Humidification & Dehumidification

Trends Heighten Need for Humidity Control

August 8, 2011
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There are currently several trends converging to make humidity control an increasingly important aspect of a contractor’s sales techniques/profitability. Most importantly, consumers are becoming more educated and more aware of their needs for humidification and dehumidification.

INCREASED CONSUMER AWARENESS

According to Peter L. Blaha, product marketing manager, Aprilaire, “Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the need for humidity control. The primary benefit that proper control can provide is comfort, but it is also to help protect your home and possessions.”

As more and more homeowners begin to understand that controlling humidity is crucial to controlling comfort, the interest in humidification and dehumidification solutions will continue to grow. Bala Ekambaram, director of product marketing for IAQ, Honeywell, said, “The awareness of indoor air quality solutions is growing faster in the last decade than it has in the five previous years. Homeowners are seeking solutions to address their discomfort.”

And both Blaha and Ekambaram pointed out that it is HVAC contractors who can seize this opportunity to solve homeowners’ discomfort through a whole-house approach to controlling humidity. Blaha noted, “HVAC contractors have the unique opportunity to provide homeowners with whole-house solutions rather than the portable items on retail shelves and online.”

Ekambaram added, “HVAC contractors are in a prime position to offer solutions to deliver whole home comfort in a way portable devices cannot.”

Not only are consumers becoming more aware of their comfort levels, they are also becoming more interested in energy efficiency. According to Davis Powers, CEO, Skuttle Indoor Air Quality Products, “Thoughtful homeowners are concerned about health, economics, and conservation, all of which create opportunities for contractors to solve IAQ problems for their residential customers. Consumers today, especially the millennials (also known as Gen Y), insist on value. They seek solutions that contribute to wellness, provide a fair return on their investment, and that conserve energy.”

On the commercial side, customers are also seeking energy-efficient dehumidification equipment, said Paul Stewart, director of sales, marketing, and service, Desert Aire Corp. And that has led to the creation of standards that help consumers “to compare refrigeration-based dehumidification equipment much like energy efficiency ratings (EER) have done for air conditioning equipment.” These standards include ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, AHRI Standard 910 for Performance Rating of Indoor Pool Dehumidifiers, and the soon-to-be-released AHRI Standard 920P for Performance Rating of DX-Dedicated Outdoor Air System Units. According to Stewart, “ASHRAE 62.1 has defined for some time how much outside air must be introduced into a commercial building and has also stated that relative humidity should be less than 65 percent. With the acceptance of AHRI 920P, our customers will finally be able to effectively compare dehumidification equipment on an apples-to-apples basis so that they can select the most energy efficient products to treat the code ventilation.”

TIGHT CONSTRUCTION

Another trend that is heightening the need for humidity control is the continued push for tight construction. According to Joe Hlavacek, business development manager, Ultra-Aire, “As homes are built tighter, natural ventilation (air leakage) is reduced, which increases the need for ventilation to maintain healthy IAQ. These homes also tend to trap in moisture and other contaminants that are generated in the home. Cooking, showering, breathing, and other day-to-day activities of the home’s occupants generate a moisture load that needs to be removed.”

Specifically, Hlavacek pointed out that spray foam insulation in homes holds in much more moisture. “Spray foam insulation can provide significant long-term energy savings for the homeowner, but traps the most moisture and contaminants because of its air sealing qualities. These newer, more insulated homes have less air conditioning run time, resulting in less drying potential from the air conditioning process.” He continued, “This leads to poor air quality (‘stuffy air’) and uncomfortable conditions.”

Tight construction without humidity control can also lead to much greater problems than stuffy air. According to Ekambaram, “When the relative humidity in the home goes up, in addition to general discomfort, things such as mold, bacteria, and rotting wood can cause serious problems. As we build homes that are energy efficient and extremely tight, moisture gets trapped in the home and can rise to uncomfortable levels and/or levels that cause concern with the home structure itself.”

To combat humidity, many homeowners have typically used their air conditioners as dehumidifiers. However, Ekambaram said, “Running the a/c is not the most efficient way to dehumidify the home. Running the compressor and fan of even the most efficient equipment can use up to 14 amps to dehumidify. If the homeowner has less efficient equipment, this number can be 25 amps or more.” In this situation, or during times of the year when it is humid but not hot, a whole-house dehumidifier is an efficient, effective solution.

And contractors can find increased sales opportunities as they strive to present these solutions to homeowners. Hlavacek summed it up, “It is no secret that much has changed in building design and materials over the last several years. There is also no denying that significant changes have been made to heating and cooling equipment that are here to stay. Few would argue that homeowners, through the availability of the information on the Internet, have the resources available to research your company and your products easier than ever before. So, as you seek to maintain your positive reputation you must consider the solutions you offer customers.”

NEW EQUIPMENT

In addition to the trend toward tighter construction, the trend to improving efficiency of HVAC equipment is also intensifying the need for humidity control. “Not only are homes tighter, reducing run times of the air conditioner, the air conditioner itself has changed,” Hlavacek said. “Higher SEER units tend to remove less moisture than lower SEER units by running higher evaporator temperatures. In addition, high SEER units typically run the fan for a period of time after a cooling cycle, which evaporates water from the wet cooling coil back into the home. This tends to increase moisture levels in homes, particularly if the a/c is oversized.”

The trend toward installing higher SEER systems should be complemented with dehumidifiers, Hlavacek said. He added, “Another growing trend is the application of whole-house dehumidifiers for maintaining relative humidity levels during unoccupied times, such as during the summer in a Southern condominium. During unoccupied periods temperature control is not as important as humidity control, and controlling humidity with a dehumidifier rather than setting the a/c to run aggressively can achieve substantial energy savings.”

While consumers seek savings, contractors can seek increased profits from selling humidity control systems that will ultimately save their customers money and increase their comfort. Ekambaram added, “Furthermore, HVAC contractors are focusing more on content per job and adding profit to jobs, rather than just the number of jobs they complete. Adding IAQ accessories increases the profitability per job for their business.”

Publication date: 08/08/2011

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