Handyman: Lower humidity at home for summer comfort
We sure have a lot of summer festivals to enjoy in Michigan. There is a cherry festival, a blueberry festival and even a fishfly festival. But the unofficial one most people hate is the humidity festival. Summer means the outdoor air is often extremely humid, and that humidity is also the reason you feel uncomfortable inside your home.
Most people think air conditioning makes the home cooler by lowering the overall temperature, which is only partially true. The biggest thing your air conditioner does to get that air cooler is to keep the proper humidity level in the home by first dehumidifying the air before it reduces the temperature.
In most homes, a humidity level below 50 percent in the summer is ideal to maximize your indoor comfort. To do that, however, you have to let the air conditioner run frequently. Most heating and cooling experts suggest your air conditioner run around 45 minutes every hour to “condition” the air properly. Unfortunately, many people turn their AC on and off or set the temperature high so it doesn’t run often in an effort to save on their energy bill. By doing either of these things, you allow the humidity to build up, making your indoor air feel more sticky and clammy. And in reality, energy costs skyrocket when your AC unit starts up after you’ve had it off for a long time, making it work harder to cool the air.
So to battle the humidity problem, it is better to set the temperature you want and leave it. If you are gone during the day, you can use your adjustable thermostat to raise the temperature a few degrees while you are out to help save energy and set it to reach the optimum lower temperature just before you return. Trying to get the air conditioner to drop the temperature a few degrees is much more energy efficient than trying to go from 80 degrees indoor temperature to 72.
If you are already doing all these things and your air still is too humid, you should make sure your air conditioning unit is running properly. That’s why I recommend an annual tuneup by a company with North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification, natex.org. Another problem could be that your air conditioning unit is oversized, so it cools the home off too quickly and doesn’t run long enough to correctly dehumidify the air.
You should also find out the humidity level in your home by getting a digital hygrometer from the hardware store and checking various rooms, including your basement. If it is too high in certain areas, you can add a room dehumidifier or two to get rid of that excess humidity.
Adding a dehumidifier can be particularly important in the basement, which is usually the most humid area in the home. Another way you can dehumidify your entire home without having to use two or three dehumidifiers is with a whole-house dehumidification system. Aprilaire, aprilaire.com; Santa Fe, santa-fe-products.com; and Honeywell, yourhome.honeywell.com, all offer whole-house dehumidification units. While these systems can be expensive, the advantage is that they can remove far more moisture than multiple portable units.
If you don’t have central air, you can choose either portable or window-mounted air conditioners to dehumidify as they cool the room’s air to keep one or two rooms cool and comfortable. There are plenty of Energy Star-compliant window and portable units.
For an older home that doesn’t have a forced-air system, or if you want to cool a couple of rooms but want a more permanent solution instead of a window or portable unit, you can install a ductless mini-split air-conditioning system from manufacturers like Carrier, carrier.com; Mitsubishi Electric, mitsubishielectric.com; and Fujitsu, fujitsu-general.com. These systems feature an air handler that is mounted on the room’s wall and is connected to an outside condensing unit, enabling you to control the temperature and humidity for each room.
And don’t forget that running either a ceiling or oscillating fan when you are in a room will help circulate the air and make you feel even more comfortable.
So remember, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that makes you feel uncomfortable in the summer. Take measures to ensure your air conditioning will keep it below 50 percent to improve your overall comfort.
For more home improvement advice, call “The Handyman Show With Glenn Haege” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can also be heard on more than 135 radio stations nationwide.