Humid basement

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AAA
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Humid basement

Post by AAA » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:16 pm

Our house has central air conditioning except for the basement. During the dog days of summer, the basement is hot and humid and just has a grungy feel to it. For example, at midday today the humidity in the air conditioned area is 50% and it’s 68% in the basement, with the same temperature, 73 degrees, in both places although I'm sure it will get hotter down there later on.

Gutters and downspouts are in good shape and I think the land is properly graded away from the house. The finished part of the basement is about 350 square feet with a low ceiling and there are no windows with which to vent a portable a/c unit so I have started to look into getting a dehumidifier but a Boglehead thread on the topic referenced a University of Minnesota article that said:

“Dehumidification can be used as a means of reducing the symptoms of humidity and odor in a basement, but it is not a permanent or complete solution. In fact, if a dehumidifier is used in a basement with moisture problems, it may cause greater damage. By drying out the basement air, moisture is drawn into the basement more rapidly causing efflorescence and spalling of concrete and further damage to interior finishes.”

So now I am not sure what to do. Under what circumstance would this issue arise and has anyone experienced it?

mortfree
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Re: Humid basement

Post by mortfree » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:21 pm

are there AC supply and return ducts in the basement that feed the upstairs?

If so, you should be able to tap into them for a supply and return.

Not sure if that will fix the humidity issue, but it would get cold air to the basement.

Have you had a HVAC tech out to the house?

Swansea
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Re: Humid basement

Post by Swansea » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:24 pm

My home situation is similar, and I have used a portable dehumidifier for 30 years without an issue. I have a Kenmore which allows me to set the humidity %. I keep it at 40%.

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jharkin
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Re: Humid basement

Post by jharkin » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:30 pm

“Dehumidification can be used as a means of reducing the symptoms of humidity and odor in a basement, but it is not a permanent or complete solution. In fact, if a dehumidifier is used in a basement with moisture problems, it may cause greater damage. By drying out the basement air, moisture is drawn into the basement more rapidly causing efflorescence and spalling of concrete and further damage to interior finishes.”
Ideally you want to stop the moisture coming in to begin with - however sometimes it cant be prevented 100% without heroic effort and expense. I live in a 200 year old house with a damp stone basement and I absolutely must run a dehumidifier 24/365. If I didn't it would be 80%RH down there all the time. The only methods to fix the problem permanently involve jacking up the house and rebuilding the foundation to the tune of 5 or more likely 6 figures.

In contemporary construction the correct fix for chronically damp basements is to apply a waterproof sealant to the outside of the foundation walls, vapor barrier plastic below the basement floor slab and perimeter drainage around the outside of the footings. As you can imagine this is all extremely expensive to retrofit if it was not installed in the original construction.

In your case I would not worry too much about running a dehumidifier if everything else reasonable has been taken care of.

The Building Science web has a lot of articles on these situation. Just search their arcitle library for damp basement.
https://buildingscience.com/

fposte
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Re: Humid basement

Post by fposte » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:30 pm

I'm another who just runs a dehumidifier. However, if you plug the paragraph you quoted into Google (I didn't put quotes so I got articles that are okay with humidifiers but consider them a bandaid solution, too), you'll find a lot of different articles about reducing moisture entry into the house that might give you some different plans of attack.

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Re: Humid basement

Post by kjvmartin » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:57 pm

fposte wrote:I'm another who just runs a dehumidifier. However, if you plug the paragraph you quoted into Google (I didn't put quotes so I got articles that are okay with humidifiers but consider them a bandaid solution, too), you'll find a lot of different articles about reducing moisture entry into the house that might give you some different plans of attack.
Beware the mold and electric bills. I had a nightmare house for a short while where the basement dehumidifier had to run 24/7. That electric bill, ouch.

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AAA
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Re: Humid basement

Post by AAA » Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:17 pm

mortfree wrote:are there AC supply and return ducts in the basement that feed the upstairs?

