A crucial part of home ownership is proper maintenance, and that includes keeping your home dry and free of moisture-related problems. This is especially important if you live in an area prone to precipitation and high levels of humidity. Even if groundwater isn’t leaking into your home, having high levels of humidity can still lead to moisture-related problems. While it’s easy to monitor the living spaces of your home, it is just as important to monitor the humidity levels of your lower-level space, whether it’s a basement or a crawlspace.
Fortunately, there are dehumidifiers that can help you control the humidity levels of your basement or crawlspace. By keeping the air in your lower level dry, it prevents moisture from gaining a foothold in your home. And, as you’ll soon discover, this will help keep your upstairs dry and comfortable as well.
But not every dehumidifier is the same. There are factors to consider before determining which dehumidifier is right for your basement or crawlspace.
Let’s explore the role that dehumidifiers play and how to best choose one for your basement or crawlspace—by the end of this article, you should know how to properly select one to keep the air quality of your lower level (and upper levels) nice and dry.
How Does Moisture Get into Your Home?
There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of moisture in the air that fills your home. But too much of it can lead to problems with both your home as well as your air quality—ultimately, it could even affect your health. Unless you live in a dry environment like a desert, chances are there’s moisture in the soil surrounding your foundation.
According to a study done by professors at Kansas State University, moisture can enter your home through several ways, including water “run-in from near the building, often through a window, door, or a hole or crack in the foundation”. Even if water isn’t leaking into your basement or crawlspace, moist air can still infiltrate into your lower-level space where it then becomes affected by what’s called the “Stack Effect”. The Stack Effect is the way in which physics affects the air in your home, moving the air from the lowest levels upwards. As WaterproofMag.com explains, the Stack Effect “moves a significant portion of the indoor air—up to 50%—into the living space”.
Basements and crawlspaces are often overlooked, and when moisture is allowed to linger, even in the form of humid air, it can lead to problems that can affect the immediate area as well as the rest of your home.
It is also important to note, as stated in the same Kansas State University study, that “Even when a home is protected from water run-in and water vapor transmission through walls and floors, it can still be affected by moisture from humid air.” If you live in an area that has humid climate conditions, this is something to keep in mind, and another reason why you may need to consider getting a dehumidifier.
What Does a Dehumidifier Do?
A dehumidifier keeps the air in your basement or crawlspace dry. This is done by drawing the air into the dehumidifier, passing the air over cooling coils, and condensing the airborne moisture into water. This water drips off the coils into a collection tray or discharge pipe.
Meanwhile, the now-dry air is then returned to the space in which the dehumidifier is situated. Ultimately, this can improve the air quality in the rest of your home due to that “Stack Effect”.
What Can Moisture Do to Your Home?
According to the EPA, your indoor humidity should be somewhere between 30 percent and 50 percent, always below 60%. When the humidity within your basement, crawlspace, or any other part of your home begins to rise higher, it can lead to a variety of problems and complications for your home.
For example, the risk of mold begins at 65% humidity and the risk gets worse as the humidity rises. Especially for basements and crawlspaces, where moisture may collect and build, high levels of humidity can attract these problems:
- Mold growth
- Pests like insects and rodents
- Wood rot in the wooden structures of the house
- Rust on mechanicals and ductwork
- Other structural damage to home infrastructure
‘58 Foundations president, Todd Prosan, states that “High levels of humidity can also have an effect on your health and wellbeing. Mold and pests can agitate preexisting health problems such as asthma and allergies. If wood rot is allowed to persist, it can lead to a structurally compromised home.”
Along with other waterproofing measures, a dehumidifier will help prevent the air from being an avenue for moisture to get into your home and wreak havoc.
Selecting a Dehumidifier That Fits Your Needs
Not all dehumidifiers are the same—the unique situation of your basement or crawlspace will determine the kind of dehumidifier that you’ll need. Here are some questions to take into account for your dehumidifier:
- How big is the space of your basement or crawlspace?
- What is the average temperature of the basement or crawlspace? Your dehumidifier’s efficiency can be affected.
- How energy efficient is the dehumidifier?
- How humid is the climate where you live?
By answering these questions, you can get an idea of what kind of dehumidifier you’ll need. Different dehumidifiers have varying features, such as their daily capacity to draw moisture from the air (which is measured in pints). Some use a water tray that needs to be emptied by hand, while others use a discharge pipe that can empty the water via gravity or a small condensation pump.
Consider these features to ensure that you have a dehumidifier that fits your needs and comfort.
Dry Basements and Crawl Spaces
The Importance of Dehumidifiers
Mold Course, Chapter 2