You know what they say. It may only be 33 degrees in Hong Kong in July and a cosy 51 in Marrakech — but we’d rather be in Marrakech. “It’s a dry heat!” goes the refrain. And dry it is. One of the less appealing aspects of living in the SAR is the constant fear of fuzzy green leather shoes, furry wood, and an inability to cook certain food that just sucks up too much moisture. Enter the dehumidifier.
An appliance nearly as old as the venerable air conditioner, dehumidifiers are often relied on just to keep us comfortable. But there are many more advantages to dehumidifiers than personal bliss. There are real health hazards to be avoided and physical home benefits to running dehumidifiers even over air conditioning.
Though we’re generally surrounded by concrete, humidity is still the primary cause of moulds, fungus and mildew in the home — despite constant A/C. If you have condensation on your windows, you’re in a humid house. If you’ve ever worried about less than sparkling air quality, a dehumidifier is a more economical alternative to air purifiers. They keep the air clear of unappealing odours that arise from moulds and can keep some nasty particles from accumulating (but it is still not an air purifier). Excess moisture in the air can cause skin irritations and sinus troubles, as can too little moisture, so the idea is to maintain a nice 40 to 50 percent. Drier air can help with relieving allergy symptoms.
On the home front, keeping humidity under control can reduce wear and tear on wood. From a more prosaic perspective, damp or wet laundry dries faster (and doesn’t need to be washed again), corrosion of metal in expensive electronics and mould on those shoes — and jackets, furniture, utensils and some fabrics — are reduced with regular use of a dehumidifier. A nicely balanced space is ideal for art collectors, as original art often holds up best under non-excessively moist conditions, and computers run better. They’ve been known to combat pests and your Special K is likely to stay crispy.
Best of all, dehumidifiers can keep power bills down in the long run. They’re not necessarily cheaper to run than standard air conditioners, but used in conjunction dehumidifiers help A/C units do their jobs more efficiently and prevent them from working on overdrive to dry out the air.
So how do you buy a dehumidifier? Dehumidifiers work by taking in moist air, cooling it below the dew point, letting it condense and then drip into a collection tank. You can go find a hygrometer and take a precise reading of the humidity level in your home, but the answer is probably going to be “high”: this is Hong Kong. Dehumidifiers are sized according to the amount of water they extract in 24 hours. For a 1,000-square foot flat with average levels of stickiness and that “humid smell,” a machine that can remove 10 to 15 litres per day should do the trick. Look for a large enough water tank (five litres or so is good) so you don’t have to be constantly dumping it. And yes, you can water the plants with collected water. So here’s to getting ready for summer and to keeping moist air where it belongs — in the steam room.