A Growing Issue
Indoor air quality is a subject that has seen growing attention in our country for several years. And for good reason. According to the EPA, the average American spends as much as 90% of their time indoors! This means that we spend the vast majority of our lives surrounded by a variety of pollutants and irritants, which can be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor air. And, data shows that as our homes get tighter and more energy efficient, we are actually experiencing a rise in pollutants. But what can we do?
What’s In Our Air?
Look, this isn’t a lifestyle blog, so I’m not going to tell you to get outside more. Sure, that’s great, but that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to discuss the effects of humidity on your health and home. There are several common irritants found in your typical indoor air. And a great many of them can be fixed, or at least lessened, by properly controlling the humidity in your home. First, I’m going to share an image produced by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). This will provide you with a real quick visual overview of how humidity levels can effect indoor air quality.
You see, humans don’t really like a lot of humidity. Too much is bad for us. Also, too much humidity is REALLY good for things that are bad for us. We thrive best in that middle ground, 30-60% humidity zone. As you can see, there’s a lot to talk about on this chart, but for the purposes of this article, we’re only going to cover a single, insidious pest. The dust mite.
You Are A Total Snack
Dust mites are microscopic organisms that typically live in soft goods in our homes. Places like sofas, carpets, drapes and mattresses are prime real estate for the dust mite. And their main food source is you. Specifically your skin. The average person sheds between 1 and 1.5 pounds of skin every year. These skin cells that we drop are the dust mite’s favorite meal. Which isn’t so bad, really, circle of life and all. However, like all animals, when they eat they…eliminate. And that’s where we run into problems. A good portion of what we think of as “dust” in a home is actually a mixture of dust mite bodies and feces. And as a general rule, we’re highly allergic to it. In fact, dust mite allergens are one of the biggest leading causes of respiratory allergic reactions. And I know, all of this is gross. But, there’s good news. There are solutions to your dust mite problems, and they are fairly simple.
Dust Mites Don’t Live In the Desert
An interesting fun fact about dust mites that you can use to wow all of your friends at a party is that, unlike the friend you agreed to be a designated driver for, dust mites don’t drink. Like all animals, they require moisture. But instead of consuming it the way normal critters do, they absorb moisture from the air. Which is why, if you’ll notice in the chart above, they need a minimum humidity level of 50% to survive. Any less, and they’re unable to absorb sufficient moisture to sustain themselves. So then, if only someone offered a convenient solution to that problem…
A Convenient Solution To Your Problem
A high quality, well-built dehumidifier will have no problem keeping the humidity in a home below 50%, assuming you don’t have an underlying moisture problem. Notice I said “high quality”. A big box store dehumidifier MIGHT be able to get the job done, but I would never recommend one. Which is an article for another day. Altra Dry sells and installs the two highest-quality dehumidifiers on the market, Aprilaire and Santa Fe (Both made in the USA). Anyhow, after you’ve dehydrated the bugs, it’s a simple matter of regular cleaning to remove their leavings, and you’re good to go! A note on this, I HIGHLY recommend using a vacuum cleaner that is truly HEPA rated, not one that says something like “HEPA-type filter”. A true HEPA filter will cost more, but will have been certified by a lab to actually work, instead of by a marketing department. The same thing goes with air cleaners. If they don’t have certified HEPA filters, you’re just wasting your time and money.
There’s More To the Story
Of course, we’ve only just scratched the surface of indoor air quality issues, as well as allergens, but I promise to cover all these issues and more in upcoming posts. As you can see though, moisture is a huge driving factor for all of the things that we consider harmful to ourselves and our loved ones. So stay tuned for more on the benefits of dehumidifiers, and the drastic changes they can affect in your home’s health.