The best way to alleviate allergens is to remove the triggers. Dehumidifiers can help by fostering an environment more conducive to easier breathing. They also help limit or even eliminate serious triggers other than pollen. Let’s explore whether the investment of a dehumidifier makes sense for your San Marcos, CA home.

Relative Humidity

Humidity is the water vapor in the air you breathe. Relative humidity is a measure of that water vapor. The air’s capacity to hold moisture depends on its temperature. The warmer the air is, the more moisture it can hold. The colder it is, the less it can hold.

It’s recommended that relative humidity remain between 30% and 50% inside your home. Your goal should be to find the lowest RH level in this range with which you are comfortable. Comfort in this context refers to both feeling cool and how well you breathe. You may want to start at 30%. Then, incrementally move it up until you find your ideal setting.

What Is the RH Level in Your Home?

If your home remains below 50% RH, you don’t necessarily need a dehumidifier. You may still want one for comfort reasons, though. To measure RH, you’ll need a hygrometer. Standalone hygrometers are available. You can also buy a thermostat with an integrated hygrometer. Another option is to have a local IAQ expert measure the RH for you.

What a Dehumidifier Does

A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air. You control portable dehumidifiers manually. A better option is to have us install a whole-home dehumidification system. These devices allow you to set a specific RH. Once the unit reaches the ideal humidity, it stops extracting moisture. It will then start extracting again as needed.

There are two core types of dehumidifiers: refrigerant and desiccant. Refrigeration systems use refrigerant to lower the temperature of the coils. As air passes over the coils, water vapor condenses. Desiccant systems use a water-absorbing medium called a desiccant. As air passes over the desiccant, the medium absorbs the water vapor. In both cases, a reservoir collects the moisture. In the case of whole-home systems, a drain line empties the reservoir.

Isn’t an Air Conditioner a Dehumidifier?

No. Air conditioners and heat pumps use refrigerant and coils to transfer heat energy. Some dehumidification does occur as a byproduct of this process. Depending on your climate, however, it may not be enough to achieve your desired RH.

Easier Breathing

Anyone who’s been outside on a hot, humid day knows how difficult it can be to breathe humid air. With an optimal relative humidity level, breathing is simply easier. There’s less moisture. The air is not quite as heavy. Less water vapor also means fewer suspended pollutants and contaminants. Purer, deeper breaths may be able to reduce cortisol levels.

Reduced Irritation

Heavier, moisture-filled air also causes irritation in our nose, mouth, throat, and eyes. Everyone is susceptible to such inflammation. But it’s a particular bother for those with allergies. People with allergies tend to be more susceptible to the soreness and itchiness that can come from high humidity levels. There is also exacerbation from other triggers in the air, such as pollen. In an optimal RH environment, allergy sufferers are less prone to allergy attacks. When those attacks do occur, they tend to be less severe.

Fewer Mold Spores

Mold and mildew are among the top reasons the EPA advises never letting your RH rise above 60%. Excess moisture in the air can lead to mold spores growing very quickly. In fact, there can be an abundance of spores in the air before you ever smell or see them. You don’t need to have a visible mold infestation in your home to have a serious problem. This is particularly true for allergy sufferers. Mold spores can cause the same effects as pollen. In some cases, ongoing and long-term health issues can arise.

Less Dust Mites and Dust Mite Eggs

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America warns that dust mites and their eggs are among the leading causes of allergies. In fact, the AAFA believes it may be the number one contributor to year-round allergies. Many homeowners believe that regular dusting and cleaning are key to controlling dust mites. While this certainly helps, controlling humidity is the key.

At a relative humidity level above 50%, dust mites thrive. They reproduce often. The success rate of their eggs hatching is high. At an RH below 50%, they struggle. With an RH of 30%, it doesn’t matter how dusty your home is. Those mites will look for somewhere else to nest.

Dehumidifiers vs. Air Purifiers

Air purification and dehumidification systems serve different purposes. Dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air. That is certainly helpful for those with allergies. Air purifiers remove particulate matter. That is considerably helpful as well. You also have the option of air cleaners that remove other substances, including gases and chemicals.

Portable vs. Whole-Home Dehumidifiers

Portable units are less expensive upfront. But you have to either buy multiple units or drag them with you from room to room. They are only effective at providing dehumidification in your immediate space.

Whole-house dehumidification systems integrate with your HVAC system. The advantage here is that they affect RH house-wide. This ensures optimal RH wherever you are in the home. It can also reduce wear and tear on your AC or heat pump. Whole-home systems are more expensive up front, but they often provide better value over the long term.

Regular Dehumidifier Cleaning

You should clean all dehumidifiers on a regular basis. Whole-home systems require seasonal maintenance as well. Allergists warn that a dirty dehumidifier can do more harm than good. The moisture and contaminants within allow for biological growth and additional allergy triggers.

Dehumidification in Crawl Spaces

Depending on your HVAC system, some of the air you breathe can come up through your crawl space. Crawl space encapsulation is recommended for all applicable homes. If humidity levels in the crawl space remain high after encapsulation, you should consider a dehumidifier that addresses these areas as well.

What About a Humidifier?

Humidifiers are the opposite of dehumidifiers. They help to achieve optimal RH in colder temperatures by adding water vapor to the air. Humidifiers can certainly help with allergies as well. It depends on where you live and whether you have trouble maintaining an optimal RH in the winter. It also depends on how you feel. For many allergy sufferers, winter is a period of relief. But for some, the dryness can make the irritation and allergic reactions worse.

Local IAQ Experts in San Marcos

If you’d like to install a dehumidifier in your home, Oak Island Heating and Air Conditioning can help. We serve homes in San Marcos and throughout the surrounding areas. Our IAQ team also installs humidifiers and air purifiers. We also have HVAC technicians who install, maintain, and repair ducted and ductless heating and cooling systems. Call today or contact Oak Island Heating and Air Conditioning online to schedule an appointment or learn more about the services and products we offer.

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