How to Deal with Humidity in Your Home
If your home has too much or too little humidity, it can cause all sorts of problems. Learning how to strike a balance between the two will help you enjoy indoor air that is comfortable all year round. The ideal humidity range you should be attempting to maintain is between 30% and 55% humidity.
Typically, humidity levels will soar during the warmer spring and summer months. This is because the outdoor air is moisture-rich, and it slowly works its way indoors into our homes. In fall and winter, as the temperatures drop, so do humidity levels. This results in very dry air with little humidity.
High Humidity Levels and Moisture
When the indoor humidity levels are above 55%, there will be more moisture in the surrounding air. When the moisture is cooled, it turns back into water. These droplets can appear on windows, walls, and other areas—like behind drywall on wooden support structures.
Excessive moisture will also promote the formation of mold and mildew. Mold and mildew can present certain health concerns, especially if you have allergies or are asthmatic.
Over time, from continued and ongoing high humidity levels, your home can get damaged. Paint can start to bubble and peel. Drywall can start to deteriorate and get soft. The wood around windows, behind walls, and in the attic can start to rot.
Low Humidity Levels and Dry Air
On the other end of the humidity spectrum, levels may be too low. Low humidity means there is very little moisture in the air. This condition is not good, either. When there is too little moisture in the air, it extracts moisture from the surrounding area.
For instance, any moisture in concrete, wood, or other such materials used to build the home is extracted. These materials can dry out and crack, break, or become brittle.
In addition, at lower humidity levels, illness-causing bacteria and viruses are more easily transmitted and spread. This is why more people have colds and the flu in the colder fall and winter months when there is less humidity in the air.
Controlling Humidity Levels in Your Home
The best place to start is to talk to your heating and air conditioning repair technician about having a humidistat installed. A humidistat is like your thermostat, except that it shows you the relative humidity level inside the home. Some thermostat brands also feature a built-in humidistat, so you can also consider a combination device.
Having a humidistat or combo device will help you monitor and know how much humidity is in the air inside your home. Using the percentage reading, you can then determine the most appropriate actions to take, to either remove excess moisture from the air or to add moisture to dry air.
Tips for Removing Excess Moisture
In the spring and summer, you will want to make sure to keep humidity levels inside the home at or below 55%. This is easy to do using these great tips:
- Use the exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms. While cooking, showering, or bathing, make sure to turn on the exhaust fans. These fans help vent the moisture-rich air outdoors and can help prevent problems with condensation, mold, and mildew.
- Use your air conditioning in the warmer summer months. Some people might think they can save money by opening windows and using ceiling fans and box fans to cool the home. However, the outdoor air in summer is normally very moisture-rich. If you allow this air into the home, you are increasing humidity levels inside, too. By closing up the home and using your air conditioning, as it cools down the air it also reduces humidity levels.
- Use indoor houseplants to help remove humidity. Many different types of plants get moisture from the surrounding air. If you have high humidity levels, houseplants can help reduce them as they draw the moisture out of the air and use it to remain healthy. Just avoid overwatering for the best results.
- Get a dehumidifier and use it to help maintain humidity levels. There are many different types of dehumidifiers available. Some are portable models and will require you to empty the water pan underneath. Other models can be hooked up directly to your plumbing drain line so water drains away. There are also models that can be incorporated in your home’s heating and cooling system.
Use a cover over fish tanks. If you have fish inside the home, make sure to keep a cover over the tank. Without a cover, water evaporates faster and increases humidity levels.
- Install a moisture/vapor barrier in your crawl space. If you have a crawl space under the home that is all dirt, you need to cover it. Moisture from the ground can get into the home and increase humidity levels.
- Use a moisture/vapor barrier in your basement. You should also use a moisture/vapor barrier over concrete slabs, as these also release moisture. If you want to install flooring over the concrete, this is a must to prevent your flooring from rotting.
- Install an attic ventilation fan. Your attic can also be a point of excess moisture and humidity. To help keep the attic air temperature cooler and reduce the risks of condensation forming, you need to vent the air outdoors with ventilation fans.
Tips for Increasing Humidity Levels
In the fall and winter, your objective is to increase humidity levels inside the home so they are at least 30% but not more than 55%. Some ways you can do this include:
- Leave bathroom doors open when showering or bathing if possible. Rather than running the exhaust fan, like you do in the summer, let the moisture be released into the surrounding air. However, you have to leave the bathroom door open to avoid excessive condensation.
- Upgrade to a gas furnace. Natural gas has some moisture in it already. Homes with gas furnaces will have slightly higher humidity levels compared to homes with an electric furnace.
- Get a humidifier to help increase humidity levels. Just like dehumidifiers, there are many different types and options available. Some even integrate with your heating and cooling system so they release moisture whenever the furnace runs. These types of models can also be controlled through a combination humidistat and thermostat.
- Boil water on the stove. If your home is very dry, a quick and easy way to increase humidity levels is by boiling water. Boiling water turns into water vapor (steam), which makes the air moister and boosts the relative humidity percentage.
- Increase attic insulation. To prevent a loss of humidity and improve energy bills, make sure your attic is insulated correctly. Otherwise, once the heated indoor air comes into contact with the colder outdoor air, it can create condensation in the attic, as well as lower humidity levels.
Benefits of Well-Balanced Humidity Levels
You, your family, your pets, and your home itself all gain several benefits by maintaining well-balanced humidity levels year round.
- Fewer problems with dry and chapped skin. Dry air with low humidity levels can increase the occurrence of dry and chapped skin. Homes with pets will also notice an increase in pet dander and dry flaking skin on their furry friends.
- Reduces the spread of illnesses. Homes that maintain an ideal humidity level year round will also experience fewer periods of illnesses. This is because most winter-time illnesses require low humidity levels to survive. With higher humidity levels, they cannot survive.
- Boosts immunity levels inside the body. Even if someone in the home gets sick, it is not as easy to spread to others. Plus, in many cases, the period of time one is sick is also less compared to someone who lives in a dry home with low humidity levels.
- Helps preserve your furniture, fixtures, and home’s appearance. You do not have to worry about problems with mold, mildew, dry wood, wood rot, and other such issues that occur when humidity levels are too high or too low.
- Helps keep certain pests away. A balanced humidity level acts as a natural deterrent. You won’t have to worry as much about termites and other dry-wood- and damp-wood-eating insects. However, you should still have your home inspected every few years as a precaution.
- Energy bills are typically lower. Humidity affects how we respond to indoor air temperatures. In homes with low humidity levels, indoor air temperatures seem colder. When there are high humidity levels, indoor air temperatures seem warmer. As you can imagine, you will need to compensate for these variances by setting your thermostat higher or lower, which means you will use more energy to heat and cool the home.
By addressing concerns about the humidity levels inside your home and taking steps to ensure humidity levels remain well-balanced year round, you will not have to worry about too little or too much humidity inside your home.
To learn more about humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and models that may be compatible with your existing heating and cooling system, please feel free to contact A+ Services at 360-491-1400 today!