Regardless of the climate where you live, the level of relative humidity in your air can affect your home comfort. Additionally, humidity can affect the proper function of your HVAC equipment. This means that managing the indoor humidity should be considered a priority, especially when you want to tailor your cooling and heating to your personal preferences and the needs of your home. So, here we’ll explore indoor humidity and how you can determine the ideal levels for your home.
What is Relative Humidity?
The term relative humidity is used to refer to the amount of water vapor present in your indoor air. It is expressed as a percentage for the amount needed at the same temperature for saturation. When the temperature goes down or up, the air capacity to hold water also changes.
Having the optimum moisture level in your home environment will ensure that your HVAC system works efficiently and you feel comfortable. In the summer months, the humidity should be below 50%, ideally between 30 and 45 percent, while winter requires lower humidity at 40% or less. This will allow you to feel cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
If these levels are not properly maintained, you may find yourself struggling with respiratory issues, and your home is at risk of damage, both inside and out.
The Common Signs of Poor Indoor Humidity
Indoor air tends to become dry when the humidity level drops outside. As the weather turns cooler, you’ll turn on your heating, which can further dry out the air. Low humidity can cause dry, itchy hair and skin, chipped paint, damaged electronics, static electricity, damage to wooden furniture, cracked or split flooring and susceptibility to respiratory illness including coughs and colds. Even on a basic level, your sinuses can dry out, which can lead you to feel uncomfortable.
The Health Benefits of Improving Your Indoor Air Humidity
There are a number of health benefits associated with creating the optimum humidity level in your indoor air. Proper humidity levels will help to clear your sinuses to improve your breathing. Additionally, it can assist you with your overall well being. Bacteria and viruses cannot survive in moist air. Research has shown that increasing humidity levels to above 43 percent can significantly reduce the ability of viruses to cause an infection. The moist conditions can also keep your nasal passages healthy to increase your healing time from an airborne infection.
You may also notice that your snoring symptoms are relieved. The wet air can moisturize your respiratory system to decrease the volume of snoring. In fact, as the nasal passages are relaxed, you may find that there is a natural subsiding of snoring over time. Additionally, there will be a natural decrease of irritant particles in the air, which can further help snoring symptoms. Also, improving the humidity in your bedroom can not only provide relief from snoring, but can help dry throats to improve sleep.
The Household Benefits of Optimizing Your Humidity
In addition to offering significant health benefits, optimizing your humidity levels can also provide a number of household benefits. Dry air can create some issues in the home and introducing moisture into the air can prevent, eliminate or merely improve issues including:
- Cracked Wooden Furniture: Over time, drier air can warp and crack furniture, flooring and other wooden items inside your home.
- Electric Shocks: With the air less dry, there is a lower possibility of getting static shocks inside your home.
- Protection for Collectables: Whether you have photos, paintings or even a stamp collection, having the optimum moisture level inside your home will protect these items from discoloration, brittleness or flaking.
The Effects of High Humidity
Unfortunately, increasing your humidity levels is not always the solution, as high humidity can also have some negative effects for you and your home. If your humidity level is high, you may find yourself struggling with sleep discomfort and a muggy indoor environment. Your home can also suffer from mold growth, mildew, woodwork rot, and wet insulation.
Using a dehumidifier can help you to manage your air quality to alleviate these issues and assist with problems such as asthma. Studies suggest 1 in 12 people are suffering from asthma, so in addition to the routine changing of HVAC filters and vacuuming, a dehumidifier can regulate the moisture levels to create favorable conditions for asthmatics.
Home Humidity Levels in Various Climates
Seasonal humidity can have a massive impact on your indoor home comfort, so it is crucial to manage your humidity properly at different times of the year. During the colder months, adding moisture to your indoor air is essential as cold air tends to be dry as it is unable to hold greater amounts of moisture. During winter, indoor humidity levels should be set at 30 to 40 percent.
During the summer or in hotter weather, it is a priority to remove moisture from your indoor air. Warm air tends to be moist, so you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of taking moisture out of your air. Too much humidity will encourage bacteria and mold growth, making your home feel uncomfortable and muggy. Most experts recommend maintaining a humidity level of less than 60 percent during the summer months.
Considerations for Your Ideal Indoor Humidity
The time of year and your geographic location are not the only factors affecting your indoor humidity levels. Standard activities inside your home such as cooking or showering can produce steam that impacts humidity levels. To ensure your home feels comfortable, particularly in winter, you need to keep your heating set at 68ºF, with the humidity levels discussed above. A whole home humidifier and dehumidifier can allow you to monitor and control humidity levels inside your home throughout the year.
If you have concerns about your indoor air humidity levels, you should speak to your HVAC technician. An experienced professional can assess your HVAC system to ensure that your ductwork and equipment is properly sized and installed, and recommend additions including dehumidifiers to ensure that your indoor air humidity levels are optimized.