Humidity makes hot summer days feel even hotter, and can lead to dangerous heat indexes. But while that aspect of humidity may be on everybody’s mind through the summer months, it’s not the only effect humidity can have. Managing humidity can make life much more comfortable in a variety of ways, especially in indoor environments. Here’s a guide to understanding and managing your home humidity:
What Is Humidity?
Humidity is a measure of the water content of the air. In most cases, people talk about “relative humidity” – that is, moisture as a percentage of how much water vapor the air could possibly carry at its current temperature. The warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold. This is why summer days can get so muggy, and why air conditioners make the air a little drier. In fact, the first modern air conditioner wasn’t invented to keep people cool; it was invented as a way to keep paper stock dry.
How Does Humidity Affect You?
Home humidity has a number of effects on temperature, indoor air quality, health and the structural elements of your house.
Temperature affects how much moisture can exist as humidity in the air, but humidity also has an effect on temperature. Humid air holds heat more efficiently than dry air. This means that during the winter, an appropriate amount of humidity can make your home more comfortable, and reduce the need for your furnace to continually replenish indoor heat. This is why some homes have both a humidifier and a dehumidifier, to keep home humidity within an optimal range.
Balanced humidity also safeguards your indoor air quality. When air is too dry, there’s no impediment to dust being blown up into the air. More dust tends to generate, as well. Skin flakes more easily, and fixtures are dry enough to powder, at low humidity. Low humidity also causes lung and throat irritation. However, when humidity is too high, moisture can gather in hard-to-dry places such as cracks and poorly-sealed joins, which can provide the environment needed for mold, mildew and bacterial colonies to grow.
This growth can trigger or exacerbate allergies, and also can cause illness. In addition, growth in wooden fixtures and drywall can damage these parts of your home, which can let drafts in and otherwise require repair. Even when there’s no visible mold growth on walls or ceilings, high humidity can contribute to hidden mold growth and rot.
How Can You Control Home Humidity?
Because home humidity can lower your home comfort both when it’s too low and when it’s too high, keeping it balanced is best. Generally, in warm weather, humidity in your home should be in the 35 to 45 percent relative humidity range. In cold weather the relative humidity can go lower – under 30 percent when the temperature drops below freezing, to prevent frost condensation on windows exposed to the outside air. However, as with many home comfort topics, you should keep track of your indoor humidity and find the range that feels best to you.
Small, portable humidifiers and dehumidifiers are available, but should only be used as spot treatments for problem areas in the home, a bathroom with poor ventilation, for example. Whole-house humidifiers and dehumidifiers are the most effective ways to control home humidity. Tying into your existing ductwork system, they can treat air from all the living areas in your home, and ensure that the humidity stays within its optimal range.
Because they interface with your ductwork and your HVAC system’s air handler, whole-house humidity control appliances need to be installed by an HVAC professional. However, they require less manual operation than stand-alone units – no tanks to be filled or drained – and offer a great deal of control over moisture levels in your home.
Learn More About Controlling Home Humidity
To speak with a professional about how to address home humidity issues in your Baltimore area home, please contact us at Griffith Energy Services, Inc. today.
Written by Kevin Spain