UPDATED Jan 29,2013:
This winter has been relatively mild so far here in Austin, but that doesn’t mean my house has been comfortable. Yesterday morning I got out of bed and was so uncomfortable. I looked at my Thermostat and it was reading 72 degrees (the system was off) but I was nearly sweating. I grabbed my Extech Humidity & Temp Pen out of my briefcase (you have one in there too, right?) that reads both temperature and humidity and here’s what I found.
INSIDE READING: 79.2% Humidity & 70.6 degrees F
OUTSIDE READING: 78% Humidity & 71.3 degrees F
It was a humid day outside and had rained overnight, and it’s interesting that the house humidity was higher than the outside. That’s not terribly unusual considering moisture moves from more to less, and my HVAC system has been off for several days. We also had two adults showering, and a steaming pot of water going for my morning french press brew. All this to say that it was VERY uncomfortable inside my house even though it was a very pleasant temperature due to this higher humidity. Ideal inside humidity levels are 40-60% RH with 50% being ideal. This is also a good range to keep in your house for the benefit of your hardwood floors, to keep mold at by, and definitely for allergies.
So, what can I do about this discomfort? For most people in Austin, the only option to bring down the humidity is to turn on their AC system and crank down the temperature by 2-4 degrees. AC in February? Yep. (Seems crazy to turn on a large energy sucking appliance in February when the temp is good only to bring down humidity levels)
But there is another way… use a stand-alone dehumidifier. This is my LG dehum I bought for $300 at Home Depot several years ago. (If I were buying one today I’d get this one on Amazon which took Consumer Reports top rating.) I plug it into the outlet in the hall bathroom which is near my AC return in the hallway. Then I set my TStat to Circulate and let it do it’s thing. I let it run all day and it was much more comfortable inside the house when I got home from work. However, this appliance is loud, it needs the water dumped every few hours, it generates heat in the room it’s working, and it’s awkward to move around in our tight house. Even with these negatives, the comfort level it brings is totally worth the hassles.
What I’d really like to do is add a Therma-Stor Ultra Air Dehumidifier system that’s connected to my HVAC system! My little 2200 sf house would be super comfortable with a Ultra Air XT105H. This would be a huge step up from my black portable LG dehum and it only uses 4.9 amps of power to run. I’m very strongly suggesting these to all my clients who build or remodel with us. I’ll install one on my own house sometime in the next 12 months hopefully and I’ll give you a full report. -Matt Risinger
PS> If you are buying a compact unit like mine in the photo consider buying this Frigidaire model on Amazon that earned Consumer Report’s Best Buy. Buying with that link will help support my blog as I’m an Amazon associate. You’ll get the same price and I’ll get a small percent of your sale. Thanks!