Moisture Management Markets Becoming Smarter, More Controlled
Innovative products branching into new applications, industries
As consumers become better educated about IAQ, the need for humidification and dehumidification — and the comfort solutions they provide — has increased. According to RnR Market Research, the global market for humidifiers is expected to surpass $1 billion by 2019. Another study, conducted by Grand View Research Inc., states the global dehumidifier market is expected to reach $3.54 billion by 2022. And, there are a number of other reasons these markets are increasing, manufacturers noted.
SIMPLIFIED AND SMARTER PRODUCTS
According to Phil Lilja, product manager, DriSteem Corp., the moisture markets are trending towards simplified products.
“The growing labor shortage of HVAC engineers and technicians is driving an increasing demand for packaged humidification systems that are simpler to design and install,” Lilja said. “To address this labor shortage, these systems also need to be easier to maintain and require less frequent maintenance intervals. Additionally, rising energy costs have been driving a demand for multiple-unit, lower-capacity system designs that are able to provide smaller, zoned areas with humidification. These modular zoned systems supply separate areas in a building with the benefits of humidification where it’s needed, such as for the reduction of static electricity in printing and manufacturing processes, preservation of artifacts and building materials, and protection of occupant health and comfort, while minimizing energy use.
“The concerns over the labor shortage and energy costs also add to an increased interest in adding water treatment ahead of humidification systems. The minerals in untreated supply water cause scale buildup in humidifier heaters and heat exchangers. Scale acts as an insulator, reducing humidifier performance while increasing energy costs. Using reverse-osmosis or deionized water eliminates, or nearly eliminates, mineral accumulation altogether, which saves energy while reducing maintenance intervals, effort, and costs.
“The shortage of HVAC engineers and technicians has been driven by the combination of the aging workforce and increased growth in the industry and compounded by fewer entrants into the field,” he continued. “This trend has been noted in previous years, and the shortage of skilled labor is poised to grow in the near future.
“Operating cost has always been a concern,” Lilja continued. “Energy costs can be addressed by using zoned, energy-efficient humidification systems, but the shortage of skilled labor also calls for humidification systems that are easier to design, install, and maintain. Staffing costs are reduced when more time is allowed between maintenance intervals, which makes maintenance easier and less time-consuming.
DriSteem’s Low-maintenance Humidification System is an all-in-one, near-zero maintenance steam humidification system that combines two DriSteem products — the Vapormist® electric humidifier and the RO-200 Series reverse-osmosis system — in one fully integrated package with a single power supply and user interface controller. Intervals between humidifier maintenance are extended by 10 times or more, which cuts service costs and virtually eliminates humidifier downtime. Additionally, the system is controlled by a single user interface. Set up, view, and adjust or monitor humidification and water-treatment functions at the unit or through building automation systems using a single Vapor-logic® controller. Service technicians and facilities personnel responsible for maintaining and operating these systems can check on water quality, filter life, steam output, system messages, and many other parameters via a single interface.
Charlie Hoff, product manager, Honeywell Intl. Inc., said the consumer appetite for IAQ has grown tremendously over the years.
“Humidification and dehumidification are significant supporters to this,” Hoff said. “Current trends — or customer expectations — are pointing toward on-demand response, increased level of performance/accuracy, and ease of use/installation/maintenance. With the advancement of technology and product know-how, the evolution of product performance has increased dramatically — especially in the methods of humidification. The advantages of humidity control are enabling smart devices to increase home comfort levels to new heights.”
Honeywell’s Electrode Humidifier provides efficient, on-demand, whole-home humidification. The product features a HumidiPRO™ controller that helps protect against window condensation and frost, auto-adaptive technology that adapts to changes in water conditions, disposable canisters for easy maintenance with no special tools required, and quiet operation.
“With the continuous need for the healthy home, it will be increasingly more commonplace to optimize the overall air quality within the home,” Hoff said. “This movement is already common in areas of Europe and Asia with the Americas being later-adopters. Awareness has started, which is followed by the desire to make indoor air quality better. Over the next five years, specifically in the Americas, the desire for air quality management within the home will be no different than simply managing temperature.”
Consumers’ demands and expectations for smarter products with remote capabilities is what is driving the humidity-control markets, according to Allan Feys, director of sales and business development, General Filters Inc.
