures the humidity level in your home. In the summer, aim for the 30-50 percent humidity range. If the level consistently reaches 60 percent humidity or higher, even with the air conditioner running, there are steps you can take to knock that down to a more acceptable level.
Humidity home improvement
If your home is super humid (and your basement has that unpleasant musty smell), a little maintenance around the house can ensure your walls, windows and roof create an adequate barrier between your indoor environment and the tropical air that awaits outside.
Plug the leaks: Patch any hairline cracks in your foundation with cement to keep moisture from seeping in. To seal out humid air, replace weather stripping around doors and windows and use caulk on gaps and cracks as needed.
Check outdoor drainage: Water collecting around your house can raise your humidity levels (while also creating an attractant for termites). Are your gutters in good repair and clean and free of leaves and other yard debris? Consider adding downspout extenders to shunt the rainwater even farther away from your house. Does the slope of your landscaping help water drain away from your house? Addressing these can help lower your indoor moisture level, especially in the basement.
Install a sump pump: Even with good landscaping and drainage, this machine can reduce your basement humidity levels as well as prevent flooding after a heavy rain. The machine removes and draining away water that saturates the soil around your foundation. Just be sure to opt for a model with battery backup so it doesn’t quit during a power outage.
Check the vents: Check the exhaust vents for the bathroom, kitchen range and dryer. These don’t always vent hot, moist air into the outdoors as expected. Once you confirm they do vent to the outside, use them during showers and cooking to remove steam.
Once you have sealed off your house and reduced the moisture, it’s time to look at the mechanical methods to remove the humidity.
Your air conditioner is one of the best tools for the job, because it removes both heat and humidity. How it works is the evaporator coil draws in the warm air, cools it, and funnels the moisture it pulled out of the air into a drainage pan.
If you live in an area with high humidity, however, the air conditioner may not be adequate. After it switches off, things may still feel damp and muggy. Lowering the temperature on your thermostat is one fix, but that could make the house uncomfortably cool while wasting energy. Here are two alternative solutions to try:
Adjust your central air system: Consider adding a dehumidifying heat pipe to your existing central air system. The process can remove up to 91 percent more moisture than a standard system, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, bringing much relief to you and your family. At the same time, it does return more heat into your air stream, which slows the cooling process and makes your fan blow longer. However, manufacturers say you can offset the longer cycle because the lower humidity would make it more comfortable to raise your thermostat a few degrees.
Invest in a dehumidifier: If high humidity is contained to one section of your home, namely the basement, many homeowners find that a standalone dehumidifier does the trick. How it works is the fan draws in air, which touches the cooling coils, which pull out moisture. This water is either collected in a bin or drained away. Some models are capable of removing up to 71 pints of water from the air each day.
While eliminating heat is half the battle to summer cooling, it’s hard to achieve comfort with too much humidity. Instead of cranking up the air conditioner, you can save energy by keeping humidity from seeping into your house in the first place, and, if needed, take additional steps to remove more of it from the air.