Show Notes: Humidity, Whole House Fans and More
Beyond feeling hot, sticky, having excessively flat hair and being generally uncomfortable, high humidity can be bad for health – your home’s health and your personal health. Today we have help for braving the rest of summer with some ideas for dehumidifying your home and cooling your attic.
What Do These Have In Common
What Is It?
Lenker Rod: A type of surveyor’s rod, which is a sort of post with a tape measure on its face. It allows the surveyor to determine the increase or decrease in ground height (grade).
Bull Float and Darbies: To level ridges, fill voids, and smooth the surface in preparation for troweling. Floats also can be used to work in dry-shake color hardener. Unlike trowel finishing, floating won’t close the surface, which is important at this stage to permit water to bleed out. A float also helps bring paste to the surface by pushing down the coarse aggregate.
San Angelo: A large heavy steel bar with a chisel tip on one end and needlelike point on the other. Used for digging in clay and moving rock.
Dike: Nickname for Diagonal pliers (or wire cutters or diagonal cutting pliers or diagonal cutters)
High Humidity Can Make You And Your Home Sick
A common summer complaint is: It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Too much moisture in the hot summer air can literally turn your home in into a steam bath. Though weather conditions have the greatest effect on humidity levels, high humidity can be present:
- During summer months
- In areas located near waterfronts
- After continuous rains
- In rooms with plumbing running through them, such as kitchens and bathrooms
- In undergrounds facilities, such as basements
- In rooms with poor ventilation – especially super energy efficient homes built in the last fifteen years
Beyond feeling hot, sticky, having excessively flat hair and being generally uncomfortable, high humidity can be bad for health – your home’s health and your personal health.
When it comes to your home, high humidity can be the cause of:
- Warping of wood floors, furniture and trim
- Chipped and peeling paint and wallpaper
- Wet stains on walls and ceilings
- Musty, foul smelling odors
And when it comes to your health, high humidity can be responsible for:
- Growth of dust mites
- Products in the home that off-gas at higher rates causing allergic reactions
- Growth of fungi and bacteria
- Growth of mold and mildew
- Clammy feeling
- Trouble sleeping
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the ideal relative humidity range for the home is between 35 – 50 percent, at this range you are comfortable, healthy and your home is protected.
The big question is how to effectively and efficiently accomplish this? Most people try to use their air conditioner to remove humidity. But according to air quality experts, homeowners should never lower the thermostat temperature in an attempt to control humidity in their home. Setting the thermostat temperature lower does two things that are counter to your goal of reducing the moisture content in your home.
It actually increases the indoor relative humidity and, more importantly, it decreases the temperature of the materials in the walls, floors, and ceilings of your home, thereby significantly increasing the potential for condensation on these elements of the home.
Secondly, with today’s super energy efficient homes, a typical air conditioning unit will cycle on and off too quickly to eliminate excess moisture in the air.
As a result, homeowners resort to overcooling the living space while attempting to remove moisture, which leads to uncomfortable air temperatures, high energy bills and excess wear on the cooling system.
An alternative is a portable dehumidifier, which by definition will only address a small area of the home. A portable dehumidifier is designed to run at a temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while basements have an average temperature of between 58 to 65 degrees. Below 65 degrees, frost can form on the condensing coils, which negatively affects performance by causing the compressor to cycle on and off repeatedly without removing moisture from the air. While a portable dehumidifier can be valuable for a small, isolated space, common complaints are that they are noisy and require regular maintenance.
Another option to consider that is growing in great popularity is a whole-home dehumidifier. Better systems work in conjunction with the cooling system and can remove up to 90 pints of moisture from the home’s environment each day.
Whole-home dehumidifiers are designed to remove moisture while the thermostat is designed to maintain temperature. A whole-house dehumidifier automatically senses moisture levels and maintains the optimum humidity level in the home. In addition, these systems can switch between whole home and localized areas – such as a basement – offering the best of both worlds.
One of the most appealing aspects of having dehumidified air is that it actually feels cooler to the skin, thus allowing homeowners to raise the thermostat. This can result in significant energy savings (and a lower utility bill) and less wear and tear on the cooling system without sacrificing comfort.
And when it comes to maintenance, a whole house dehumidifier contains a pump and drain line that will discharge collected water into a sump or drainage system, in contrast to a portable system with a collection system that must be regularly emptied. Better whole house systems have a high efficiency filter that will usually need to be cleaned once annually.
Though a whole house dehumidifier is essential to managing excess humidity, there are preventative steps that you can take, which will further reduce the problem. They include:
- Clean and repair roof gutters regularly – use covers to keep leaves and sticks from building up in the gutters.
- Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers and stoves to the outside where possible.
- Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation, so that water does not enter or collect around the foundation.
- Use down spout extenders that carry water at least six feet away from the foundation.
- Seal unwanted air leaks, such as around holes for plumbing and wiring, this is where humid outside air sneaks into the home.
How To Repair A Hose Bib
The hose bib or spigot is the part of your outside hose connection that allows you to turn the water on or off for outdoor connected hoses such as a sprayer hose or soaker. Because these hose bibs are located outside, they are exposed to the elements and can be damaged by severe weather such as a hard freeze. If you find out that your hose bib is leaking, you should repair it as soon as possible.
A leaking hose bib can not only waste water, but cost you money as well.
- Turn off the water supply for the bib you will be repairing. Unless you have a separate shut off valve for this faucet (rare), you will have to shut off the water supply for the whole house. This is usually located somewhere near where your property joins the street.
- Open the faucet and allow any water inside to run out.
- Use the screwdriver to remove the screw holding the valve knob in place.
- Remove the valve knob.
- Use the adjustable wrench to remove the packing nut located just beneath the valve handle.
- Use a pair of needle nose pliers to remove any of the packing material inside of the valve. This is usually present on older bibs. Newer ones will utilize a rubber O-ring.
- Pull out the valve stem with the pliers.
- Remove the old washer at the end of the valve stem by first unscrewing the screw holding it in place. Replace with a washer of the same size. Tighten in place with the screwdriver.
- Use a stiff wire brush to clean off the stem and remove any debris or foreign objects. Squeeze a few drops of silicon grease or lubricant on the valve stem.
- Replace the valve stem in the faucet. Replace the packing material or o-ring.
- Wrap the threads on the faucet with plumber’s tape. Replace the packing nut and tighten with the wrench.
- Reattach the handle. Tighten with the screwdriver.
Restore the water supply.
Open the faucet and check for leaks.
Tighten the packing nut if necessary.
Cooling With A Whole House Fan
This whole-house fan is installed on the ceiling between the attic and living space. The louvers close when the fan is not operating.
Whole house cooling using a whole house fan can substitute for an air conditioner most of the year in most climates. Whole house fans combined with ceiling fans and other circulating fans provide acceptable summer comfort for many families, even in hot weather. In addition to whole house fans, the ducts of your central heating and cooling system can be modified to provide whole house cooling.
How Whole House Fans Work
The whole house fan pulls air in from open windows and exhausts it through the attic and roof. It provides good attic ventilation in addition to whole house cooling. Whole house fans should provide houses with 30 to 60 air changes per hour (varies with climate, floor plan, etc.—check with a professional to determine what is appropriate for your home). The air-change rate you will choose depends on your climate and how much you will depend on the whole house fan for cooling.
Installing and Using a Whole House Fan
Installing a whole house fan is tricky and should be done by a professional. An experienced professional should take your attic measurements and install your dedicated circuit wiring and, if needed, your new attic vents.
Attic ventilation will usually need to be increased to exhaust the fan’s air outdoors. You’ll need 2 to 4 times the normal area of attic vents, or about one square foot of net free area for every 750 cubic feet per minute of fan capacity. The net free area of a vent takes into account the resistance offered by its louvers and insect screens. More vent area is better for optimal whole house fan performance.
If your fan doesn’t come with a tight-sealing winter cover, you should either buy one or build one. If you switch between air conditioning and cooling with a whole house fan as the summer weather changes, build a tightly sealed, hinged door for the fan opening that is easy to open and close when switching cooling methods.
Be cautious when operating these large exhaust fans. Open windows throughout the house to prevent a powerful and concentrated suction in one location. If enough ventilation isn’t provided, the fans can cause a backdraft in your furnace, water heater or gas-fired dryer, pulling combustion products such as carbon monoxide into your living space.
Drawbacks of Whole House Fans
Whole house fans can be noisy, especially if improperly installed. In general, a large-capacity fan running at low speed makes less noise than a small fan operating at high speed. All whole house fans should be installed with rubber or felt gaskets to dampen noise. You can set a multi-speed fan to a lower speed when noise is a problem.
Using Your Duct System as a Whole House Fan
You may be able to use the heating and air conditioning ducts in your home as a means of whole house ventilation. This would involve installing an intake duct to pull air into an attic-mounted system that directs the air into your heating and cooling ducts. A damper would control exhaust air from your home into the attic. Check with a local professional to find out if this option is right for you.
Belated Happy National Tape Measure Day!
The ancestor of the tape measure we know today was first patented on July 14, 1868, but since then it’s come a long long way and is more useful than you might know. So take a minute out of your day to appreciate your trusty tape, and don’t forget to tell it how much you love it.
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