AchooAllergy.com Blog

Humidity


Posted by kevvyg on Friday, May 09, 2014
As we focus on providing you the tools and resources you need to take control of your indoor environment and reduce symptoms from allergies, asthma or MCS, there is often a focus on large products. This time of year, as pollen settles down but rain and humidity increase, a dehumidifier is common a tool you use to drive relative humidity down. This means making your home less hospitable to mold, insects and dust mites as well as eliminating that "sticky" or "muggy" feeling that can even accompany rooms where there is air conditioning.

Many dehumidifiers like the top rated Danby 70 pint come with a humidity gauge built right in, yet many do not, and if you're like me, there may be some level of skepticism as to how reliable those gauges really are. There may also be instances where you are using a crawlspace or basement dehumidifier, and since they often lack digital humidity displays, you're left in the dark as to what is really going on in those spaces. What humidity was it down there before you started using the dehumidifier? What is the humidity now?

One option is to wire a humidity gauge into your home. Some whole-home dehumidifiers like some of the Aprilaire models give you this option, but this can be more expense, time and hassle than you want. You could also pick up an inexpensive humidity gauge like a mini humidity gauge that can be left in the space. That way, each time you check on the dehumidifier you can get a better idea of what the humidity is and if any adjustments are necessary. Another alternative would be the new AcuRite wireless humidity gauge. Look Mom!  No wires!Similar to the original AcuRite, the newer version offers a wider array of features a larger, more visible display and most significantly, it's wireless. This gauge provides temperature and humidity readings (both indoor and outdoor), as well as time, date, and daily high/low temps and humidity. There are a few other features, that can be considered more "take 'em or leave 'em" like the current moon phase and a freeze warning, but the wireless sensor provides a lot of flexibility that other gauges and weather centers do not. You don't have to drill any tiny holes, just place the sensor where you want your secondary readings, and you're set! For those using a basement or crawlspace dehumidifier that lacks a humidity gauge, this sensor could be placed in those spaces and give you accurate readings without having to actually go down to the basement or spend a super fun time hunkered down in your crawlspace.

An Empty Ice Cream Cup Is A Sad Ice Cream CupIf you're using a humidifier during the winter months, the wireless AcuRite again provides you with an accurate humidity reading. This is significant in that than most inexpensive humidifiers lack any type of humidity gauge and use a dial control with settings like "kinda damp" and "super soaker". So maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but you get the point.

If you want to read more about this nifty little device, you check it out here. And lastly, it's Friday, so do what I did, and go have ice cream for lunch! (I'd post a better picture, but honestly, the ice cream never stood a chance.)

Author: Kevin Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Sparky is a Shy Hermit Crab with a Cool Mobile HomeAs an enjoyable Memorial Day vacation came to a close, my godson decided he wanted a Hermit Crab. Granted, I don't expect Sparky (as he was named) will live to a ripe old age, but one thing I noticed about him was that he, like many other creatures, requires a humid environment to thrive. One way you can go about keeping the humidity around a Hermit Crab (not to be confused with Crab People, Mr. Krabs or a crabby neighbor) up to the ideal 70% is to keep a wet sponge in with it. So while we set about to trying to keep the humidity in Sparky's home at 70%, this much humidity can cause real problems in your home.

Excess humidity can come from a variety of sources in the home. Many of the everyday tasks we do each day put moisture into the air, including cooking, laundry, and bathing. During the summer months, warm moist air is bound to make it into almost every home, and for many the small amount of dehumidification that a central air conditioning system does can be enough to keep your humidity ideal - less than 50%. In more humid locations, a central air system simply cannot keep up. Besides, they are designed primarily for cooling, much less so for actually removing excess moisture. In instances like these, you can control humidity, dust mites and mold growth with a simple, yet efficient, room dehumidifier.

Danby 70 Pint Home DehumidifierRoom dehumidifiers generally use refrigerant based technology to cool coils to almost freezing. Then as air passes over them, moisture precipitates out. When air cools, it loses its ability to hold water. The same volume of colder air cannot hold near as much moisture as the same volume of warm or hot air, so the moisture precipitates out in the form of condensate. Before the air leaves the dehumidifier, it passes over the motor. This warms the air before it heads back out into your home looking to suck up more moisture.

This type of dehumidifier is common mainly because it is so effective, cost efficient, and because there are a variety of sizes and styles available. Danby has long held a top spot in consumer ratings magazines, and offers a great balance between cost and performance. Running this type of dehumidifier not only removes moisture in the air but can keep humidity levels low enough to stop dust mites and inhibit the growth of mold throughout your home, office or apartment.

To learn more about how excess moisture can impact your health.

As for Sparky, "she" is doing fine, and I've just learned she's now called Woody.... too much Toy Story for that child.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, July 13, 2012
After last week's record breaking heat and dry conditions, the pendulum has swung the other way. This week has provided continuing warm temperatures but also violent storms, high humidity and plenty of rain. The last part of this equation is much needed in many parts of the country, but the humid and hot conditions are also bringing along a very unwelcomed guest for allergy sufferers - mold spores.

Mold spores are all around us nearly all of the time. They float through the air and settle all around. For most of us, they only really become a problem when conditions allow them to grow from dormant spores to active colonies. Active mold colonies decompose the cellulose materials they settle upon, like wood, paper, plant matter and even microscopic bits of cellulose that can settle out of the air. This is why you will see mold grown on even plastic surfaces. While the actual plastic is not being consumed by the mold, microscopic bits of plant matter and debris that settles on the plastic is.

Mold in Petri Dish - Cappuccino Anyone?As mold grows, it begins pumping more spores out into the air. For allergy sufferers, these spores can aggravate allergic or asthmatic reactions. Other substances that mold colonies produce, like mycotoxins, can be cause respiratory issues even for healthy, non-allergenic adults.

Most of the time, we think about mold spores effecting people during the fall months. This is typically when large amounts of foliage falls to the ground and decomposes. This decomposition is driven by mold. However, when the summer months bring heat, humidity and rain, this too can cause the mold spore count to spike dramatically.

Mold Spore ChartAs evidenced by mold spore counts in places like Austin, TX, summer heat and rain can drive up the amount of mold in the air. On Wednesday, researchers at the Allergy & Asthma Associates in Austin counted 27,262 mold spores per cubic meter of air. This measurement falls firmly in the "High" count category (13,000 to 49,999) and far surpasses the standard average for Austin during this time of year.

For allergy sufferers, this means being mindful of the conditions around you. As mold spore counts rise, so too do the cases of sinus infections and allergy related symptoms. There are a few things you can do to cut down on the likelihood of mold spores slowing you down or causing an infection. When outdoors, keep a mask or respirator handy, particularly while doing yard work. In the evenings, it may also be helpful to use a Neti pot and rinse your sinuses. Also keep in mind that when the humidity outdoors is up, it is often up indoors as well. A dehumidifier, placed in the basement, crawlspace or living area, can remove excess moisture from the air in your home and make those spaces inhospitable for mold growth. Lastly, running a HEPA air purifier in your bedroom can help filter out spores that may be carried in on clothing and simply through air circulating through your home.

As the the days of hot, humid rain continue throughout the eastern part of the country, look for mold spore counts to rise considerably as favorable conditions allow mold to proliferate.

Author: Kevin Gilmore

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