March 13, 2017 by Blake

Pre-Spring is over and Second Winter is upon us.  For a bit there it was glorious.  Do you remember?  It was wet and squishy and muddy and dehumidifiers were kicking on all over the place.  The whole area got very wet very quickly.  And it's about to get real wet real quick - up to TWO FEET of wetness, some people are saying.

That's all going to melt, the the creeks will rush, the lakes will fill up, and it'll still be cold.  It'll be cold and damp.  Happens every year in Ithaca.

Spring and fall are what we in the home performance biz call the "shoulder seasons."  The term was coined by the travel industry to refer to off-peak travel times.  Peak travel times are summer (school/summer vacations) and winter (to GET AWAY FROM THE BRUTALITY OF WINTER.  Or ski.  One of those.).

Spring and fall aren't times you think about insulation, or heating, or air conditioning, or dehumidifiers, or your house.  In the spring, you're tired of winter.  In the fall, you miss summer.  Your house can get a bit neglected.

But here's what happens in the shoulder seasons:

  • The environment is cool...
  • ...and damp.
  • Your house cools off, especially crawlspaces and basements.
  • The dampness condenses on things, like floor framing, attic sheathing, inside your walls, ON your walls, all around you.
  • Now your house is damp, but you're still heating it, so it's warmish and dampish.

And BOOM, you've got mold.  Spring is when mold gets going, and continues through the summer and fall.  Mold is a moisture problem.

Condensation on your windows?  That's not a window problem, that's a moisture problem.

Moldy roof deck?  A moisture problem.

Rotting floor joists?  A moisture problem.

Asthma & allergies?  Made worse by a moisture problem.  Raise your hand if you've got "spring allergies."

If you have a crawlspace or a dirt-floor basement, here's what you do:

  • Encapsulate it.  I can help.  This keeps moisture from seeping up into your house.  Don't ignore your crawlspace, embrace it.
  • Air seal it.  Also something I do.  That helps to keep some moisture from squeezing in.
  • Install a big dehumidifier.  I do that too.

You could try to install a small dehumidifier.  They're cheap and you could go buy one right now.  If you have a small crawlspace, it could work.  They work great in small spaces.  In big spaces...not so much.  The bucket fills up right away, they shut off, and they get overwhelmed easily.

There's also the problem that they're prone to catching on fire.  Here's one recall.  Here's another.  And another.  Sad!  I got tired of keeping track, so quit doing it.

I don't install small dehumidifiers, and I don't install made-in-China equipment.  Over-rated!  I install stuff that's made in Wisconsin.  We still make stuff in this country, you know.  Never stopped Making America Great in the first place.  The SMALLEST unit I install weighs 55 pounds.  Great for crawlspaces.

Here's what you get:

  • Reliability.  These things are built beefily and have a great warranty.  They weigh a lot too.
  • Filtration.  They've got great filters.  The best.
  • Ductability.  They can be ducted to suit - put the unit in one place, move the air to more places.
  • Control.  Set the unit at your preferred target and walk away.  It'll turn itself on & off as it needs to.
  • Energy savings.  They suck your spaces dry so quickly that they're not on very much, unlike small units that run & run & run & run up your energy bill while they're at it.
  • Sizing.  They come in different sizes.  Several.
  • Fans.  One of the best things about these is the fans on them.  Small, wimpy units sit in one spot and hope the moisture gets to them so they can work.  Big, powerful units mix the air better so you don't get dry spots and wet spots.  They really reach back into the dark, damp corners you're afraid to go into...

My dehumidifier's been turning itself on pretty regularly.  If you had one, it would too.  Want to know more?  On to part 2.

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Matt Redmond

Blake is a motivated action-oriented wiz kid with just a touch of wise ass. (ed: we prefer "spunky.") He clearly cares for our lived-in environment and has been a diligent carbon warrior for quite some time.