“Our new GeneralAire-branded DH75 dehumidifier, which was introduced at the AHR Expo this year, features our first digital, touchscreen readout and control. It’s fairly radical for us,” he said. “The market is pointed at better, smarter technology with consumers wanting the ability to monitor or control their homes remotely. While the digital control is not yet connected to smart-device monitoring and control, we are moving in that direction.
“It wasn’t long ago that smart technology wasn’t even on anyone’s radar, let alone anyone understanding the importance of healthy IAQ,” continued Feys. “But now, consumers are demanding these features because they are more educated and knowledgeable and are demanding products that will provide the power to control, improve, and monitor their environment; even when they’re not at home.”
The GeneralAire DH75 is smaller and lighter than previous models for easier handling and installation in many of the tight spaces contractors work. The unit incorporates an intuitive digital interface that displays humidity levels, temperature, and the desired humidity setting. It also features a low-temperature shutoff that protects the compressor, a fan-only operation to keep air flowing in the space, and a longer warranty than the company’s current models.
“We expect to introduce the new model later this year and will follow with a larger model soon thereafter,” Feys said.
More and more buildings and homes are being sealed and built tighter, which is another market driver in both the humidification and dehumidification markets.
“We are seeing that the advancements in tight building envelopes and energy-efficient HVAC equipment combined with increased ventilation rates is leading to high latent loads in homes and buildings,” said Nikki Krueger, industry manager at Therma-Stor LLC. “These latent loads are not being successfully managed by the HVAC equipment alone, and more and more contractors are turning to our Ultra-Aire brand of dedicated whole-house ventilating dehumidifiers. There is a rising need in multifamily applications for dedicated dehumidification. Tight new construction and energy-efficient renovations are seeing the need based on similar conditions in single-family homes. The difference in multifamily is the units’ occupants change fairly regularly and new occupants with different lifestyles can create new moisture challenges. Each unit needs to be monitored regularly to ensure it remains in the safe rh ranges.
“There has been a realization across the trades in builders, engineers, architects, HVAC insulators, energy auditors, etc. that air conditioners alone cannot effectively manage the moisture loads 24/7/365,” she continued. “They are sized for peak loads that most newer homes will rarely ever see. These homes are seeing mostly partial-load and no-load conditions, which typically, in the past, we considered shoulder-season or overnight conditions, and this is where the need for a dehumidifier was widely accepted. We can no longer continue to overcool in order to try and control moisture.”
Krueger said acceptance will continue over the next few years to where consumers and contractors will understand that in order to achieve comfort and health in their homes, they’ll need — and want — dedicated dehumidification in their homes from the start.
“Ultra-Aire whole-house ventilating dehumidifiers can bring in fresh air for ventilation and dehumidify all the air in the home independent of the a/c system,” she said. “We have always believed in bringing in fresh air when the homes are occupied regardless of conditions outside. The right thing to do is to equip homes with the mechanicals that can handle the fresh air necessary to keep the occupants healthy and comfortable. The new MD33 In-Wall Dehumidifier, being launched later this year, will now help bring these same principles to the multifamily market.”
Barry Warner, president, MacroAir, said he is seeing an increasing number of companies challenged with resolving indoor humidity concerns, condensation, and sweating slab issues.
“The movement of air is a proven method to reduce humidity levels, accelerate drying in wet or damp spaces, and increase overall air quality,” Warner said. “High-volume horizontal fans are the most cost-effective and practical solutions available to regulate the temperature of large buildings, such as warehouses and distribution centers, without affecting daily operations. We’ve seen a growing interest in utilizing High Volume, Low Speed (HVLS) fans due to several factors. Now more than ever, companies are challenged with issues in varying weather patterns, modern building design, and construction speed. Lack of awareness and failure to address these issues has left companies with uncomfortable building environments and poor IAQ. In recent years, the utilization of properly placed large fans has become a more widely known and accepted solution to eliminate the humidity issues many companies face or have failed to address.”
MacroAir recently introduced AirEffect, a climate control system that helps any company automate up to 30 fans based on temperature and humidity changes in a building.
“The fans turn on, reverse airflow direction, speed up, slow down, and turn off to optimize the indoor air temperature and humidity range as determined by the customer,” Warner said. “This keeps the building in an optimal comfort and humidity range without the need for constant human monitoring and interaction with the fans, which, most importantly, saves a business time and money. In addition, it addresses the problems associated with high humidity environments due to internal processes or local environmental conditions, as mentioned above.”
