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How to Keep Humidity in Your Florida Home in Check

How to Keep Humidity in Your Florida Home in Check

This article was originally posted July 22, 2014.

As a Florida resident, you have undoubtedly experienced high home humidity firsthand. With outdoor relative humidity often at 90 percent or higher, how can you expect to keep indoor humidity in check? Before you start making drastic changes, learn more about humidity and the ideal level for home comfort.

Why Is High Humidity Uncomfortable?

Your body keeps you cool by sweating. As the sweat evaporates off your skin, it causes a cooling effect. That’s one reason squirting yourself with a spray bottle and letting your skin air dry helps you cool off.

When the air is quite humid, it’s already saturated with water. It can’t hold much more, so it doesn’t evaporate the water from your skin as quickly. This creates a muggy, hot feeling that makes you feel much warmer than if the room was at a lower relative humidity.

Why Is High Humidity Expensive?

The thought of improving home comfort may compel you to lower the humidity, but you can also save energy. You might set the thermostat to 74 degrees, but if it’s overly humid inside, you could still feel overheated. On the other hand, an ideally humid environment with the thermostat set to 77 degrees may feel perfectly cool and comfortable. This clearly demonstrates the old saying, “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity.”

In addition, excess moisture can damage drywall, musical instruments and wood fixtures in your home. Replacing these items that have rotted, warped or became moldy in overly moist conditions can be quite expensive.

Schedule an appointment today to get your humidity under control

Why Does High Humidity Degrade Air Quality?

Have you ever seen a cold soda can “sweat” when it’s hot outside? This condensation can occur on various cool surfaces throughout your home if the humidity is too high. Condensation creates a breeding ground for mold. When mold grows indoors, you may begin to exhibit symptoms of mold spore exposure, including sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing, throat irritation and watery eyes. Keeping the humidity level down helps you breathe easier by preventing mold growth.

What Is the Ideal Humidity Level?

With all this talk of improving comfort, lowering energy bills and promoting cleaner indoor air, what humidity level should you aim for? In the summer, home humidity should remain between 40 and 60 percent.

Measuring indoor humidity is easy with a hygrometer. This small, handheld instrument displays the relative humidity in the room. You can carry it around with you to different rooms and accurately measure the relative humidity throughout your home. Hygrometers are available at your local hardware store.

Lowering Home Humidity Levels

To maintain a comfortable interior, you need to keep humidity in check. Use these tips:

  • Increase air movement inside by running ceiling fans. Air circulation helps dry up standing water and creates a cooling wind-chill effect to keep you comfortable.
  • Run the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans when you shower and cook. These activities produce a lot of humidity that you don’t want building up inside your home.
  • Open windows when outdoor humidity levels are low. This lets in a fresh breeze that can help even out home humidity levels.
  • Keep the windows closed when the humidity level is higher than the ideal 30 to 45 percent. Keep a small weather station on hand to help you track outdoor conditions right where you live.
  • Check for water leaks that could be contributing to higher indoor humidity. Look in easy-to-reach spots such as under the bathroom and kitchen sinks, behind toilets and in unfinished spaces.
  • Run a whole-house dehumidifier. Air conditioners remove some humidity, but Florida’s muggy climate may need an extra boost. A whole-house dehumidifier runs independently of the air conditioner so you can operate it alone on mild days or in conjunction with the A/C to boost the equipment’s moisture-removing abilities. A dehumidifier allows you to program the humidity level you want so the machine runs when it’s needed and turns off when the ideal home humidity is reached.

Choosing a Dehumidifier

While all the other suggestions for keeping home humidity low are sure to help, the best way to see the biggest difference is to install a whole-house dehumidifier. Choose a dehumidifier that’s suited to your home’s size. Then, look for features that improve convenience, such as an on-board hygrometer, quiet operation and drain connection kit.

For more help measuring and controlling home humidity, please contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air, proudly serving the Sarasota and Bradenton areas since 1974.

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What Are the Negative Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality?

poor indoor air qualityYour indoor air quality affects not only your health and well-being, but also the condition of your heating and cooling system. The Sarasota area’s lush greenery and high humidity mean we get more than our share of air contaminants. For that reason, it’s important to be aware of the signs of poor indoor air quality and know how to resolve the problem.