If so, you should be able to tap into them for a supply and return.

Not sure if that will fix the humidity issue, but it would get cold air to the basement.

Have you had a HVAC tech out to the house?
All the AC ducts are above the first floor in the house, so that's not an option. And no HVAC tech yet - just starting to look into this issue.

Nowizard
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Re: Humid basement

Post by Nowizard » Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:25 pm

Our son rented a house with this problem that had been corrected. The basement floor was dirt which may not be the case with yours, but the solution was covering the floor with a plastic sheet and using a dehumidifier when humidity reached a pre-set level.

Tim

renue74
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Re: Humid basement

Post by renue74 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:31 pm

We have a walk out basement and after we purchased the home from the original owners decided to have duct work added there.

1.) Get an HVAC company to perform a Manual J load analysis
This will verify whether your existing unit on the 1st floor will be OK to add additional vents for the basement.

2.) If #1 is OK...have the HVAC folks run new ductwork and vents. I think it costs us about $500.

3.) If your unit wont handle the extra load, you can look into a small ductless unit for your basement.

I would try to stay away from a dehumidifier because of the electrical cost of running that unit.

bluebolt
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Re: Humid basement

Post by bluebolt » Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:41 pm

renue74 wrote:We have a walk out basement and after we purchased the home from the original owners decided to have duct work added there.

1.) Get an HVAC company to perform a Manual J load analysis
This will verify whether your existing unit on the 1st floor will be OK to add additional vents for the basement.

2.) If #1 is OK...have the HVAC folks run new ductwork and vents. I think it costs us about $500.

3.) If your unit wont handle the extra load, you can look into a small ductless unit for your basement.

I would try to stay away from a dehumidifier because of the electrical cost of running that unit.
My 70 pint dehumidifier in my basement costs me about $20/mo June-September to keep the humidity at about 50%. What are other people spending?

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blacktupelo
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Re: Humid basement

Post by blacktupelo » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:47 pm

Our 79 year old two story house had a humid basement in the hot summers and running a dehumidifier took care of the situation.

A month ago we had improvements made to seal air infiltration points from our attic (also blew in lots of insulation) through two access points. The foundation sill in the exposed part of the basement was sealed with expanding foam.

The surprise in the basement afterwards has been that the dehumidifier hasn't run at all. The humid outside air just isn't being pulled in.

Check your situation in the basement.
Larry

downshiftme
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Re: Humid basement

Post by downshiftme » Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:52 pm

A stop gap that worked for a similar situation for me was to run a small fan all the time in the affected area. It's a modest cost in electricity and the slight airflow solved my (similar) problem. It may or may not work for you, but it's easy to try.

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Re: Humid basement

Post by Limoncello402 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:06 pm

100 year old home in MN and would not be without a basement dehumidifier in summer. We run it from about June-Sept during the day: on first thing in the morning, off last thing at night. That way it cuts down on the electric bills and still does the job. I strongly suggest you start running one and see the huge difference it makes. Ignore the U of MN thing you quoted; everyone in MN that I know with an old house (my entire St. Paul neighborhood) run a dehumidifier in the basement.

twbd
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Re: Humid basement

Post by twbd » Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:50 pm

Limoncello402 wrote:100 year old home in MN and would not be without a basement dehumidifier in summer. We run it from about June-Sept during the day: on first thing in the morning, off last thing at night. That way it cuts down on the electric bills and still does the job. I strongly suggest you start running one and see the huge difference it makes. Ignore the U of MN thing you quoted; everyone in MN that I know with an old house (my entire St. Paul neighborhood) run a dehumidifier in the basement.
Same experience when we lived in Wisconsin. During the winter we ran a space heater down there, so no problem with humidity then.

mmcmonster
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Re: Humid basement

Post by mmcmonster » Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:59 pm

I run the basement dehumidifier ~8 months of the year. It's set to keep the humidity <50% and turns itself on and off.

Love it. It makes the basement the best place in the house to relax. Significantly cooler than the rest of the house without running AC and dry thanks to the dehumidifier.

