Dehumidifiers are unique allergy relief products because instead of just filtering allergens from the air, they actually help keep allergens from forming or multiplying in the first place.
Endeavoring to achieve environmental control of allergens is largely a matter of keeping the air in your home clean. Allergens that become airborne are the most potent and pervasive allergy triggers because they can't be seen, they're inhaled, and they kick off the immune system's inflammatory response before they can be curbed.
Allergy relief products like quality furnace filters and HEPA air purifiers are invaluable tools in helping to clear the air of dust mite allergen, pollen, mold spores, and other allergy triggers; but dehumidifiers create conditions that make it hard for certain allergens to thrive, thereby keeping them from ever entering your indoor air in the first place.
Dehumidifiers and Mold
The main benefit of dehumidifiers is that they keep moisture levels low enough to make it difficult for mold and mildew to form. During summer, in humid climates, this is imperative; we all know what a southeast summer can do to a basement that's too humid. (An added perk of low-enough humidity levels in the summer is that they keep you feeling cool.) During wintertime, when ventilation is scarce because of cold temperatures, moisture that builds up in certain areas of the home is also of concern.
As the Public Health Department of North Carolina puts it, "All of the conditions needed for mold growth (food sources and appropriate temperatures) are present in the indoor environment with the exception of adequate moisture. Prevention of mold growth indoors cannot be achieved without proper moisture control."
So we see that, as the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) states: "The key to mold control is moisture control." In addition to acting quickly when acute moisture problems (things like leaks or spills) present themselves, the EPA recommends "keep[ing] indoor humidity low. If possible, keep indoor humidity below 60 percent (ideally between 30 and 50 percent) relative humidity. Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture orhumidity meter."
While a humidity gauge, or hygrometer will tell you exactly how humid your home is, you can also look for visible signs. For instance, if you notice that condensation forms on your windows, this indicates that your home environment is too humid and that mold is likely to be a problem. Dehumidifiers address this issue by removing excess moisture from your indoor air.
Dust Mites and Dehumidification
Mold and mildew are not the only allergens to be reduced when proper dehumidification measures are taken. Dust mites also thrive in humid environments. They receive the water they need through the air, and when moisture levels are high, their populations explode. These pests love temperatures in the 70s and 80s and humidity levels around 70 to 80 percent; but they do not do well in humidity levels below 50 percent. Hence, when humidity levels are kept in check with dehumidifiers, not only are mold and mildew problems kept at bay, but dust mite populations are kept in check as well. (Dust mites' love of warm, humid environments is another reason they love to live in beds. Be sure to protect yourself against their effects by using pillow and mattress covers.)
Dehumidification Improves Overall Indoor Air Quality
Using a dehumidifier improves indoor air quality in several ways, not all of which are immediately obvious. Firstly, making sure that moisture levels are within the proper range assures that mold and mildew is not given the opportunity to form and propagate. Secondly, dust mite populations are also kept under control when humidity levels are below 50 percent.
Maintaining control over the amount of both mold and dust mites in your home has a huge effect on the quality of air that you and your family breathe. Mold spores are very light, and therefore easily airborne and very likely to be inhaled, as is dust mite allergen. Making sure that less of these allergens are present in the first place ensures that less of them will make their way into the air and into your body to incite an allergy attack.
Keeping humidity levels properly balanced also improves the air in another way. When mold and mildew become evident, everybody's first instinct is to get rid of it - but popular methods of cleaning mold are themselves dangerous for allergy sufferers. Cleaning stirs mold spores into the air, making indoor air quality worse (and necessitating the use of an allergy relief mask). Furthermore, many cleaning products, especially bleach, produce fumes and residues that are harmful to allergy sufferers and those with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. Making sure that mold doesn't form in the first place alleviates the need for such cleaning techniques. And when cleaning mold is necessary, be sure to use allergy-safe cleaning products.
Choosing the Best Dehumidifier
The first thing you need to consider is where the moisture is a problem. Is it a small space like under a sink or in an enclosed bathroom? Out-of-control humidity is probably lurking in these areas during the winter when there isn't much air circulation. If this is the case, small dehumidifying units like the Eva-Dry Mini Dehumidifiers are an excellent choice. They contain specialized silica gel that adsorbs ambient moisture and include an indicator to show you when they have reached maximum capacity. Then you can simply plug them in (in a well-ventilated area) to release the collected moisture and reuse them over and over.
The Eva-Dry Petite Dehumidifier is excellent for slightly larger areas, such as a laundry room or bathroom. It holds up to 16 ounces of water and features a spill-proof reservoir and automatic shut-off. This dehumidifier is quieter, less expensive, and more affordable than regular-sized dehumidifiers for small to mid-sized rooms that have moisture problems.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, an Ebac or DriEaz dehumidifier is excellent for use in larger areas and commercial sites, such as an office, restaurant, manufacturing site or spa room that require dependable and powerful dehumidification. In fact, there is a whole range of industrial strength Ebac dehumidifiers to choose from for these types of heavy-duty dehumidification needs.
Home dehumidifiers occupy the middle of the dehumidifier spectrum, and there are several reliable brands to choose from. For basements and crawlspaces, there are only two solid choices, Santa Fe dehumidifiers and AprilAire home dehumidifiers. Both are American made brands with all steel construction and powerful, yet energy efficient moisture removal capacities. Both can be built right into existing HVAC systems or used as stand alone dehumidifiers in basements or crawlspaces. For use in living spaces, models like the Albert dehumidifier by Stadler Form are a better option. The Albert is sleek and modern in design and is energy efficient as well. As the most powerful room dehumidifier available, theSoleus 95 pint dehumidifier is in a class of its own. Built for the most severe indoor humidity problems, this durable dehumidifier has a range of features and advanced controls.
And no talk of dehumidifiers would be complete without mentioning Danby dehumidifiers, which offer electronically controlled, energy-star compliant, dependable dehumidification from a brand you can trust. Choose from the popular Danby 70-Pint or the more affordable Danby 50-Pint dehumidifier. For more help choosing a Danby dehumidifier, see Compare Danby Dehumidifiers.
This year, take control of your home environment and invest in a dehumidifier. You will find that all year long it will reduce the amount of allergens in your home - a true boon to your efforts in achieving environmental allergen control success.