Do You Need a Dehumidifier in the Winter?

Posted: 2019-02-14

By this time, your heating system has probably been running non-stop for the past couple of months to keep you and your folks comfortable. For this reason, your space heating alone accounts for almost half of your monthly utility bills. But those additional costs come with a significant amount of dry air, which starts a moisture problem in your home.

Most homeowners are aware that humidifiers can rectify this problem by adding moisture if needed. However, there are cases that might need you to run your dehumidifier during this season.

Four Seasons Air Specialists is your leading HVAC company in Hugo MN that can help you determine your need for a dehumidifier to ensure you have the right humidity levels at home, especially in the basement.

What is a Dehumidifier?

Invented in the first decade of the 20th century, a dehumidifier is a device that removes humidity (moisture) from the air. Removing moisture from the air is essential for preventing many moisture-related issues and conditions, such as mold and mildew development. The amount of humidity in the air can hold is relative to the air’s temperature. Warmer air can hold more humidity than cooler air.

In other words, a dehumidifier acts like a vacuum cleaner — it sucks in air from your room at one end, takes the moisture out of it, and then blows it back out into the room again. The moisture leaks through into a tank that you have to empty from time to time.

Dehumidifiers are typically positioned in basements, which do not have more exposure to natural light and heat that the sun creates. This is why basements become damp throughout the year and are ideal locations for mold and mildew to grow.

Effects of Mold on Your Health

Mold can negatively affect your health. It produces allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxins that may cause adverse reactions. A reaction to mold depends on how much you are exposed to, your age and sensitivities or allergies.

Exposure to mold can cause a number of symptoms. Some people who have touched or inhaled mold or spores may have allergic reactions such as a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, skin rash, and itching. Mold can also trigger asthma in those who are allergic to mold, causing wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty of breathing.

Things to Consider Before Running a Dehumidifier

Since a dehumidifier attracts moisture, the coils can possibly freeze if the weather gets extremely cold. Yet, in rooms that are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, such as a heated basement, a dehumidifier works just fine.

Keep an eye on your humidity levels as you consider running your dehumidifier in the winter. If your home’s humidity levels stay high even in the later months of the year, it might be a good idea to run it. If your relative humidity stays at above 50 percent for most of the time, your room will benefit from operating a dehumidifier in the basement and keep mold and mildew from thriving.

Pay close attention to your dehumidifier whenever you decide to run it. If the temperature or humidity levels drop below the best possible levels, consider turning it off. Using a humidistat, set an automatic humidity threshold, the highest level being 30 percent humidity. This will keep the room dry but not too much.

If the basement maintains high humidity levels in the winter but is too cold to safely run a dehumidifier, opt to use an electric heater for at least a few hours each day instead.  It may not eliminate humidity as a dehumidifier would, but it will remove some of the water vapor while also lowering the temperature in the room. Monitor your basement, and if you notice signs of mold and mildew growth, wipe out the fungus immediately using a natural fungicide like white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. Dry the room completely to stop the fungi from dispersing.

Ask the HVAC Experts

If you need more information about humidity, dehumidifiers, mold, and similar subjects, call Four Seasons Air Specialists. We are your friendly Forest Lake heating and air conditioning contractor serving you with dedication since 1974.