Personally will keep the dehumidifier running and not worry about increasing the seep through the walls.

BTW, my house is ~5 years old and the outer lining is painted in a ruberized waterproofing and the basement still gets humid.

OnTrack2020
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Re: Humid basement

Post by OnTrack2020 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:22 pm

We've started running a dehumidifier in our walk-out basement. It's been several months now. It runs at a certain percent and then will automatically shut-off/turn back on when needed. We've had no problems with dryness in the air or any additional seepage. As another poster mentioned, it just makes things more comfortable.

Small Law Survivor
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Re: Humid basement

Post by Small Law Survivor » Mon Jul 17, 2017 5:26 pm

Agree w/all the pro-humidifier comments here. Been doing that at my house for over 20 years, and it is the most pleasant room in the house.

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deanbrew
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Re: Humid basement

Post by deanbrew » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:28 pm

While a dehumidifier does indeed remove humidity, it also releases heat and raises the temperature in the room. I, too, have a basement that gets too humid and hot in the summer, partly from the gas furnace that kicks on to heat our water. I used a dehumidifier for a couple of years, but it made the basement worse in terms of temperature.

Instead, I installed a heat pump water heater in the basement. Mine is a GE Hybrid, but there are other brands. It heats the water with a heat pump, pulling heat and humidity out of the basement while heating the water. I have mine set on "heat pump only", and have it circulate the hot water into the furnace hot water holding tank. Overall, it isn't the simplest system, and required buying the heat pump water heater, but it works like a charm. My basement stays cool and dry now. Supposedly, the heat pump water heaters are the most efficient way to heat water, even cheaper than natural gas water heaters.
"The course of history shows that as the government grows, liberty decreases." Thomas Jefferson

likegarden
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Re: Humid basement

Post by likegarden » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:44 pm

Thanks for this thread I checked on our dehumidifier we have in our basement. It must have failed recently, So I bought a new one, placed it and just put a drain hose on it. This is our 3rd dehumidifier over 30 years and we are happy with their performance. We have gas burning furnace (baseboard heat - hot water) and water heater in our basement plus a lot of books and paper records. Our house has central AC with air handler in attic and compressor outside - none in basement. Presently we have dehumidifier set at 50% humidity.

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AAA
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Re: Humid basement

Post by AAA » Thu Jul 20, 2017 2:35 pm

likegarden wrote:Thanks for this thread I checked on our dehumidifier we have in our basement. It must have failed recently, So I bought a new one, placed it and just put a drain hose on it. This is our 3rd dehumidifier over 30 years and we are happy with their performance. We have gas burning furnace (baseboard heat - hot water) and water heater in our basement...
OP here. I ended up buying a 70 pint Frigidaire dehumidifier and so far am pleased with it. I have the fan set on low and the room is at 50% humidity mid afternoon on a very hot, humid day. The room is warm but doesn't have that grungy feeling. I have a question as you mention a gas furnace.

There is a door to the unfinished part of the basement, which I have kept closed, which has a gas water heater. That other area is maybe about 250 sq ft. which I think the dehumidifier should handle as the one I bought is probably overkill for the 350 sq ft finished area it is in now. I thought, however, that it would not work with the door open because the instructions said not to have any openings to the outside and the water heater is vented through the chimney.

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Re: Humid basement

Post by Limoncello402 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:15 am

The water heater vented out will make no difference whatsoever. Glad you are happy with the dehumidifier. Clean the filter every so often and you are set. I run mine on high from about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and it keeps the basement cool and dry all summer.

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just frank
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Re: Humid basement

Post by just frank » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:50 am

AAA wrote:
mortfree wrote:are there AC supply and return ducts in the basement that feed the upstairs?

If so, you should be able to tap into them for a supply and return.

Not sure if that will fix the humidity issue, but it would get cold air to the basement.

