Humidifiers or Dehumidifiers: When and Why?

Humidifiers or Dehumidifiers: When and Why?

If you live in the Southeastern United States, you know the struggles of high humidity. On the other hand, if you live in a dry climate like the Southwest, low humidity is something you’re all too familiar with. And if you’re somewhere in between, you might experience both at different times of the year.

Indoor humidity levels play a big role in our comfort, health, and overall well-being. But maintaining that perfect balance can be challenging without the right equipment – that’s where humidifiers and dehumidifiers come in.

But what exactly are these devices and when should you use them? Below, we’ll dive into the distinct roles of humidifiers and dehumidifiers and how they can make your home a more comfortable and healthy place to live!

Humidifier vs. Dehumidifier: What’s the difference?

So, right off the bat, you might wonder — what’s the difference between a humidifier and a dehumidifier? Well, it’s pretty simple:

  • A humidifier adds moisture to the air, increasing humidity levels.
  • A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air, decreasing humidity levels.

So essentially, they work in opposite ways but serve the same purpose — to regulate indoor humidity levels. With that said, let’s take a closer look at each device and its specific benefits.

Humidifiers for Home: Benefits and When to Use Them

Humidifiers are commonly used in winter when indoor heating systems dry out the air. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like dry skin, irritated sinuses, and nosebleeds. A humidifier can help alleviate these issues by adding moisture back into the air.

But beyond just comfort, humidifiers offer other benefits as well. Maintaining optimal humidity levels in your home can reduce the risk of illness and infection because viruses and bacteria thrive in dry environments. Plus, it can protect your wood furniture, wood floors, and even wooden musical instruments from cracking due to lack of moisture.

Dehumidifiers: Benefits and When to Use Them

Now, let’s turn our attention to dehumidifiers. Have you ever walked into a room and immediately felt sticky and uncomfortable? That’s due to high humidity levels.

High humidity levels can lead to mold growth, dust mites, and other allergens that can trigger respiratory issues. A dehumidifier helps combat these problems by removing excess moisture from the air and creating an inhospitable environment for these irritants.

Dehumidifiers are especially useful when humidity levels tend to rise during the summer. They can also be beneficial in damp areas of your home, such as basements or bathrooms, where moisture accumulates.

By keeping humidity levels in check, you can improve the overall air quality in your home and reduce the risk of allergies and respiratory problems.

Types of Humidifiers

Depending on your needs and budget, there are both whole-house humidifiers and portable humidifier options to choose from. Whole-house humidifiers are usually installed directly into your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, while portable ones are easy to move from room to room.

Benefits of Whole-House Humidifiers

Portable humidifiers are, of course, more affordable. But they only humidify one room at a time. So, whenever you open a door, the humid air will escape, and you’ll have to start from scratch.

On the other hand, whole-house humidifiers:

  • Regulate humidity levels throughout your entire home.
  • Require less maintenance.
  • Are less intrusive and take up no additional space in your rooms.
  • Provide a more accurate and consistent humidity level.
  • Decrease energy bills.

While the initial installation cost of whole-house humidifiers can be pricey, they are more cost-effective in the long run because they help save energy by reducing the workload on your heating system. Increasing the air’s moisture content makes your home feel warmer even at lower temperatures, resulting in reduced heating costs. And in this economy, every little bit counts!

Types of Whole-House Humidifiers

If you’ve decided a whole-house humidifier is the better investment for your home, there are three main types to choose from:

  1. Bypass Humidifiers: These are the most common humidifier type and work by using the home’s heating ducts to circulate warm, dry air back into the furnace where it picks up water vapor before being redistributed throughout the home.
  2. Fan-Powered Humidifiers: Unlike bypass humidifiers, these types of humidifiers use a fan to draw heated air directly from the furnace to a water panel, where it picks up moisture before being distributed into the home.
  3. Steam Humidifiers: These are the most expensive option but deliver consistent humidity levels with minimal maintenance. They produce steam by boiling water and can be installed directly into your HVAC system or as standalone units.

Each type of whole-house humidifier has its own benefits and installation considerations, so it’s important to research and compare before deciding. An experienced HVAC professional can help you determine the best type for your home and health needs.

Types of Dehumidifiers

Just like humidifiers, dehumidifiers also come in whole-house and portable options. Whole-house dehumidifiers are installed directly into your HVAC system and work by drawing in moist air, removing the moisture, and then redistributing the dry air back into your home.

Meanwhile, portable dehumidifiers are smaller units that can be moved from room to room as needed.

Benefits of Whole-House Dehumidifiers

Portable dehumidifiers are convenient and affordable — great for small spaces or temporary use. But they also have limitations. Not only are you limited to one room at a time, but they are also noisier and you’ll be emptying the water bucket in a portable dehumidifier frequently.

If you live in an area with consistently high humidity levels, like here in the Southeast, a whole-house dehumidifier is the better investment for maintaining optimal indoor humidity levels. Benefits include:

  • Increased energy efficiency by reducing the workload on your air conditioning system.
  • Lower cost in the long run due to energy savings.
  • Less maintenance compared to portable units.
  • Quieter operation.
  • Less clutter since they are installed directly into your HVAC system.
  • Better control over humidity levels throughout the entire home.

