Humidity: Not Too Much, Not Too Little

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The moisture levels in the air in your home are important to maintain. Proper humidity keeps your indoor environment comfortable and healthy. If you don’t have enough humidity, then the air becomes dry and you can become dehydrated. If you have too much, then the air promotes the growth of molds, mildew, fungi, and more.

So what is a proper indoor humidity level? For most homes, it is going to be somewhere between 30-50%. If you want absolute perfection, then maintain a consistent 45% humidity level whenever possible. To determine what your indoor moisture percentage happens to be, you’ll want to use a humidistat of some sort. This will help you get closer to an exact estimate so you don’t have to rely on the general rules of low or high humidity based on where you live.

Can you tell if your indoor environment is too low or too high when it comes to humidity? And what options are available to you so that you can fix the problems that you may be encountering? Let’s make sure you’ve got not too much humidity, but not too little of it either today.

When Your Humidity Levels Are Too Low 

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When your humidity levels are too low, then there is a lack of moisture in the air within your home. You’ll find all sorts of physical problems begin to develop over time when you don’t have enough moisture indoors. Your skin will begin to dry out, your nose and throat will feel dry, and you can be at an increased risk of catching a virus because of this situation.

Low humidity levels can also negatively affect your home in numerous ways as well. Without enough moisture in the air, hardwood flooring begins to dry out, shrink, and sometimes even warp. Your drywall can become damaged. Your wood furniture can become frail. Even your piano can go out of tune when there isn’t enough moisture in the air.

As a general rule of thumb, if you live in a colder location, then you generally have less moisture in your air. This is because cold air cannot hold water vapor. This basic principle is why you see water drip out of air conditioners on a hot day. Should your home not be optimized for energy efficiency, you also are at risk for a low humidity indoor environment.

What can I do about low humidity levels?

The easiest way to fix the moisture problems in your home if humidity levels are too low is to purchase one of the best humidifiers on the market today. Just purchasing one, however, isn’t going to solve all of your problems. If you don’t properly maintain a humidifier, then it will create other issues within your home. Always change filters on a regular basis, keep the humidifier clean, and make sure your humidifier is large enough to improve the air quality in your entire room or your entire home.

The most common type of humidifiers that you’ll find today are called “evaporative humidifiers.” These use a wicking filter to absorb water, which then encounters a fan which blows air through that filter so the water evaporates into the air.

You also have cool mist humidifier options, warm mist humidifiers, and humidifiers that can even attach to your furnace or HVAC system. They can improve a single room or some humidifiers are large enough to improve the indoor moisture levels throughout the entire home. Think about what your needs happen to be and then choose the humidifier that works best for you.

When Your Humidity Levels Are Too High 

Woman sitting with tablet PC on the background of humidifier

When you have too much moisture in your home, then the physical damage to your property can accumulate quickly. You’ll begin to see water stains develop on the ceiling and walls, with yellowish water droplets running down your drywall. High humidity levels have been known to degrade painted walls, make wallpaper begin to peel away, and allow mold spores to attach to the surfaces of your home and begin to grow.

High humidity levels are also an invitation for certain home pests to begin moving into your structure. Termites and cockroaches are especially attracted to the higher moisture levels.

Homes that are in warmer climates tend to see higher humidity levels simply because of the weather patterns that occur. Warm air holds more water, which means less of it will be expelled when it is in your home. If you are using box fans or ceiling fans to feel cooler instead of an air conditioner, then you will likely have higher humidity levels. Energy efficient homes tend to seal in moisture along with temperatures to prevent energy loss, which also creates higher humidity levels.

You may also find that humidity is higher in your basement than in the rest of your home. Although the high humidity levels are confined to one room or one area of the home, you’ll still need to reduce humidity levels to prevent damage from occurring.

What can I do about high humidity levels?

If you have discovered that your humidity levels are too high, then you’ve got two basic options in which to decrease the percentage. The first is to install exhaust fans in every room where high humidity levels are present. This includes the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room. Even then, however, in high humidity climates, that may not be enough to reduce your internal moisture levels far enough and the cost will set you back thousands if you have a contractor do the work for you.

That’s why the best dehumidifier on the market today for your specific needs is a much better solution. What is a dehumidifier? It’s basically an air conditioner that you install in your home, but it has hot and cold coils so you don’t pump out cold air. The end result is that the excess moisture in your air is collected into a dripping container or drain and you end up with more comfortable air.