Have you had a HVAC tech out to the house?
All the AC ducts are above the first floor in the house, so that's not an option. And no HVAC tech yet - just starting to look into this issue.
You can drop a 5" duct through a corner of a closet, or through the plumbing stack, and solve your problem immediately, and get a much more pleasant and useful basement. The decision to install central without tying in the basement was a mistake...probably to get a slightly cheaper bid.

An AC is MUCH cheaper to run than a dehumidifier....the cost of duct installation will likely be recouped on the cost of dehumidification.

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Re: Humid basement

Post by BeerTooth » Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:12 am

those of you using central A/C to dehumidify the basement, what setpoint do you cool to? Most of the summer, my 1st and 2nd floor living areas are pleasant enough in the mid-70s so we leave the windows open for fresh air. The basement is only 65 degrees, but 80%+ humidity if I didn't run the dehumidifier. Are you running only the basement A/C zone and setting it to 60 or something to trigger it to turn on and dry out the air, even though it is already "cool enough"?

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Re: Humid basement

Post by crit » Fri Jul 21, 2017 12:10 pm

An outside possibility: is there a leak in your unfinished portion, or crawl space, that you can't easily access?

When we bought our house, it had a pretty humid basement. No obvious leaks on inspection. Some water in a crawl space reported by inspector who crawled back there, but it had poured the day before, and that crawl space is almost inaccessible from the main basement, so we didn't look too hard. Bought a dehumidifier and used it a lot the first year.

Our house is a ranch that previous owners added rooms onto, and the additions are over crawl spaces, while the original house has a full basement. The master bath is over a crawl space. Eventually we needed to repair the shower door, which led to the realization that due to a hidden construction defect, the shower was leaking into the crawl space below. But wait, there's more: due to flex in the shower pan, the drain had come loose and was -also- leaking.

Once those two issues were fixed, the basement has been almost bone dry. Even on humid days. So there was a ton of daily leaks that we had no idea about, and those were what caused the humidity. The dehumidifier hasn't been used since (want one?).

yolli71
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Re: Humid basement

Post by yolli71 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 12:37 pm

Has anyone tried the DampRid Moisture Absorber?

http://www.homedepot.com/p/DampRid-64-o ... /100391308

My coworker swears by this stuff, so I've been thinking of getting a couple for my basement.

bluebolt
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Re: Humid basement

Post by bluebolt » Fri Jul 21, 2017 3:37 pm

yolli71 wrote:Has anyone tried the DampRid Moisture Absorber?

http://www.homedepot.com/p/DampRid-64-o ... /100391308

My coworker swears by this stuff, so I've been thinking of getting a couple for my basement.
It didn't work for my basement - needed a dehumidifier to do the trick. It's cheap enough that it might be worth a try before you invest in a dehumidifier.

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Re: Humid basement

Post by deanbrew » Fri Jul 21, 2017 3:49 pm

TylerDavis wrote:those of you using central A/C to dehumidify the basement, what setpoint do you cool to? Most of the summer, my 1st and 2nd floor living areas are pleasant enough in the mid-70s so we leave the windows open for fresh air. The basement is only 65 degrees, but 80%+ humidity if I didn't run the dehumidifier. Are you running only the basement A/C zone and setting it to 60 or something to trigger it to turn on and dry out the air, even though it is already "cool enough"?
If your basement is only 65 degrees, then it doesn't need cooled, so a dehumidifier seems like the right answer. But a dehumidifier WILL add heat. That's OK if you are at 65 degrees, but not OK if the room is already warm and humid. If you don't want to buy and use a dehumidifier, I guess you have to run the AC to dehumidify the air. Is your basement on a different zone?
"The course of history shows that as the government grows, liberty decreases." Thomas Jefferson

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deanbrew
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Re: Humid basement

Post by deanbrew » Fri Jul 21, 2017 3:51 pm

yolli71 wrote:Has anyone tried the DampRid Moisture Absorber?

