What Causes Condensation in Crawlspaces and Basements?

In many parts of the country during the spring, summer and fall months, warm, moist air enters the vented crawlspace from the outside and condenses on the cooler surfaces of the walls, floor and ductwork. These cooler surfaces are created within the crawlspace or basement by it being partially or entirely underground and shaded – much like a cave!

DP_condensation_arrows• If the Dew Point (DP) temperature is ABOVE the surface temperature,
condensation will occur.
• If the Dew Point (DP) temperature is BELOW the surface temperature,
there will be no condensation.

SF_condensation_infographCondensation Contributes To:

  • High Humidity
  • Pest Infestations
  • Poor Indoor Air Quality
  • Mold Growth
  • Musty Odors
  • Damage to Property

How do I prevent condensation?

Santa_Fe_Advance2-1Santa Fe offers a full line of dehumidifiers to help prevent condensation in these spaces. Several of the units feature dual exhaust to provide optimal airflow. This airflow helps prevent spot condensate, and in combination with the dehumidification, protects crawlspaces and basements.

Crawlspace Encapsulation Overview

Video

Homes that are properly encapsulated, continuously monitored and treated with a Santa Fe dehumidifier are protected from both the humid outside air and the ground’s natural moisture. An added bonus is that this strategy minimizes fungi and mildew growth, guaranteeing a more structurally sound and healthier home.
Crawlspace Facts
  • According to a study by Advanced Energy, homeowners can expect to reduce their energy bills by 15-18% by sealing off their crawlspace. They also determined that homes with vented crawlspaces were 19 times more likely to experience relative humidity levels in excess of 70% than homes with encapsulated crawlspaces.
  • As much as 50% of the air in a home’s living space originates from the crawlspace.
  • Most pests are attracted to moist environments; as a result, moisture control is an important part of any fully integrated pest management system.

 

From Musty, Moldy Basement to the Manliest of Man Caves

The ultimate man cave features the latest electronics, a big brawny leather recliner, a decked out bar, sports memorabilia, and of course the mandatory pool table and dartboard.  While man caves can be located in garages or a spare bedroom the majority tend to be built in basements.

man cave

Pool Table & Bar BasementAccording to REMODELING Magazine’s 2013 Cost vs Value Report, basement remodels are still one of the top thirteen remodeling projects and typically consist of about a third of the entire home’s available space.  Man caves have become so popular in the last several years there is even a program called Man Caves on the DIY Network that is dedicated to helping men create their own refuge.

Unfinished BasementWhen it comes to transforming the basement into a man cave it is easy to get caught up in all the excitement of how many TVs, where to put the kegerator and how to display classic pieces of sports memorabilia. Getting started by hiding concrete or block behind drywall, wood and carpet is the easy part.

 

But building a manly comfortable space in a basement that won’t encourage mold and mildew or become damaged by condensation is a lot harder.

Molded Sheetrock WallHigh humidity levels will cause moist drywall and carpet will begin to grow mold and mildew, causing musty odors and decay.  It can also affect electronics, rot wood, cause musty odors, and make your new man cave feel like an actual cave!

SmellyGuyIt is recommended to keep humidity levels below 60 percent in basements by using a commercial grade dehumidifier like the ones offered by Santa Fe.

Santa Fe high-capacity dehumidifiers are the most energy efficient on the market and are designed to quietly and effectively operate in the cooler temperatures of a basement. The units help protect all your prized possessions, inhibit mold growth and prevent musty odors. An optional duct kit is available for all Santa Fe dehumidifiers for remote installations.  So if you don’t want to incorporate the manly unit into your new man cave decor, you locate it in another room and duct it to dehumidify your new retreat.

 

Moisture is the Mother of Most Biological Evils

There are many sources that can cause moisture in your home, including:

  • Plumbing, flashing, and roof leaks
  • Damp basements and crawl spaces
  • Cooking, showering, and indoor line drying of clothes
  • Humidifiers
  • Improperly vented combustion appliances and clothes dryers
  • Flooding and sewer backups
  • Poorly maintained gutters, downspouts and drains
  • Landscaping and plants that block crawl space vents and drainage systems

stack effect imagesWhile some signs of excess moisture maybe obvious, like condensation on windows, often times they are hidden in the crawl spaces and basements of the home.  This polluted air below the house will eventually move to the rest of the house, often times carrying odors, contributing to poor indoor air quality and causing uncomfortably high humidity levels.  Studies show that as much as 50 percent of the air in a home comes from these below-grade areas.

