With a tropical climate, Southwest Florida, particularly Marco Island and Naples are a destination for many. Whether out enjoying the beaches or exploring the shops, this climate can feel like paradise. However, if not managed, the weather that feels like paradise can quickly become a nightmare for you, your wallet, and your home. Surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Southwest Florida averages a relative humidity of 75% making it one of the most humid climates in the United States.
If you have ever gone for a walk, especially during the summer months, you will quickly notice yourself becoming hot and sticky and the air feels almost thick. The reason for this is humidity, the amount of water vapor in the air. The more water vapor in the air, the higher the humidity will be. There are a few ways we measure humidity. The most scientific is absolute humidity. The total amount of water vapor in the air. However, most of us are not scientists and we tend to view humidity based on how it makes us feel. That is why most often we use the other two measurements, relative humidity and dew point.
The temperature of the air determines how much water vapor the air can hold. The amount of water vapors the air holds relative to its capacity is called relative humidity. The warmer the air the more water vapor it can hold.
Amount of Water Vapor in the Air / Capacity for Water Vapor the Air can Hold
For example, when air cools, such as early mornings, or late nights, the relative humidity increases to the point where the air cannot hold any more moisture.
When the amount of water vapor in the air exceeds the amount of water vapor the air can hold the vapor begins to condense into dew, hence the name, dewpoint. This is why when you walk out in the morning the car, the grass, everything is covered in dew. The air simply cannot hold anymore moisture!
The reason it is important to manage and monitor humidity is because of the detrimental impact it can have on your home. Southwest Florida (Bonita Springs, Estero, Marco Island, and Naples) as we mentioned averages 75% relative humidity throughout the year, but during the months of May to November the peak relative humidity averages over 90%!
Therefore, it is critical to manage and monitor humidity during this period. This can be especially troublesome as many residents are snowbirds, part-time residents, who usually go back home during that time and are not around to do so.
There are several ways humidity can negatively impact a home in Southwest Florida.
Cracked floorboards, peeling finishes and worse buckled floors can occur when the floorboards receive too much moisture from the sub floor. Causing warping and cupping of the floor. Furthermore, this may also be a sign of mold and mildew begin the walls themselves.
High humidity levels can cause paint and wallpaper to peel or flake. Furthermore, this may also be a sign of mold and mildew behind the wall itself.
When humidity levels are high, organic materials (i.e., wood, cotton, and leather) are the first places for mold growth. This could mean structural damage to the home, furniture, or even inside your vehicle. That is why for snowbirds it is so critical to properly prepare your home before leaving for the summer and this includes your vehicle and garage.
Mold and mildew are the worse byproduct of high humidity. Once humidity levels are above 55% mold and mildew can start to grow within 24-48 hours. Mold and mildew can impact both your health and your home.
Mold can cause respiratory issues, shortness of breath, induce an allergic response, amongst other things.
Further, mold causes structural damage to our homes and most homeowners’ insurance does not cover mold that results from high humidity. This means you have to pay out of pocket! Making matters worse, mold can be difficult to detect which means the problem can exacerbate quickly.
One of the most important things you can do is set your thermostat fan setting to Auto. This will remove large amounts of moisture from the air in your home. To understand just how important it truly is, check out our article What fan settings should I be using on my thermostat?
To ensure your HVAC unit is running at peak performance it is critical to replace your AC filters. When AC filters are clogged with dirt and debris it slows down air flow and increases wear and tear on your unit. The increased workload on your unit decreases its ability for proper air flow minimizing its affect on naturally reducing the humidity in the home.
It is important to have your filters replaced if you are gone for prolong periods of time. Most Home Watch Companies will replace your filter for free if you provide spares and the Air Handler is easily accessible.
Ensuring your condensate line is not clogged is vital. When the HVAC unit pulls moisture out of the air that moisture condenses into water and drains out the condensate line. Therefore, if the line is clogged the moisture is unable to drain and just gets pushed back into the house! Every few months you should clean your condensate line.