http://www.homedepot.com/p/DampRid-64-o ... /100391308

My coworker swears by this stuff, so I've been thinking of getting a couple for my basement.
I would think that this would only physically be able to extract a half gallon (or less) moisture before it became saturated. It might be suitable for a closet, but I think a basement is way too large a space.
"The course of history shows that as the government grows, liberty decreases." Thomas Jefferson

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Kitty Telltales
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Re: Humid basement

Post by Kitty Telltales » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:32 pm

Basic law of physics, steam pressure, moisture collects in cooler places. Think of a dripping wet glass of iced tea or beer on a hot summer day. Moisture from the air collects on the cold surface. If it is hotter outside than in the basement and you open the windows, humidity will rush in. Open the windows when it is cooler outside than it is in the basement, humidity will rush out.

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Re: Humid basement

Post by Yooper » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:54 pm

deanbrew wrote:
yolli71 wrote:Has anyone tried the DampRid Moisture Absorber?

http://www.homedepot.com/p/DampRid-64-o ... /100391308

My coworker swears by this stuff, so I've been thinking of getting a couple for my basement.
I would think that this would only physically be able to extract a half gallon (or less) moisture before it became saturated. It might be suitable for a closet, but I think a basement is way too large a space.
Agreed. I use the hanging kind (of this same product) in a closed closet in my basement that holds the water pressure pump and it works well. Note that the product information sheet for the linked item recommends one per 100 square feet.

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AAA
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Re: Humid basement

Post by AAA » Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:45 pm

crit wrote:An outside possibility: is there a leak in your unfinished portion, or crawl space, that you can't easily access?
No leak in unfinished portion and there is no crawlspace. But that does raise the question about how the humidity gets into the basement (which is partly underground since the house is on a hill). Going back to the gas water heater in the unfinished part of the basement, there is venting ductwork about 1-2 inches above it that leads to the chimney. If I put my hand there I can feel warm air, which also must be humid. I talked with our plumber to see if that could be sealed with duct tape and he said no as the gap is necessary for its proper operation. Could that be a significant source of humidity in the basement?

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Re: Humid basement

Post by Dottie57 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:01 pm

Limoncello402 wrote:100 year old home in MN and would not be without a basement dehumidifier in summer. We run it from about June-Sept during the day: on first thing in the morning, off last thing at night. That way it cuts down on the electric bills and still does the job. I strongly suggest you start running one and see the huge difference it makes. Ignore the U of MN thing you quoted; everyone in MN that I know with an old house (my entire St. Paul neighborhood) run a dehumidifier in the basement.

+1

rgs92
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Re: Humid basement

Post by rgs92 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:00 pm

There was a recent big thread on dehumidifiers; I would look for it. I use a nice Sante Fe floorstander and it works well and keeps my damp/un-climate-controlled basement dry as a bone. It drains continuously via a hose into my sump drain.
It does warm the space a few degrees though (how much depends on how dry you set the humidistat to). But that's not a big deal.
It does dry everything out very well and has worked well for 6 years now.

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Re: Humid basement

Post by kazper » Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:49 pm

deanbrew wrote:While a dehumidifier does indeed remove humidity, it also releases heat and raises the temperature in the room. I, too, have a basement that gets too humid and hot in the summer, partly from the gas furnace that kicks on to heat our water. I used a dehumidifier for a couple of years, but it made the basement worse in terms of temperature.

Instead, I installed a heat pump water heater in the basement. Mine is a GE Hybrid, but there are other brands. It heats the water with a heat pump, pulling heat and humidity out of the basement while heating the water. I have mine set on "heat pump only", and have it circulate the hot water into the furnace hot water holding tank. Overall, it isn't the simplest system, and required buying the heat pump water heater, but it works like a charm. My basement stays cool and dry now. Supposedly, the heat pump water heaters are the most efficient way to heat water, even cheaper than natural gas water heaters.
I had the same idea, but it came back to bite me. Ge no longer supports/manufactures these units. Someone else took over the warranty for them. NOBODY around me (besides the company that took over the warranty) would work on it because it has the heat pump and water heater side of things. Quite annoying, especially since I really liked the unit (saved us 50-80 a month) until the circuit board fried itself (leaving us without warm water in the plate winter months) and the heat pump fan died...

