Like you, I spend most of my waking hours in my home. Or, to be precise, I spend most of my time indoors. Whether it’s at the office, at a pub, at a friend’s place or really anywhere, we prefer being inside rather than outside. However, if I spend that much time indoors, I need maximum comfort, and that includes ideal humidity in every room.
You’ve likely heard the term ‘humidity’ before, probably while watching the weather report. So what is it? Well, Wikipedia provides a nice, short definition. Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air and is usually responsible for dew, fog, and precipitation.
Personally, I didn’t care about the humidity levels in my house before. But then I started to look into it and honestly, having the wrong level in your house can harm you in more ways than one. But first, let’s talk about proper humidity.
What Are Ideal Humidity Levels in a House
Whenever I want to adjust the humidity level in my house, I pay attention to the weather outside. If the temperature is over 50°F, humidity should be below 50%. Ideally, 40% should do. The lower the temperature gets, the lower humidity levels ought to be.
However, I must insist that you never try to get rid of humidity altogether. Dry air is by no means a better option than very moist air. Try and adjust according to the climate. In case the temperature is between 20 and 50 degrees, reduce it by 10%, then by 10% more if it goes down to 10 degrees, and so on.
You can use these as a guidepost, but you have to find what works for you:
- If the outdoor temp is 50F or over, do not go over 50% humidity indoors
- If the outdoor temp is over 20F, do not go over 40% humidity indoors
- If it is between 10F and 20F, do not go over 35% humidity indoors
- If it is between 0 and 10 F, do not exceed 30% humidity indoors
- If it is between -10F and 0F, do not go over 25% humidity indoors
- If it is -20F and -10F, do not go over 20% humidity indoors
- If it is -20F or below, do not go over 15% humidity indoors
What Causes Changes in Humidity Levels
Aside from the weather, many things can cause the humidity in your house to go up or down. For example, if you have leaky pipes or a damp basement, or even a leaky roof, expect the humidity levels to surge. On the other hand, in cool months, you can see water condense on your windows or toilet tanks.
Then there are heating systems that work on oil or gas. If they are malfunctioning, they can emit excess moisture. Any appliance that uses heat can do this: fireplaces, furnaces, space or water heaters, ranges, clothes dryers, and so on.
Of course, maybe the place you live in has poor drainage, like the neighborhood I lived in last October. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it can cause excess humidity. It’s also important to note that when it comes to drainage or heating systems, other, more dangerous substances also evaporate into the air alongside water vapor.
What is Relative Humidity?
Relative humidity, or RH, is the maximum amount of water vapor that air can hold at its current temperature. For example, the RH for 68 degrees Fahrenheit (or 20 degrees Celsius) won’t be the same as the RH for 50 (10) degrees.
Air can hold varying degrees of humidity. Once it gets to 100%, you can see drops of water forming on windows or tiles. We call that the dew point. Naturally, I don’t have to stress that you don’t want the air in your house to be at 100% humidity.
How to Measure Humidity Levels in a Home
There are several methods to measure it, but the easiest thing you can do is to buy a humidity monitor, also known as the hygrometer.
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You can get it on Amazon for around $15, and there are even cheaper products out there. They perform well and don’t take up a lot of space, not to mention that they will help you maintain a proper humidity level and save tons of money in the process.
Improper Humidity Can Harm You
As I stated earlier, humidity is the amount of water vapor within the air. Because we have different seasons, the temperature changes, and the air can either retain more or less water vapor than usual. It all depends on how hot or cold it is outside.
It might sound scary and complicated, but you will need to check the humidity levels every day. Naturally, that means trying to maintain the best average level you can. If you don’t, your health, home, and happiness will drop significantly. Allow me to list off why that’s the case.
Physical Health Problems
We all have to breathe air to live, and breathing the wrong ‘kind’ of air can be really bad for us, especially if we have to do it on a daily basis. Without fixing my humidity issue, I could be sick for weeks, even months, just by spending time in an improperly humid environment.
