Ten Tips for Controlling Moisture Levels in Your Home

By Jeffrey C. May —

Mold can pose serious health risks – especially for people with allergies and asthma. The key to controlling mold growth is reducing moisture, whether from leaks, high humidity or variations in temperature in your home.

Below are ten tips to help you keep your home drier and thus mold free.

  1. Dry up drips. Even a small water leak can develop into a major mold problem, so check pipes under sinks, and behind your washing machine and refrigerator (if it has a water line). Repair leaks right away.
  2. Mold can pose serious health risks – especially for people with allergies and asthma. The key to controlling mold growth is reducing moisture, whether from leaks, high humidity or variations in temperature in your home.
  3. Watch the hot-water tank. Put a battery-operated floorwater alarm near your hot-water tank, so you’ll be alerted if the tank starts to leak. If you have a central alarm system, consider having a floor-water alarm tied into the system. If you have a gas-fired hot-water heater, plan to replace it right before the warranty expires. Electric hot-water heaters tend to last longer than their warranty, but still, keep an eye on the warranty date.
  4. Control the relative humidity below-grade. Mold growth doesn’t always require standing water. Some molds can begin to grow when the relative humidity (RH) is over 80%.As air cools, its RH rises. Below-grade (below ground level) spaces like basements and crawl spaces are naturally cool and damp, so the RH must be adequately controlled.Use a thermo-hygrometer to measure the RH. The RH should be kept at or below 50% in unfinished basement spaces and in crawl spaces, and below 60% in finished basement spaces.

    Between mid-April and mid-October, add dehumidification as needed, even if your finished basement has air conditioning. Be sure that your dehumidifier is adequate for the space, and attach the machine to a condensate pump, so that it can drain into a sink or to the exterior. That way, you won’t have to empty the reservoir (when the reservoir is full, a dehumidifier shuts off).

    In the winter, you do not need to dehumidify an unfinished basement, but a finished basement must be kept consistently warm, whether in use or not, with the thermostat set at a minimum of 57o F.

    If you have an indirect-fired, hot-water system or tankless system (i.e. the boiler heats the domestic hot water), this will help control the RH, because the boiler operates year-round and produces heat as it does so.

  5. Don’t over-humidify above grade: In the winter, we don’t open windows and doors that much, so moisture can build up in a house in above-grade rooms. If you have an exhaust fan over your cook stove that vents to the exterior, use the fan whenever you cook or bake, and try to cook and bake at the same time.After showering or bathing, operate the exhaust fan in the bathroom. In addition, leave the door open and operate an oscillating fan in the bathroom to help dry surfaces.If you have a central humidification system, keep the RH in habitable rooms under 40% (lower in extreme cold). The same holds true if you use a portable humidifier in any particular room. Always measure the RH with a thermo-hygrometer.

Read the complete article in the April 2018 issue of Healthy Indoors Magazine at: https://hi.healthyindoors.com/i/971754-hi-april-2018/25

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Tags: moisture, mold

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