Dehumidifiers also need regular maintenance. If the water is being collected into a tank, then you will need to empty that tank on a regular basis. Drains need to be checked routinely for hose quality and joint viability, as well as cleaned periodically to prevent mold or mildew growth forming within the machine itself.

What About Humidity Levels Outside of the Home?

There’s one place that many of us spend just as much time, if not more, than we do in our homes. That’s the office. If your humidity levels are not at a comfortable level at the office, then you can still experience the same physical symptoms and see the physical damage to the structure of the building. Although you may not be able to control the entire environment in your office setting, you do have control over your own office space, no matter how large or small it may be.

This is where one of the best portable humidifiers or dehumidifiers can go to work for you. The cost of these small units is quite minimal, but in return you’ll have a localized atmosphere that is much more comfortable. You’ll be able to feel the positive effects within minutes. If your boss starts to object, just talk about how the improved environment in your office can lead to improved productivity and you should be good to go.

How Changing Seasons Affect Humidity Levels 

Warmer climates offer the indoor air to hold more moisture. Cooler climates tend to strip the moisture out of the air. Unfortunately this temperature-gauge method is often applied only during the summer months and the winter months are ignored. In most climates, the changing of the seasons means that it is time to change how you address the indoor air moisture levels you have.

In the colder months, the indoor moisture levels can drop so low that you wind up with nosebleeds. If you purchase a humidifier to counter that situation, you might discover that ice begins to form on the inside of your windows – not a good thing either. If you have ice on your windows, there’s a good chance that you’ve got moisture in your walls and attic/basement cavities as well.

This is where you may need to look at the actual quality of your structure to help stop your indoor humidity level issues. In the colder months, if you have too much dry air, then you have too much outside air coming into your home. This means you may need to install some weatherproofing, caulk your windows and doors once again, and seal all leaking areas. As an added benefit, you’ll likely see a drop in your heating bills when you do.

Let’s assume that your home has double-glazed windows if you’re living in a colder climate. Let’s also assume that you keep your thermostat around 70F. Here are some general rules about humidity you can follow to see if your home is able to maintain proper moisture levels.

  • When the outside temperature is between 20-40F, your indoor humidity levels should not exceed 40%.
  • When the outside temperature is between 10-20F, your indoor humidity levels should not exceed 35%.
  • When the outside temperature is between 0-10F, your indoor humidity levels should not exceed 30%.

For every additional drop of 10 degrees, your expected indoor humidity levels will drop by 5%. This doesn’t mean that you must keep humidity levels at these percentages, especially if you’re trying to maintain a 45% humidity percentage. It simply means that if your percentages are lower than this, then you’ve got an energy efficiency problem which needs to be addressed.

If your percentages are higher than these base numbers, then congratulations. You have a home that is energy-efficient and you’ll likely need to work on reducing humidity levels all year long.

Hobbies and How They Impact Humidity Levels

There are certain things you might be very enthusiastic about which will affect specific humidity levels that you maintain in your home. If you collect cigars, for example, you’ll need to have a confined environment of up to 74% humidity to properly store them. Yet if you collect photography items, the high humidity levels can cause yellowing and brittleness within the images. Wine doesn’t like high humidity at all, but low humidity can cause a cork to crack and spill out a rare vintage all over your basement floor.

Sometimes we must maintain a specific environment based on our lifestyle needs and habits. It is important to remember that these are micro-climates that must be maintained in one specific area of the home. Just because your cigars want 74% humidity doesn’t mean you need to keep your home feeling like a sauna all year long.

Look for specific items that are associated with your collection or hobby for the best results here. Using cigars as an example, a desktop humidor would help you make sure your cigars are properly protected without increasing the risk of mold and mildew development throughout the home.

In Conclusion 

Controlling humidity levels so they stay between 30-50% can take some practice, at least at first. Over time, you may see your skills develop in such a way that you can maintain the 45% humidity level of perfection on a consistent basis. Since the average person today spends 90% of their time indoors, often at the office or at home, it is more important than ever before to make sure you’re spending time in an environment that is conducive to your good health.

If you are feeling sicker this year than normal or you’re seeing more nosebleeds, then it could be the humidity levels of your home. Check for other damage, especially if high humidity is an issue, to prevent wood rot and pest infestations from occurring.

Get a humidistat. Check your humidity levels. Invest into the best humidifier or the best dehumidifier to meet your needs. When you do, not only will your home thank you, but so will your health.

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