Jennifer Franz, brand/product manager, Lennox Intl. Inc., agreed that as homes get tighter, there will be more problems with humidity, in general.
“On the other hand, we’re seeing different types of products and smarter systems that are able to deal with humidity control,” Franz said. “Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, they are more dialed into what’s going on in your environment, where you live, and other localized factors. For example, the iComfort S30 thermostat has a feature on it called ‘feels like,’ which takes into account outdoor temperature, indoor temperature, indoor humidity, and set point to feel the way homeowners actually want it to feel. The system will do the work to control humidity to get to that feels like temperature. Additionally, there’s another feature called ClimateIQ that makes certain decisions as far as the humidity settings based on where you live. Traditionally, you just had high, medium, and low, and the homeowner had to go in and change them, never knowing which was right. This feature can make decisions for homeowners based on where they are to control humidity in their homes.”
While the trends haven’t changed much over the last few years, humidity control is becoming more of a recognized issue in the industry, Franz noted.
“With homes being built more tightly, the need to bring in fresh air is becoming a more recognized issue. The challenge lies in doing this without bringing in all the accompanying humidity. With technology becoming much more smart and sensors becoming much more accurate and affordable, the systems themselves have actually been able to handle those issues in more intelligent ways.”
Chris Stocker, product manager at Daikin Applied, said Daikin’s Rebel Rooftop units are known for their inverter compressor scroll technology, which enables exceptional temperature and humidity control.
“The major differentiator with Rebel, and this is true for all of Daikin Applied’s inverter compressor product lines, is the tight control of space humidity,” Stocker said. “We’re able to continually modulate the compressors while in cooling or dehumidification mode, which allows the user to actually control the humidity in the space. With staged equipment — any time you have that jump in between stages or that off/on cycle — when that compressor goes off, and the system’s no longer mechanically cooling, all of the moisture on the coil starts re-evaporating back into the airstream. For most staged equipment, the moment that compressor goes off, the unit, in effect, turns into a humidifier and adds moisture to the space.
“With the Daikin Applied inverter technology, instead of just turning off the compressor, it’s able to modulate the compressor and fan speed so that the system’s still actively cooling the airstream while not overcooling the space. With continual, modulating operation, the unit’s still able to actively pull the moisture out of the airstream without allowing the moisture that was just pulled out of the airstream to return to the space.”
EXPANDING IN NEW MARKETS
With the rise of new technology and popularity of ductless systems, Aprilaire is finding new opportunities for moisture management, according to Mike Rimrodt, Aprilaire’s marketing director.
“The fundamental demand for humidification hasn’t changed, of course,” Rimrodt said. “The heating of cold air requires the air to physically need more moisture. So, the fundamental demand has been very consistent.
“We’re now seeing significant opportunities in homes where homeowners have never discussed whole-home humidification with contractors. We now have products and application solutions for contractors who work with boilers or radiant heat where there’s no ductwork. Our steam humidifier with a fan pack can be easily installed in the living space. So, we’re seeing a significant new demand trend in providing humidification to non-ducted applications.
“Aprilaire has also been working closely with the wood floor industry, as well,” Rimrodt noted. “In very dry homes, wood floors dry out, shrink, crack, and buckle. The solution is to maintain a consistent relative humidity range year-round. So, we’ve been working to educate the wood flooring industry on existing whole-home solutions.”
For wood, humidity control is important whether the climate is too dry or too humid.
“Years ago, wood flooring manufacturers started to change the warranties on their wood floors so that if the homeowner didn’t maintain the proper humidity levels in the house year round, the warranty would be void,” Rimrodt said.
Additionally, Rimrodt said Aprilaire has been finding significant opportunity in the dehumidification market since the massive portable dehumidifier recall last year.
“Millions of portable dehumidifiers manufactured overseas were recalled because they were overheating and starting fires,” Rimrodt said. “We’ve provided details to contractors on the recalls so that when they’re in homes, they can identify recalled units and educate homeowners to immediately stop using them. Contractors can then provide homeowners with a healthy basement assessment and dehumidifiers that safely satisfy that humidity load.”
Publication date: 4/24/2017