How Air Contamination Affects You and Your Home

  • Worsened allergy and asthma symptoms – Many common air contaminants, including dust mites, pollen, mold spores, and pet dander, trigger allergy systems. Nearly all particulate air contaminants are capable of irritating the airways enough to trigger asthma attacks in those with the condition. This includes common allergens as well as smoke particles, pest debris, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from carpeting, upholstery and other household materials.
  • Poor overall health – Even if you don’t have a respiratory condition, living with pollutant-laden air could leave you with a chronic cough, upper respiratory congestion, watery eyes, and other health complaints similar to allergy symptoms. Fatigue and frequent headaches are also signs of low indoor air quality. These symptoms in particular could mean your home has high levels of VOCs or a low-level buildup of carbon monoxide.
  • Long-term health issues – Exposure to airborne cockroach debris not only triggers asthma attacks, but can also cause asthma to develop in young children. Just because you haven’t seen roaches in your home doesn’t mean they aren’t there. In urban areas, around 40 percent of all home’s harbor roaches. These pest are particularly common in Florida’s humid climate.
  • In adults, long-term exposure to polluted indoor air increases risk of cardiovascular health problems such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
  • High energy bills – The more particles floating around in your home’s air, the faster your heating and cooling system’s air filter gets dirty. While you should check the air filter monthly for dirt buildup and replace the filter as needed, there’s always a chance you’ll forget. A dirty air filter interferes with airflow and can reduce your system’s energy efficiency by 5 to 15 percent.
  • Wear on your HVAC system – The more contaminated your indoor air, the more particles will slip through the air filter and end up in your heating and cooling system’s components. This is especially true if you’re using a standard 1-inch fiberglass filter. Dirt on the motor, A/C evaporator coil, and other components can lead these parts to wear out early.

Simple Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

If your home’s air isn’t as clean as you’d like it to be, you have several options for reducing the contaminants.

  • Upgrade the air filter – If you want cleaner indoor air, choose HVAC air filters with minimum efficiency reporting values (MERV) of 5 or higher. Those with MERVs between 7 and 13 are nearly as effective as HEPA filters, trapping more than 90 percent of passing contaminant particles. If you have allergies or asthma, you’ll be best served by a filter with a MERV of 11 or 12.
  • Run the A/C often – Making good use of your air conditioner keeps your home cool, reduces excess humidity, and cuts down on airborne pollutants. Because many plants release their pollen a little after dawn, keep windows closed overnight and in the morning, and run the A/C instead to keep your air cool and clean.
  • Improve ventilation – Today’s airtight homes develop air quality problems when they’re not properly ventilated. If your home lacks airflow, talk with a ventilation professional about adding whole-house ventilation or upgrading your existing system. In our warm climate, the best option is usually a supply system, which brings in fresh outdoor air, or a balanced system, which brings in fresh air and draws out stale air.
  • Manage humidity levels – Indoor humidity levels above 50 percent encourage the growth of mold and dust mites. If your home feels humid or has mold problems, you may benefit from a whole-house dehumidifier. These systems fit in your ductwork and reduce humidity in the air passing through.
  • Install an air cleaner – Different whole-house air cleaners are available to target tiny lung-irritant particles, microbial contaminants such as mold spores and bacteria, and gaseous pollutants such as VOCs.

If you’ve been suffering from poor indoor air quality or want to ensure your home’s air is as clean and healthy as possible, contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air in Sarasota and Bradenton for guidance.

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How a Ductwork Inspection Can Benefit Your Household

ductwork inspectionThere’s a component of the forced-air HVAC system that’s typically tucked out of sight and goes largely unnoticed. When it’s underperforming, as it does in the average home, other systems are often blamed, such as the A/C or heat pump, for poor indoor air quality, discomfort and high energy bills. When was the last time you had a ductwork inspection?

Ductwork System

Over time, ductwork systems accumulate debris, seals loosen, tape and ducts may fall away, and some ducts may become damaged. If you’ve noticed any of the following circumstances and conditions, it’s a good idea to inspect the air ducts:

  • Loose ducts often rattle and clamor.
  • Uneven airflow from the diffusers is a sign of air leaks and fallen ducts.
  • Uneven temperatures from the diffusers is a sign of inadequate duct insulation.
  • Accumulation around the diffusers and debris discharge indicates dirty ducts.
  • Musty odors from ducted airflow indicates mold and mildew.
  • High energy bills often points to the ductwork.

