For better or worse, humidity levels impact a structure’s indoor comfort. Airborne water levels also may prey on the possessions sheltered inside a structure. Here’s a snapshot of how a contractor-initiated humidity reduction has impacted four unique applications.

Wood Floors and Humidity Control

While wood floors are built to withstand the abuse of foot traffic and furniture, humidity is an invisible enemy that can quickly wreak havoc on even the strongest surfaces. Too little humidity will cause floors to crack and shrink, while too much will cause floors to cup and curl. While wood floors often come with a warranty, damage from improper environmental conditions is typically not covered.

Protecting a wood floor means controlling humidity so that it always stays within the flooring manufacturer’s recommended levels — typically between 35-50 percent with temperature ranges of 60?-80?F.

Hardwood floors are a major investment, and consumers are learning the hard way that moisture control is essential to protecting them. Where they need added direction is in their understanding of what type of indoor rh problems they have and the options available to mitigate them.

Randy Lenz, product specialist, Aprilaire, said he has spoken with many people in the flooring industry, including Dan Blake, inspector and owner of Flooring Training Inc. Blake estimates $1 billion a year is lost from failed floors, and 98-99 percent of that is because of improper rh.

“In many cases, flooring retailers, contractors, and homeowners don’t understand what low rh can do to a wood floor,” Blake said. “Just like people, wood floors need normal living conditions to function properly.”

HVAC contractors can help homeowners understand the different ways they can improve the rh conditions in their houses and protect their investments.

“We talk to homeowners about humidity control from a comfort or health standpoint, and that’s all good,” Lenz said. “It’s just as important that we provide guidance to protect their homes and furnishings.”

Elderly Benefit from Dehumidification

Majestic Memory Care Center, Hollywood, Florida, is designed and operated with one goal in mind: to provide a stimulating, safe, and healthy environment for its elderly residents. Serving individuals diagnosed with dementia, Majestic includes 64 apartments, a main dining hall, a commercial kitchen, common areas, and offices for a total building space of 64,000 square feet. Majestic insists on providing optimal air quality to maintain residents’ health and comfort.

One of the most important factors for maintaining optimal air quality is delivering ample outside air to the building. In South Florida, where Majestic is located, this can be a challenge due to the high humidity content. To remove this moisture, standard air conditioning systems must overcool the air to dew point and then reheat, an energy-intensive process that often leaves the building uncomfortably cool. If the moisture is not removed, residents can become ill from the damp conditions, and the building could incur a serious mold problem. To maintain a healthy environment, the space requires 8,200 cfm of outside air delivered to the space at 75?F and 50 percent rh.

Majestic turned to Advantix Systems’ liquid desiccant technology, installing three Advantix DT-Rooftop units to provide ample outside air, maintain required conditions, and achieve energy savings. The Advantix equipment effectively dehumidifies the outside air and sends this treated air to the packaged units.

Advantix Systems’ cooling & dehumidification technology is based on liquid desiccant’s natural removal of moisture from the air. This nontoxic, brine solution cools, dehumidifies, and cleans the air at the same time without ever needing to be replaced and without exiting the system. When heated, the liquid desiccant releases the moisture back outside in the form of warm vapor, eliminating condensation from any point in the system. Liquid desiccant is also a natural disinfectant, removing bacteria, microorganisms, and odor from the air in just one pass.

Keeping Homes Safe

Snowbirds preparing to head north to avoid the South’s brutal summer heat will want to safeguard their winter residences before taking off. Near tropical summer climates make effective and energy-efficient humidity control and mold and mildew prevention areas of concern for every snowbird that shuts up his or her home for the summer months.

Summer in the South means oppressive heat and very high levels of humidity. Nearly everything in the home is vulnerable to the effects of high humidity, which causes rusting appliances; mold and mildew growth; corrosion to electronic equipment and computers; deterioration of wood, cotton, and leather; and warping of woodwork.

During unoccupied times, ventilation can be reduced or eliminated because occupant comfort and health are not primary concerns. Relative humidity is still a critical concern, and conditions need to be maintained at a level that prevents the growth of mold and mildew.

It is recommended that normal inside humidity levels be kept between 30-55 percent. Using an Ultra-Aire Whole House Ventilating Dehumidifier to control humidity levels throughout the home, snowbirds can drastically decrease energy usage and effectively protect their homes.

The seasonally occupied home benefits from improved IAQ and dedicated dehumidification. This provides an indoor environment that greatly reduces the potential for mold growth, damage to the home’s contents, and stale odors while minimizing energy costs.

The Ultra-Aire 70H whole house ventilating dehumidifier was installed in the spring of 2011 in a ranch-style 1,800-square-foot home in The Villages in Ocala, Florida. During the summer of 2011, the homeowners set the air conditioner at 85?F and the Ultra-Aire at 55 percent rh. The Ultra-Aire maintained a rh of 55 percent or less in the home throughout the summer and, as a result, saved the homeowners 40 percent on their energy bills in comparison to the previous summer.

Rec Center Sees Improvements

The 40-year-old Wulf Recreation Center’s $540,000 renovation resulted in a 32 percent energy improvement, amounting to $18,000 annual savings for the Evergreen Parks & Recreation District (EPRD) in Evergreen, Colorado, thanks to an energy performance contract by the Golden, Colorado, offices of Seattle-based McKinstry.

McKinstry’s recently completed improvements guarantee an annual reduction of 109,000 kWh of electricity and 18,804 therms of natural gas, which equates to a 182-metric-ton reduction in CO? emissions.

Integral to the contract’s savings was the replacement of two 40-year-old, 100 percent outdoor air HVAC systems that controlled the 7,000-square-foot pool space’s temperature and rh.

Replacements were two 6,500-cfm NV Series indoor pool ventilation units manufactured by Seresco USA. The NV Series uses several state-of-the-art technologies that include heat recovery, direct-drive fans, an on-board microprocessor controller, and other energy-efficient features. Unlike the original supply/exhaust system, heat from the space’s exhaust air is now recovered via a glycol run-around loop (GRAL) for preheating outdoor air. Using the recovered heating energy, versus gas-fired equipment, the recovered heat helps raise outdoor air temperatures from 0°-45°F and is a factor in reducing heating costs.

Direct-drive fans also reduce fan power consumption when compared to the old system’s belt-driven design.

Assuring the owners all the technology is working properly, Seresco’s on-board, proprietary Ethernet-based microprocessor WebSentry system senses, tracks, and transfers daily machine operating statistics to the factory for free daily monitoring and recording. The system, which senses compressor liquid and suction pressures, temperature, space humidity, outdoor conditions, and dozens of other parameters also sends operational alarms via email or telephone. This eliminates the possibility of the units working inefficiently between annual checkups and lessens the potential for unexpected service work.

Publication date: 8/11/2014 

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