When it comes to lowering their utility bill, most homeowners think that the only options are making an expensive purchase or accepting discomfort.
In actuality, there may be a cheap and simple solution you could implement today if you wanted to.
While “Tomorrow will be a hot and humid day” is not quite as scary as “It was a dark and stormy night”, it’s actually not far off. A “dry heat”, on the other hand, is the best kind of heat to have if you’re going to sweat anyway.
The reason for this lies, in fact, in our sweat. Water, you see, evaporates faster or more slowly, depending not only on how hot it is but also on how dry the surrounding air is.
Playing Temperature and Indoor Humidity Off Against Each Other
When most people think about heating and air conditioning, they probably imagine a kind of brute-force approach where heat is pushed from one place to another.
Especially in a carbon-conscious world, though, the goal of a well-designed system is actually to use as little power as possible.
Double glazing, green walls, and passive heating and cooling are all now common features in new buildings.
Specifically, since regulating indoor humidity is usually much cheaper than altering the temperature, we can change that instead of cranking up the boiler or A/C to stay in the human comfort zone:
That is, we can often save money by turning on a humidifier instead of the heater.
Or, save money by turning on a dehumidifier before it becomes necessary to involve the energy-hogging air conditioning unit.
Planning to Save Real Money Every Month
Planning your home’s climate control system and green features shouldn’t be done too hastily, or be based solely on what some salesman tells you. Leasing a subsidized solar water heater or photovoltaic panel, for instance, often means that the lessor keeps the tax break for themselves while you pay their bills.
Similarly, a manufacturer claiming their products are “eco-friendly” doesn’t mean all that much by itself.
Getting a home energy audit done is an excellent first step toward reducing your energy consumption. This usually takes an hour or two, covers indoor climate control as well as other energy expenditures, and will soon pay for itself. You will usually be provided with a semi-formal plan detailing the steps you can take, ranging from long-term options to things you can implement today.
Finding ways to better regulate your indoor environment certainly falls into the latter category. Most efficiency surveyors will carry a hygrometer (humidity meter) around with them, but you can also purchase one for your own use.
The Signs of High and Low Indoor Humidity
Air conditioners automatically remove moisture from the air while they work, releasing it as drops of water (ideally outside). Some include dedicated dehumidifier systems, but these may not be sufficient to deal with extremely damp air. At best, this will increase electricity consumption as they go into overdrive to deal with conditions beyond what their designers anticipated.
In fact, as the A/C cools down your home, the (relative) indoor humidity actually increases. If your windows are fogging up, your skin feels clammy, or the place is starting to smell like a mushroom farm, it’s very likely that your humidity levels are quite high.
During summer in very dry climates, or in winter where buildings are heated, the opposite is also a possibility. The most common signs of this are getting shocked by static electricity as you walk across a synthetic carpet, or developing a dry throat.
How to Deal With a Humidity Problem
If you have the money to spend, the single most effective way of dealing with an indoor humidity problem is to install a whole-house dehumidifier that can integrate with your existing A/C system. In most homes, though, a more economical solution is likely to be one or more standalone dehumidifiers. These are much cheaper, as the worst of the problem is probably only in a few rooms. Steam escaping from a stove hood or shower, for instance, is likely to leave the air near your kitchen and bathroom feeling muggy.
If you sometimes experience low humidity and/or want to reduce winter heating bills, you might want to get a humidifier/dehumidifier which can perform both functions. Combination devices that include an air filter are also available. Indoor air quality is something that increasingly worries health professionals, so installing one of these may be more important than you think.
If you don’t have the money available at present, though, there are a few simpler tricks you can try.
Finally, although this would normally be the last thing to do if you’re worried about heating or cooling a closed building, you might have to address the issue of ventilation.
Installing an extractor fan near appliances such as clothes dryers may work wonders, especially if these are in a room with few windows.
In fact, even turning on a few fans can help to reduce indoor humidity. Even if they don’t really connect to the outside, simply moving stale air around can have a noticeable effect. Turning on one appliance to save money on another’s electricity usage may seem weird, but it does actually work.