Identify red flags
According to Phillip Carter, urban regional extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, common signs of unwanted moisture include:
Excessive, continuous condensation around windows
Standing water, especially under the home and around the foundation
Surface discoloration and stains
A higher-than-usual water bill from unseen plumbing leaks
Decaying wood and other materials throughout your home
Flooding events, such as bursting pipes or excessive rain, that release large volumes of water into or outside your home
Be on the lookout
Make regular home moisture inspections a priority. 'It's important to inspect more around walls, on the roof, under sinks, near water lines, and so forth,' says Carter. 'A lot of the problems I see may be hidden leaks and by the time people notice them, they have a real mold problem.' Smart home systems also offer automatic water detection features.
Your home's relative humidity should be roughly 30-50%, says Carter, who recommends buying an inexpensive hygrometer to keep tabs on your home's humidity levels. Some tips to combat humidity: Run a dehumidifier, decorate with moisture-absorbing houseplants and set your air conditioner's fan to automatic. Get more tips for conquering humidity from State Farm®.
Right-size your air conditioner
All too often, people invest in oversized units, says Carter. 'And that's not good, especially in the South, because it doesn't run long enough to remove enough moisture from the inside air and can cause tiny water droplets to collect on surfaces,' he adds. Also keep your unit's condensate drainage line to the outside clean and clear of debris. 'Keep plants and shrubs trimmed several feet back to ensure good air flow,' says Carter.
Your gutters and downspouts should drain away from your house. 'Water should never linger near your home's foundation,' says Carter. Carter recommends checking your gutters every two weeks for leaves, acorns and pine needles. 'Take a leaf blower and water hose with a strong jet to remove trapped debris,' he says.
Proper circulation prevents warm, moist air from condensing on cooler surfaces through evaporation. Carter recommends these ventilation best practices:
Ventilate your attic and crawl spaces
Vent all interior exhaust fans to the outside
Run bathroom ventilation fans while showering and for 5 to 10 minutes after showering
Install louvered doors or louvered devices installed into walls to provide air circulation for small rooms and closets
Use ceiling fans
Open doors and windows when possible
Beef up barriers
Carter recommends boosting your wall and attic insulation based on your climate. (Find your recommended level of insulation from EnergyStar.gov.) 'This way you don't have a huge temperature contrast,' says Carter. He also recommends adding a 6-8 millimeter-thick vapor barrier under your house to keep vapor from going up through your flooring.