Controlling Relative Humidity to Keep Your Home Comfortable
Though it’s not discussed nearly as often as temperature, relative humidity plays a very important role in your home’s health and comfort levels. A measure of moisture in the air compared to the amount of moisture that air mass can hold, relative humidity can change the character of the way air feels to us. As an example, imagine a 90 degree day in a dry climate as opposed to a swamp at the same temperature. Most people could tell you right away that the dry heat is much more bearable.
For most people, the ideal relative humidity range is somewhere between 35% and 50%. A percentage within these bounds offers optimal health and comfort. If the air in your home falls outside these limits, however, issues may begin to develop.
What Happens When Your House is Too Humid
When your home’s air is too moist, the first thing you’ll likely notice is that certain surfaces will start to feel damp or sticky, as a result of tiny condensation droplets gathering on them. Mold may appear in the damp corners of your bathroom and the cabinets under your sink. During the winter, condensation might fog up your home’s windows like a bathroom mirror during a hot shower. If left unattended, more serious problems including the warping of wood floors and peeling wallpaper may start occurring. For those living in the house, increased mold levels and accelerated bacteria growth can trigger allergies and increase your family’s probability of getting sick.
Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to fix an overly humid house. Running the air conditioner or heater dehumidifies your home’s air if the problem is only intermittent. If you’re concerned about saving energy, you could also use the bathroom fan to such out moist air. If the problem is more persistent, then purchasing a dehumidifier to run in conjunction with your heater or air conditioner might be the best choice.
Recognizing and Mitigating the Problem of a Dry Home
When the air in your home falls below the 35% relative humidity mark, different issues will begin to surface. Dry, itchy skin and sore throats are common symptoms that people experience in low humidity conditions. Additionally, you might notice yourself getting colder than normal at a given temperature level. A 73 degree home with proper humidity levels feels much more comfortable than a dry house at the same temperature.
Since running your heater or air conditioner tends to reduce humidity, it’s often necessary to use a humidifier when your house has persistently dry air. This is generally the only surefire way to fix the large-scale issue without a full inspection for air leaks in your home, but the good news is that high quality humidifiers can be found at reasonable prices.
Regardless of which humidity issue you might be experiencing, you’ll want to address improper moisture levels before they do permanent damage. Those with HVAC experience recommend that homeowners invest in a hygrometer – a device that accurately measures relative humidity – to give you precise information on the humidity level in your house, and a potential jump on developing problems.