Working in the restoration business can sometimes feel more like working in the water damage business. Burst pipes, leaky roofs, cracked tubs – the modern home is packed with sources of water damage that can be financially ruinous, not to mention potentially hazardous. As soon as water damage appears, property owners are understandably desperate to stop the spread, and so they call in a restoration professional with their trusty, industrial-style dehumidifier.
But how do these magical units work to remove moisture from both the air and the damaged property?
Water leakage of any real magnitude will quickly cause the air in any nearby enclosed space to become saturated with water to the point that it can no longer accept any more evaporation. This causes the water to sit in the area of the leak or spill for long periods of time, allowing physical breakdown, rot, and the development of mold.
Using a dehumidifier to draw water out of a damaged wall or board is a slow, gentle process that uses the natural tendency of dry air to sponge up water wherever it can be found. Water is slowly drawn out of the damaged property and into the air, where it is then removed by the dehumidifier and sequestered in a water tray.
Put simply, dehumidifiers work by sucking in warm, moist air and spitting out warm, dry air. The larger the unit, the more air it can move and the larger the space it can effectively dry, but the principles remain the same – there are absorption or “mopping” dehumidifiers, but these don’t tend to be as effective for industrial applications.
In the sort of refrigeration-based units that are used in restoration of water damage, air is sucked in through a fan on one side, and passed through one or more components that actively cool the air. As it rapidly cools, the air also loses its capacity to hold water in a gaseous state, and the water in the humid air begins to condense onto the cooling apparatus. This water eventually drips down into a collection area, effectively removed from the air.
The now-dry air is usually passed over a warming element before a second fan pumps it back into the water-damaged space to mix with the moist air and reduce the overall level of humidity.
The most common type of dehumidifier for addressing water damage is the “LGR” dehumidifier, or Low Grain Refrigerant dehumidifier. In this type of unit, the refrigeration process is handled by two separate phases, allowing very efficient cooling and moisture capture. That means LGR dehumidifiers can deal with larger, more water-logged areas in shorter amounts of time, though there are other types of dehumidifiers that can provide high through-put moisture removal.
Here are some other types of dehumidifier available to the restoration industry:
LGR and other types of dehumidifiers can be used for low-and-slow applications, like perpetually controlling humidity in a swimming pool, or for quick solutions like emergency water damage. The size and the noise they create mean that LGR dehumidifiers are overkill for just about any household application – you certainly wouldn’t want to try sleeping next to one each night!
Property owners are often tempted to buy or rent their own dehumidifier, but those they will likely have access to will be extremely low-capacity relative to those owned by restoration professionals.
This is important, because water damage gets significantly worse over time, especially past the 48-hour threshold; past this point, the sitting water will start to promote the growth of mold, and threaten to warp formerly solid wooden frames. The pressing time limit associated with water damage is why professional restoration services are essential for any major moisture spill.
By pulling the moisture out of the air, dehumidifiers also help to get rid of the distinctive smell of a water-damaged area, allowing showings to go forward without embarrassing musty odours driving down offers and reducing returns.
In general, access to bigger and more expensive dehumidifier units is one of the more important sources of value for a restoration professional. With the right equipment, an experienced restoration company can not only salvage existing property values, but increase those values as well.