Types of Whole-House Dehumidifiers

There are three main types of whole-house dehumidifiers to consider:

  1. HVAC-Integrated Dehumidifiers: These systems are integrated directly into your home’s existing HVAC system. They work in conjunction with your heating and cooling system to control humidity levels throughout the entire house.
  2. Ducted Dehumidifiers: Similar to HVAC-integrated systems, these are connected to the home’s ductwork but operate independently of the HVAC system. They are an effective option for homes with existing ductwork where the HVAC system doesn’t offer sufficient dehumidification.
  3. Standalone Dehumidifiers: Ideal for homes without a central HVAC system, standalone dehumidifiers operate independently to reduce humidity in the entire house. They can be installed in a central location or connected to the ductwork to distribute dehumidified air throughout the home.

Before deciding on the type of whole-house dehumidifier to install,  consider your home’s size, layout, and existing HVAC system. Consulting with a professional HVAC technician can help you determine the right type for your specific needs.

Understanding Indoor Humidity Levels

So now that we know the benefits of each device, using them at the right time comes down to understanding indoor humidity levels.

Simply put, humidity refers to the amount of water vapor in the air. It can vary depending on temperature, weather conditions, and geographical location.

Here in Tennessee,  we experience high humidity levels during the summer months, while winter brings dry air with low humidity. Both extremes can cause a home to feel like a sauna or a desert… Neither of which is pleasant!

Optimal indoor humidity levels should fall between 30-50%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This range offers the best balance of comfort and health benefits. Anything below it, you’ll start to feel the effects of dry air like dry skin, nosebleeds, and respiratory issues. Anything above it, and you might experience issues with mold, mildew, bacteria growth, and other allergens.

Signs of High Humidity

How do you know if the humidity in your home is too high? Well, besides the rainforest-like atmosphere, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Condensation on windows, mirrors, or cold surfaces.
  • Musty odors, often indicating mold or mildew growth.
  • Peeling wallpaper or blistering paint.
  • Warped wood, such as floorboards or furniture.
  • Increased allergy symptoms, as high humidity can exacerbate dust mites and mold.
  • Feeling of a stuffy or muggy atmosphere inside the house.
  • Visible mold spots on walls, ceilings, or in corners.
  • Rotting wood in the home’s structure.
  • Persistent damp spots on ceilings or walls.

Signs of Low Humidity

Dealing with the other end of the spectrum – low humidity – is a whole different ball game. When the air is too dry, you might experience some of these signs:

  • Dry and itchy skin.
  • Increased static electricity.
  • Irritated eyes and nasal passages.
  • Chipping paint and plaster.
  • Separating or cracked wood in flooring or furniture.
  • Increased respiratory infections.
  • Increased severity of allergy and asthma symptoms.
  • Persistent feeling of cold (since dry air feels cooler).

How to Measure Indoor Humidity Levels

While your hair’s frizz or your skin’s dryness might hint at the moisture in the air, it’s always best to measure indoor humidity levels accurately. Accurate measurements will help you determine:

  • Whether a humidifier or dehumidifier is needed.
  • When to use one or the other.
  • How long to run them for.


These devices gauge humidity levels by measuring the amount of water vapor in the air. They come in analog and digital forms, and you can find affordable options at most hardware stores.

Smart Thermostats

Many smart thermostats come with built-in humidity sensors that can tell you the levels in your home. When paired with a modern HVAC system, these thermostats can even adjust humidity levels automatically. There are countless benefits of installing a smart thermostat, and this is one of them!

Indoor Weather Stations

An indoor weather station is a great option if you want to monitor how the outdoor weather affects your indoor humidity. They offer more comprehensive data on temperature, humidity, and air quality.

Key Factors Influencing Humidity Levels

As we mentioned, different parts of the country will experience different humidity levels because of climate variations. But weather conditions aren’t the only factor affecting indoor humidity levels. Other key factors include:

  • Airflow: Proper ventilation and poor airflow can lead to stagnant air and increased moisture buildup.
  • Heating or Cooling: Using a fireplace or wood stove during the winter months can dry out the air in your home, leading to low humidity levels. An air conditioner also dehumidifies the air as it cools, which can lead to dryness.
  • Home Age: Older homes might have higher or lower humidity due to outside air seeping through cracks and gaps around doors and windows.
  • Home Size: Larger homes tend to have more air circulation, which can help reduce humidity levels.
  • New Construction: A newly built home can have higher indoor humidity levels due to moist building materials and workers tracking in wetness during construction. It can take time for the home to dry out and reach a more stable humidity level.
  • Poor Insulation: Poorly insulated homes allow moisture from the outside to seep in more easily, making it harder to regulate and maintain a consistent indoor climate.
  • Water Usage: Taking a shower, doing laundry, or running a dishwasher can cause indoor humidity to spike.
  • Wet Areas: Rooms with water sources (like laundry rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms) tend to be more humid than others, making them prime breeding grounds for mold and mildew.

Choosing and Installing the Right Humidity Device for Your Home

When it comes to maintaining the perfect balance of humidity in your home, the decision isn’t just about choosing between a humidifier and a dehumidifier. Every home is unique, and so are its humidity needs. Lee Company can help you find the right solution for your home and budget!

Since 1944, we’ve helped homeowners across Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Georgia achieve optimal indoor humidity levels by offering a range of humidification and dehumidification options.

Some of the factors we consider when recommending the right device for your home include:

  • Your current indoor humidity levels.
  • The size of your house.
  • Your budget.
  • Any existing HVAC systems in place.
  • The presence of any specific health concerns.

We also provide professional installation services to ensure that your humidity device is set up correctly and will last for years to come. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward improving your indoor air quality!

Interested in a whole-house humidifier or dehumidifier?

CALL US NOW AT 615.567.1000