Managing humidity, airflow and temperature

Water damage in your home or business is bad enough, due to the sheer level of damage that can be inflicted. Even as little as an inch of water can cause hundreds or even thousands of dollars in damage. It is always imperative to begin the water damage restoration process as quickly as possible following any water damage or flood event.

Humidity around window frame image

Excess humidity condenses into water droplets

Unfortunately, there is also a secondary problem that goes hand in hand with water damage, namely the problems that can arise as the result of higher levels of humidity. The most prominent problem of course, is mold damage, which can appear in as little as 48-72 hours, pose serious health hazards, and may be next to impossible to remediate. It’s important to understand that it’s the air being circulated through the structure that will dry out the home, and the thirstier the air is, the quicker the structure will dry. The warmer the air and less humid, the more thirsty it will be and the more efficiently the structure will dry.

It is a known fact that there is often a quick spike in relative humidity (RH) levels in a structure when air movement (through fans) is turned on. And it’s imperative to get this spike in humidity under control by means of either exchanging the air inside the building with the outside air or increasing the dehumidification equipment. Most times a restoration company knows this and will install dehumidifiers while other control processes are being conducted like water extraction long before the rest of the equipment in order to get a handle on the spike in RH

There are several long term effects of higher humidity levels within the home. Condensation may form on windows or water pipes, and sometimes even on the walls (which may cause paint to blister or wallpaper to peel). If condensation forms inside electrical items, it may cause irreparable damage and even be dangerous if the unit is activated. Metal may begin to rust and wood will rot and warp; this may cause doors and draws to stick. Wood cabinets and other wood pieces can swell and become distorted, and some won’t return back to their normal shape even when the humidity levels return to a normal level.

So how does one combat excess humidity in the home?  The single most effective solution is proper air circulation, getting as much air as possible moving throughout the structure in order to swap bad air (humid air) with good air (warm, dry air). Opening all windows and doors will go a long way in this process. You can also utilize dehumidifiers, high velocity fans, blowers, and other air movers to speed the process along. The more units you have, the better off you are. Just remember to move them around every few hours to ensure complete drying coverage. It may require a couple of days to completely dry everything out.

Excess humidity resulting in mold image

mold in the wall from excess humidity

It is also important to maintain proper temperature in the wake of water damage and subsequent repair efforts in order for dehumidifiers to work effectively. Dehumidifiers have an optimal temperature range in order to pull the most moisture from the air, and most of them are between about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If the problem occurs during cold weather, turn the heat on to aid in drying. If the outside temperature is cool, then turn on the heat. Basically, do the opposite of what Mother Nature is giving you.

To remove excess humidity and keep humidity levels within normal parameters, you should make use of a dehumidifier, positioning it and running it in the affected area until the humidity levels are back to normal. In most areas of the country, “normal” means a humidity level of less than 40%.

Lower standard dehumidifier units can be purchased at your local Lowes or Home Depot, with excellent, efficient models available for rent from places likeSunbeltrentals. The larger more efficient models are the ones most good water damage mitigation companies use. The more pints of water that can be extracted from the air, the better. These units do require periodic maintenance, and it is always advised to buy one with a warranty from a company that will stand behind that warranty.

In situations not involving water damage, humidity in the home can be kept down by simply keeping excess water away from the structure. Make sure that roofs are properly sealed, with no leaks into the attic. Basements and crawlspaces should be similarly sealed, and also inspected on a regular basis for potential problems, such as small leaks or condensation. Make sure the ducting is connected to the clothes dryer correctly and is carrying the moist hot air and exhausting it outside. If you have an exhaust fan in your bath room then make sure you use it every time you shower or bath – let it run for at least 30 minutes after showering. If you don’t have an exhaust fan in your bathroom then leave the window open instead. You should also make sure that your air conditioning is properly sized for the home. More is not always better. Incorrectly sized equipment can result in increased operational costs. Make sure your system is appropriate for your home and properly maintained at all times.

About Dan Camara

Dan Camara is the CEO of PuroClean Home Rescue in Sacramento. We have been helping the good folks of Northern California with water damage dryouts, mold removal and fire cleanups for nearly 5 years now. Connect with me on Google+
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