Fresh Air's Professional recommendations for a variety of common issues
Seeing moisture drip down your windows? Or perhaps your builder has suggested that you look into a solution to prevent a future issue. Well, here's some information as to the what, why and how, as well as our suggestions for solving a moisture issue in the home.
Overall, the conservation of heat energy in the home is a great idea. Who really wants to spend more to condition air? The concern there is the pollutants that may become trapped in the home and the
inhabitants breath those pollutants over and over and the affect that will have
on their health. As nearly anyone will tell you, sticking a bag over your head for
a length of time isn’t a very wise decision; just because the bag is bigger in the
case of a home, the equation doesn’t change. According to the World Health
Organization, 80% of our diseases and cancers are environmentally caused,
i.e we expose ourselves to things that harm us. Some of those things come
from our building materials, but many more likely come from the products and
chemicals we bring into our homes. Furniture, cleaners, computers, et cetera.
The home can be quite hazardous when it comes to air pollutants. Moisture is a big factor in that, but not the only factor. For more on Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) check out our SBS section linked here.
Seeing signs of moisture build-up in various seasons is quite normal, though it does not mean it’s the time of year causing the issue. Nor should one assume that since the problem appears to resolve itelf, it’s actually resolved. Several years ago, long before I knew much of anything about ventilation I was living with my mother. Every summer her basement would become quite damp- a fact we attributed incorrectly to the fact that it was humid outside. This went on for about five years. Suddenly one summer, it wasn’t just damp, it become sopping. I felt as though there was something more to the problem and after some investigating I found a small hairline crack in the back of a toilet in the basement bathroom. So we called a plumber and they swapped out the toilet; problem solved right? Wrong. With the dark of the basement and how saturated things had become, overnight, mushrooms grew in the carpet and within a few weeks the drywall had black spots popping up near the floor. Had we tried to educate ourselves about moisture, she might not have had to replace nearly all the drywall in her basement.
If you have a mold issue like what I described above, we recommend having the mold remediated and then adding ventilation or dehumidification, first to stop the issue and then to prevent it in the future.
Heat and moisture are similar in how they behave. They both try to move from more, to less. Whether it's a hot summer and the air is pushing in, or the dead of a wee January morn with all the heat clambering to get out- the attempt to prevent discomfort is roughly the same. This is called a thermal barrier and it functions to prevent the movement of heat energy from one side to the other. There is also the moisture/vapor barrier, also called a water shield which does the same for moisture.
What happens when warm moist air brushes against a cool dry surface, like that of a glass of ice water in the summer? Of course you already know, condensation right? The same thing that happens to the window in the winter because inside- it’s summer! 68° most of the time, while outside is a glass of ice water. But where does this analogy end? Does it end at the wet windows dripping water onto the sill? Does it end on the cold stone or cement of your basement walls, condensing moisture and ruining cardboard boxes? Or does it end in the attic, where moisture is condensing against the underside of the roof, dripping water down to the floorboards and soaking the wood in the dark, fostering the perfect environment for an experiment on how mold can absolutely ruin the structure of a house while simultaneously making the inhabitants sicker and sicker without ever realizing. Or does it end with the inhabitants deciding to break the analogy and try to treat the symptoms of the house and prevent the issue entirely?
Winter Moisture Solutions
When it's humid in the house and dry outside like it is in the winter, exchanging your humid air for drier air will lower your overall humidity. Heat and Energy recovery ventilators are a great way to do this as they also retain a large percentage of your heat so you're not entirely reheating all the air (like you would with an open window in the winter.)
The reason this is effective is as the dry air comes in, that air has plenty of space to carry more moisture. It picks up moisture off of surfaces and out of the air. While this is a great strategy, it's important to keep in mind this only works if it's drier outside than in, otherwise you'll do the same thing- in reverse. In our professional opinion, as long as the air is always moving- bringing in a little extra moisture isn't an issue.
Summer Humidity Solutions
An air exchanger is great, and in the middle of summer it loses some of it's effectiveness for the same reasons it's effective when it's cold (see paragraph 2 above.)
A common question we get is what if my house is damp in the summer AND the winter?
If that's the case you've likely got a major source of moisture somewhere in the home. While an air exchanger can help in the winter, and a dehumidifer is great for summer- if you've got a stream running through your basement that needs to be priority numero uno. The slightly less but still quite "common" moisture sources outside the normal ones we've mentioned are:
Leaking roofs and ice dams
High humidity in bathrooms and kitchens
Flooding in basement
Pooling water at foundation
Condensation on windows and exterior walls