Also, make sure to have your HVAC serviced twice a year especially right before the summer months. Your Home Watch Professional should always bring cleaning solution and a wet vacuum in case of an emergency.
Dehumidifiers operate by pulling in warm humid air and cooling it over a cold coil. The cold coil then condenses the moisture within the air into liquid. The dehumidifier will either drain the water out of the home or store the water in a tank. If gone for long periods of time it is best to use a self-emptying dehumidifier as the tank may reach capacity before your Home Watch Professional returns.
Dehumidifiers can be set to a desired humidity level and will work to maintain that desired setting. Unlike humidistats, dehumidifiers will not affect your thermostat.
Keeping doors open within the home will help with air circulation throughout the house. Remember, even leaving the closet doors open can help, while costing you nothing!
If humidity levels are not as low as desired, one of the easiest and most effective steps is to lower the temperature on the thermostat within the home.
This will kick the fan on and pull additional moisture from the home, the fan will run more frequent, helping maintain a lower humidity level.
Some actions that can be taken to help manage humidity may not be as beneficial as you may think.
Desiccants like DampRids pull moisture out of the air where it dissolves into a liquid brine saltwater solution. However, given the size of most homes and the persistent nature of humidity in tropical climates DampRids are not a solution and need to be monitored frequently by the help of a Home Watch Professional if you are gone for weeks or months at a time.
However, desiccants like DampRids can be helpful in discovering if you have a humidity problem. If your DampRids are acquiring a lot of moisture, it signifies to a person monitoring your home while you are away, such as your Home Watch Professional that there is a humidity problem within the home.
Keeping your ceiling fan running on low can help air circulation which in turn can help push cooler air throughout a home but the impact is quite inconsequential. Further the ceiling fan does not lower humidity or even cool the temperature of the air.
Humidistats are sensors that maintain desired humidity levels while providing humidity readings. However, there are several issues with using a humidistat.
Your thermostats become subordinate to humidistats; this means that regardless of the temperature you have set at your thermostat the temperature of your home will soar as the moisture in the air increases, as the desired humidity level of the humidistat takes precedent.
Therefore, if the A/C breaks down, the temperature of the home can be well above the acceptable range giving the homeowner or their Home Watch Professional little time to catch the issue before mold is in full bloom.
Further, Humidistats are not always accurate. It is common to find a humidistat off by 10% to 20%. This is very detrimental in humid climates like SWFL where mold can start at 55%.
It is important when homeowners are gone for prolonged periods of time, such as snowbirds, part-time residents, to monitor humidity levels when they are away. The two best ways to monitor humidity levels when you are a combination of Smart Home Technology and Home Watch Services.
There are a host of products out there such as wi-fi and data enabled thermostats that allow you to monitor humidity levels from your phone. Further, there are humidity sensors like the Temp Stick you can find on Amazon for around $150. These devices are fantastic when they are used in conjunction with periodic monitoring.
However, like all electronic equipment, theses devices have a limited shelf life, are susceptible to malfunctioning, and can lose accuracy over time. Therefore, it is vital to have a professional Home Watch Company come at least every other week to perform routine checks. High humidity is a potential signal of greater issues. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
A Home Watch professional performs several tasks to monitor humidity. During your home watch professional’s routine checks they should be visually inspecting the home for any signs of moisture. Further, with the use of an independent Hygrometer your home watch professional should be inspecting the humidity and thermometer sensors in the home as most of the sensors over time lose their calibration and their accuracy starts to wane or malfunction.
Your Home Watch Professional should be recording humidity readings every visit to identify abnormal readings and outliers in the data. An experienced Home Watch Professional should be able to gauge the feel of humidity as soon as they walk through the door.
If moisture or high humidity is detected your Home Watch professional should be capable of taking the necessary actions to assess the situation and enact the appropriate course of action. Remember, high humidity can be a precursor or signal of deeper or greater issues not the issue in and of itself.
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