Ductwork Inspection

Leaky and uninsulated air ducts waste energy and contribute to poor indoor air quality. A thorough ductwork inspection is best performed by an HVAC professional, but you can do a basic inspection using the following tips:

  • You’ll need a flashlight, smoke pencil and proper safety wear for venturing into the attic or crawl space.
  • Visually inspect all accessible ductwork for damaged and inadequate insulation. Wet or damp insulation is considered damaged, since it can no longer maintain its R-value.
  • With the cooling or heating system running, use a smoke pencil to find air leaks at duct seams.
  • Look for disconnected or fallen air ducts.
  • Back in the living spaces, remove two or three diffusers and the return grille and air filter. Using the flashlight, peer into the ducts and look for debris and mold accumulation on the walls.
  • Inspect the evaporator coil for debris, mold and mildew. If components are contaminated, you may expect the same or more of the ductwork.

For more information about a ductwork inspection, or to schedule professional ductwork service for your Sarasota and Bradenton area home, contact Aqua Plumbing & Air.

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Dealing With Springtime Allergies? A/C Maintenance Can Help

springtime allergiesSpringtime allergies can be a real nuisance, especially combined with the Sarasota and Bradenton area’s sometimes uncomfortable humidity levels. While A/C maintenance may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re looking for allergy relief, a little A/C care really can help.

Keep Your Filters Clean

Over time, the dust, pollen, mold spores, pet hair and other allergens in your home’s air accumulate on your HVAC system’s air filter. Leave the filter in too long and that built-up layer of debris can start to break loose, sending allergens into indoor air via your ducts and supply registers.

To prevent this, always use a clean air filter. While 1-inch fiberglass filters usually require monthly replacement, higher-efficiency models can last six months or longer. Even so, check your filter monthly. If it’s coated with dust, replace it with a fresh one.

Take Care of Your Ductwork

The inside of air registers and vents as well as their coverings tend to gather dust, so check yours for buildup. Don’t forget the out-of-the-way registers such as those behind furniture or in unused rooms. If the grills look dirty, remove them and wipe them down thoroughly. Then use your vacuum’s hose attachment to clean out the inside of the duct opening.

If you’ve noticed an unusual amount of dust in your home, contact a heating and cooling professional for a duct inspection and, if necessary, cleaning.

Look Out for mold

When mold develops in your ductwork, it produces tiny reproductive spores that can trigger springtime allergies. While mold growth in the ducts isn’t a common problem, it’s worth checking for periodically as a part of routine A/C maintenance.

Look inside the accessible parts of your ducts. If you see splotchy discolorations, this is likely to be mold. Dampness suggests your ducts may have mold growth. Also check your:

  • Return air vents
  • Evaporator coil
  • Condensate drip pan

If you’d like to schedule professional A/C maintenance to help keep your springtime allergies at bay, contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.

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How Duct Sealing Affects A/C Efficiency

duct sealingThe HVAC system in your Sarasota home acts much like your own respiratory system, circulating, filtering and conditioning the indoor air before delivering it to living spaces via the duct system. As the last line of defense, the ductwork needs to be free of cracks or holes. Duct sealing affects A/C efficiency, as well as the comfort and safety of your family.

Why a Good Seal Matters

The average home loses 20 percent or more of its conditioned air through poorly connected ductwork or leaks, which is a great incentive to inspect and repair the ducts in your own home. In addition to a loss of comfort and efficiency, leaky ducts can allow pollutants such as carbon monoxide, chemical fumes, car exhaust and mold to be drawn into the HVAC system, impacting indoor air quality. Signs of problem ductwork can include:

  • Excessive year-round utility bills
  • One or more rooms that are difficult to cool or heat
  • One or more rooms that never feel comfortable
  • Finding flexible ducts that are twisted or folded
  • Ductwork installed in the garage, attic or crawl space

Duct Sealing Tips

  • Inspect all visible ductwork, looking for disconnected joints, cracks or holes.
  • Inspect all connections at registers and vents, looking for a tight seal where they meet the ceiling, floor and wall.
  • For breaks spanning less than one quarter of an inch, make repairs using duct mastic or foil backed tape. For larger gaps, you’ll need to use a webbed drywall tape or a premium tape with a high heat rating. Duct tape should be avoided altogether, as it tends to deteriorate over time.
  • Consider hiring a qualified HVAC contractor to make repairs in unconditioned spaces, to ensure the integrity of the seal.

For more information on how duct sealing affects A/C efficiency, give us a call at Aqua Plumbing & Air. We’ve been serving homeowners in Sarasota and Bradenton since 1974.

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