Moisture is also the fuel that feeds the fire for mold.  Mold needs water to grow – without it mold cannot grow. Mold also needs a food source and a temperature between 40 degrees and 100 degrees F.

Effects of Moisture on Your Home

wood-rotExcess moisture in your basement or crawl space can cause mold to grow. Mold can grow in or on almost anything in your home, including furniture, carpet, wood, dry wall, and insulation. Too much moisture can also cause wood to buckle, split and even rot, which may weaken the structure of your home. It can even cause peeling, chipping or cracking of paint.

Effects of Moisture on Your Health

dustmitesMold, bacteria, cockroaches, and dust mites have been linked to triggering allergies and asthma attacks and may even cause children who do not have allergies or asthma to develop either condition. Exposure can cause coughing, sneezing, wheezing, upper respiratory irritation and asthma symptoms.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s offers A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home.

Santa Fe Classic Dehumidifier – “Does Exactly What it is Advertised to Do!”

The Santa Fe Classic was specifically designed for basements. The high-capacity (275 cfm) blower on the unit moves air in a way that no small conventional unit can. The Santa Fe Classic’s vertical configuration and flow-down design perform exceptionally well in basements, and provide options for installation that no other unit can match. The optional condensate pump and ducting kits provide the flexibility necessary for almost any application. No conventional dehumidifier can perform as efficiently and effectively in basements as the Santa Fe Classic.

“Open the box, plug it in, DONE! It is solid, well-built, no frills and gets the job done exactly as advertised. The energy efficiency and removal rate that Sante Fe claims is accurate as I actually measured both (Yes, I am a dorky engineer) It is still made in America to top it all off. A bit pricey, but you gotta pay to play… I am very pleased with this unit mostly because it is and does exactly what it is advertised to do!” Greg Arserio from Rochester, NY.  Click Here to read more reviews on the Santa Fe Classic.

Santa Fe Compact2 Dehumidifier – Little Design that Delivers a Lot of Punch

The Santa Fe Compact2 was specifically designed to fit into tight, low-clearance spaces, such as crawlspaces.  But don’t let its’ small design fool you – the unit removes up to 70 pints of water a day and can treat spaces up to 1,800 square feet.  No other conventional dehumidifier can perform as efficiently and effectively in crawlspaces and basements as the Santa Fe Compact2 Dehumidifier.

Potential Issues for Homes with Crawlspaces

Nearly 19 million homes in the United States have crawlspaces. The trouble with crawlspace construction is it can potentially affect the living space above it and have more wood rot problems than other types of construction.

It has been proven that warm, humid outdoor air brought into the crawlspace through foundation vents in the summer can lead to increased moisture levels in the crawlspace and eventually into the home. The air introduced through the vents into the crawlspace does not always move side to side but instead will move upwards, which is called the “Stack Effect.” This Stack Effect draws air inward from every crawlspace vent and up into the living space, resulting in increased humidity levels and musty smells throughout the entire home.

Wood Rot

Wood rot only occurs when the moisture content is above the fiber saturation point, about 27% to 28% wood moisture content. In order to keep this in perspective, consider the following:

  • Fresh-cut wood is typically around 200% moisture
  • Kiln-dried wood has seven to 10% wood moisture content
  • Air-dried wood has a typical moisture content of 19%, but that varies with the relative humidity (RH).

The 28% wood moisture content necessary for rot to occur doesn’t come about from just high humidity. Water has to make contact with the wood before the wood rots. Any time the relative humidity is over 70%, you can get spot condensate because temperatures vary throughout a crawlspace.

A solution to this problem is the new Santa Fe Force dehumidifier that features dual exhaust and is specifically designed to provide the optimal amount of airflow in crawlspaces and basements. This airflow helps prevents spot condensate, and in combination with the dehumidification, protects the crawlspace and living space.