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Re: Humid basement

Post by kazper » Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:52 pm

yolli71 wrote:Has anyone tried the DampRid Moisture Absorber?

http://www.homedepot.com/p/DampRid-64-o ... /100391308

My coworker swears by this stuff, so I've been thinking of getting a couple for my basement.
It does a little bit, but not enough to be noticeable in a big area like a basement. It does last a long time, but I can't really tell the difference after using them.

BeerTooth
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Re: Humid basement

Post by BeerTooth » Sat Jul 22, 2017 7:24 am

deanbrew wrote:
TylerDavis wrote:those of you using central A/C to dehumidify the basement, what setpoint do you cool to? Most of the summer, my 1st and 2nd floor living areas are pleasant enough in the mid-70s so we leave the windows open for fresh air. The basement is only 65 degrees, but 80%+ humidity if I didn't run the dehumidifier. Are you running only the basement A/C zone and setting it to 60 or something to trigger it to turn on and dry out the air, even though it is already "cool enough"?
If your basement is only 65 degrees, then it doesn't need cooled, so a dehumidifier seems like the right answer. But a dehumidifier WILL add heat. That's OK if you are at 65 degrees, but not OK if the room is already warm and humid. If you don't want to buy and use a dehumidifier, I guess you have to run the AC to dehumidify the air. Is your basement on a different zone?
Yes, each floor is a separate zone. But 2 of the 3 air returns are in the first floor, so if I were to turn on the basement zone only (and set it to 60 to force it to run), it would be constantly bringing in new humid air from the environment and trying to dry it out

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Toons
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Re: Humid basement

Post by Toons » Sat Jul 22, 2017 7:35 am

Portable Dehumidifer works great in the basement ,,,used for years.
I use one in the garage also :happy
:happy
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LSLover
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Re: Humid basement

Post by LSLover » Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:46 am

kazper wrote:
yolli71 wrote:Has anyone tried the DampRid Moisture Absorber?

http://www.homedepot.com/p/DampRid-64-o ... /100391308

My coworker swears by this stuff, so I've been thinking of getting a couple for my basement.
It does a little bit, but not enough to be noticeable in a big area like a basement. It does last a long time, but I can't really tell the difference after using them.
+1

PatSea
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Re: Humid basement

Post by PatSea » Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:50 am

We had a similar situation to the OP - an uncomfortable damp basement. When we had a new furnace and A/C system installed about three years ago we had a cold air return installed in the basement. It made a huge difference! Now the basement is comfortable year round. The temperature and humidity level is the same as the rest of the house. It is like we doubled the size of the useable area of our house.

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Re: Humid basement

Post by deanbrew » Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:51 am

kazper wrote:I had the same idea, but it came back to bite me. Ge no longer supports/manufactures these units. Someone else took over the warranty for them. NOBODY around me (besides the company that took over the warranty) would work on it because it has the heat pump and water heater side of things. Quite annoying, especially since I really liked the unit (saved us 50-80 a month) until the circuit board fried itself (leaving us without warm water in the plate winter months) and the heat pump fan died...
Yeah, I get that. I did something very uncharacteristic and bought the extended warranty from Lowe's (for $100) when I bought my first GE Hybrid. It went kaput (circuit board issue) in Year 3, and the extended warranty paid me my full $1,300 purchase price. I bought a second one, which was made in the USA (the first one was made in China) for $1,000, so I actually made a couple hundred bucks. I am on the third year with the USA unit. I bought the 10-year extended warranty again.

I see that you are right that GE stopped making them at hte end of 2016. Lowe's is still selling them, and the price keeps dropping.
"The course of history shows that as the government grows, liberty decreases." Thomas Jefferson

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