Moisture barriers can help reduce humidity in your home. | Photo courtesy of Dennis Schroder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
It's been a rainy summer here is Colorado, and with rain comes the potential for mold, mildew, or mustiness. My family had all sorts of problems with our cork floors bowing due to the excessive rain, and it got me thinking about the best way to keep moisture where it belongs…outside! Keeping your home moisture free will not only make it more comfortable, but you'll use less energy when you're not battling all that warm icky air.
First you have to find the location and size of your moisture villain. Is it in the attic? The basement? In a bathroom or on the ceiling? If it is a localized water spot, you are probably dealing with a leak, if the problem affects a larger area like a whole room or wall, it might be caused by humidity.
Leaks, Puddles, and Mold, Oh My…
If you are dealing with a leak, it is best to turn off the water as soon as possible to reduce the chance of mold and limit the amount of water wasted. You may need an expert to repair your leaks, and if the leak has caused significant water damage or mold you may need to have the area remediated.
If you are fixing the leak yourself, be sure to dry out the entire area thoroughly and replace any moldy insulation or dry wall. If it is a minor leak, try using caulk for faucets, ceiling fixtures, water pipes, drains, bathtubs, and other plumbing fixtures. Use weatherstripping for windows and doors.
Tackling Indoor Humidity
First make sure your home has the proper barrier to prevent moisture from creeping into your home and causing humidity levels to rise. If your home has a crawl space, the dirt floor should be covered in a polyethylene ground cover. But make sure the soil is dry and there is no standing water before installing the barrier. If need be, use fans to completely dry out the area.
You can also use ventilation fans to control moisture, especially in kitchens and bathrooms. Be sure to check that fans are venting directly outside. Sometimes clothing dryer venting ducts become damaged or clogged with lint. If your dryer duct isn't properly venting this can be dangerous and create higher levels of humidity in your home. Clean out your dryer ducts at least once a year, and if your vent duct is damaged, replace with a metal duct.
Sealing air leaks can also prevent humidity in your home. On a windy day, test your home for air leaks by holding a lit incense stick or smoke pen next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other places where air might leak. If the smoke stream travels horizontally you've found an air leak. You can use our DIY savings project to learn how to seal air leaks with caulk.
To learn more about how moisture moves in and out of a home, visit Energy Saver's Moisture Control page. Eliminating the threat of moisture and mold will not only make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient, but it will also help keep your family healthy and improve your home's structural durability.