Fall is finally here, and that means that homeowners will soon be cranking their furnaces up and running their space heaters to make their homes more comfortable. Space heating alone accounts for around 45% of energy bills, but those extra costs are often accompanied by a lot of dry air. Most of us know that humidifiers can help fix that problem and add moisture when needed. But are there certain cases that might require homeowners to run their residential dehumidifiers during winter?
The answer is yes, but only in specific circumstances. If you do need to use residential dehumidifiers during the colder months, you’ll likely need them only in your basement. Because basements don’t have much exposure to the natural heat and light the sun provides, they can easily become damp throughout the year. This makes them the perfect location for mildew and mold to grow. But even if you do need a dehumidifier in your basement during summer, that doesn’t mean you’ll need to run it in the winter.
Whether or not running residential dehumidifiers in winter is appropriate for your situation will depend on two main factors: the temperatures in your area or home and the humidity of your climate.
If you live in an area that experiences warm weather all year long OR you have a heated basement, you may benefit from running a dehumidifier. Ideally, any room should stay above 60 degrees Fahrenheit for the best dehumidifier performance, although some models are designed for 40 or 50 degree temperatures.
For homeowners who live in cold weather climates and whose basements stay chilly, running a dehumidifier won’t do much good. In fact, between the lower temperatures and the water vapor attracted by the unit, you might end up with frozen coils and a non-functional device if you try to use it under these conditions. Most of the time, you won’t really need a dehumidifier in cold weather, anyway. You’ll need to add more moisture rather than removing it.
Just because you live in a warm climate doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have use for a dehumidifier. Your climate also needs to have relatively high humidity levels to warrant it. In other words, Californians probably won’t need to run a dehumidifier in winter, but Floridians might. (That said, many Florida residents don’t have basements due to the high probability of mildew and mold growth.) As a general rule, it’s a good idea to use a dehumidifier in winter if your humidity levels stay above 50% for most of the time.
To make sure, you can put up a wall humidistat to measure a room’s relative humidity. Be sure to keep an eye on humidity levels and turn off your dehumidifier when humidity levels drop low. You may also be able to set your unit to maintain an automatic threshold for humidity levels (which should be around 30%). But if the room never reaches that 50% range, chances are that you don’t have a need for a dehumidifier during the winter months.
For most families, dry winter weather will require more humidity, not less, to maintain higher levels of comfort. But if you live in an area that’s both hot and humid for the entire year, you might benefit from running a dehumidifier in your basement or in other damp areas of your home.