Building An Addition: A Homeowner's Guide

What Are Your Best Heating And Cooling Options For A Modular Home?

by Toni Richards

If you've recently agreed to the construction of a modular home on your own lot or plot of land, you're probably excited to move in and begin installing key appliances and adding your own personal touches to your new place. However, modular homes—due in large part to their air-tight construction in a climate-controlled environment—can hold onto more moisture than site-built or manufactured homes, making humidity control key to keeping your new home mold- and mildew-free. If your home has the ductwork for central heating and cooling but you're still browsing among your HVAC options, you may want to focus on those that promise to keep your humidity levels low. Read on to learn more about the best heating and cooling options to reduce ambient moisture within your modular home. 

Why is keeping your home's humidity low so important?

Most builders recommend keeping your home's relative humidity between 30 and 50 percent, but preferably on the lower end of this scale. High relative humidity, much like high blood pressure in adults, can be a "silent killer"—allowing moisture to seep into the porous surfaces within your home (like drywall, crossbeams, or even carpet pads), where it can lead to mold and mildew growth or cause support beams to rot. 

In most homes, the air conditioner is primarily responsible for moderating the air's moisture content—which means that an air conditioner that is inadequate for the size of your space or that doesn't operate properly could cause your home to sustain damagingly high humidity levels.  

To monitor humidity levels, you'll want to purchase an inexpensive hygrometer (or two) that can measure the humidity in any room and let you know when you need to run a dehumidifier or adjust your air conditioner's settings. Because modular homes are so energy-efficient due to their tight construction, they can be especially susceptible to the harmful effects of high moisture, and maintaining a low-moisture environment is key in ensuring your new home ages well. 

What are your best heating and cooling options for humidity control? 

Just about all central air conditioners that utilize a condenser unit to chill the air are designed to modulate humidity levels automatically—but even purchasing a brand-new air conditioner is no guarantee that you'll be able to easily set your home's moisture level. You'll need to ensure that the air conditioner you purchase is designed for the size and location of your home in order to operate at peak effectiveness. 

For larger homes, zone heating and cooling (where you'll utilize two or more compressors to heat different parts of the home) may be the best choice to ensure your entire home can remain climate-controlled without overloading your unit. Meanwhile, smaller homes can benefit from smaller air conditioners—purchasing a larger air conditioner with the hope that it can make your home extra-cold may actually backfire and make your unit less efficient as it kicks on and off more frequently.  

When it comes to low-moisture heating options, two of your best bets may be the interior or exterior wood stove. Both types of heaters rely on the combustion of wood to generate heat—but while interior wood stoves utilize radiant heat to warm the surrounding air, venting smoke out a chimney stack during the process, exterior wood stoves funnel the heat produced into a home's existing central air ductwork. 

The hot air produced by these types of stoves can be quite dry—enough that many owners of interior wood stoves will set a pot of water atop the stove to create steam and return some moisture to the room. With the use of your hygrometer, you'll be able to ensure this stove doesn't cause your home's relative humidity to drop below the 30 percent threshold (which may be uncomfortable or exacerbate skin or lip dryness). 

For more tips and advice, contact an HVAC contractor in your area.