In case you’re not sure of what the humidity levels in your house are, let me give you a few ‘symptoms.’ If you cough, wheeze, sneeze or itch, you might want to check how humid your house is. The same goes if you’re feeling dizzy, fatigued, have watery eyes or suffer from upper respiratory congestion.
But those are the minor symptoms. Improper humidity can lead to some severe health problems as well. I know people who have suffered heat strokes, headaches, and asthma attacks because they didn’t maintain decent levels of humidity in their house.
But the severe symptoms don’t stop there; you can also suffer from nausea, rashes, muscle pain, and rapid heartbeat.
Finally, humid environments can lead to mold growth. Not only will mold make the air smell nasty, but if you’re allergic, it can lead to serious health issues too.
What Grows Because of It
Mold, of course, isn’t the only thing that grows because of poor humidity. In fact, if your home doesn’t have a proper humidity level, you can have issues with viruses, fungi, mildew, and mites. I had problems with mites several years ago, and I can tell you it’s not fun.
However, poor humidity can cause even worse things to surface. For example, you can see different toxins evaporate into the air. These include formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur.
Psychological Health Problems
It sounds bizarre, I know, but it’s true. Improper humidity levels in your house can actually cause psychological issues. In fact, this has been scientifically proven.
One study, for example, showed that improper levels of humidity have a negative impact on our mood scores. In other words, the more (or less) humid my house is, the more likely I am to feel depressed, angry, sad, irritated or melancholic.
Another study found that relative humidity had a direct effect on our happiness, positive feelings, attitudes, social affections, and physical fitness. All of these are necessary if you and I are going to have a healthy, stable psyche.
But humidity can affect our thinking and feelings indirectly as well. For instance, how will you react if you have to live in a home with mold in the corners, peeling wallpapers, damp air, and windows that constantly condense? Yeah, not a pretty sight, right? It doesn’t take a Feng Shui expert to tell you that people feel depressed in a home that looks like it’s falling apart.
And since we’re on the subject of houses falling apart, let’s move onto other issues that improper humidity can cause.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my friends complain that they can’t sell their house because of wet spots. It’s funny how often I would hear the same words. ‘The real estate agent didn’t even want to look at our home! He said there were a lot of wet spots and that he couldn’t sell anything until we got rid of our mold! Bloody hell!’
But I’ll be honest here — the real estate agents and house flippers actually have a point. As I stated earlier, mold can be dangerous for our health, so nobody in their right mind would buy a house like that, unless we take proper steps to fix the problem, of course.
It’s not just about sales, though. Even if I were to live in my house until my dying day, I wouldn’t want any poor humidity. Moisture can build up and damage my walls, furniture, floors, ceilings and other parts of my house. Honestly, it’s easier to adjust humidity levels every day than to pay a ton of money to replace damaged furniture.
However, I’d advise you to take the necessary steps even with proper humidity. Insulate your home and make sure there aren’t any wet spots or any mold already. Strong, resistant walls can help as much as an air humidifier. It’s even better if you combine the two options.
Does Air Conditioning Reduce Humidity Levels?
A lot of people use air conditioning to battle high humidity levels. In fact, I have AC myself, and sometimes, I use it to keep my house cool or hot, depending on the month. And to a certain degree, using the AC works.
However, there is one problem with that. Namely, the air becomes dryer if you use your AC more often. In addition, the home becomes colder, which is not good for your health. To sum up, constantly using the AC to reduce humidity might harm you as much as excess moisture itself.
I solved this issue by getting an air humidifier. But I didn’t just get any humidifier out there. Price and brand name didn’t matter to me as much as effectiveness. If you’re interested in buying an air humidifier, you should pay attention to two things.
First of all, you’ll need a humidifier that can remove a lot of moisture, as much as possible actually. My own humidifier can remove close to 90 pints of moisture a day. I’d suggest that you buy one with that capacity, or at least as close to it as possible.
Second, whatever humidifier you plan on buying, make sure it has built-in fan cycling. The fan will allow the humidifier to balance out the moisture and the temperature throughout your home. In addition, you will have fewer wet spots.
Different Types of Humidifiers
Before I got a humidifier, I tried out a couple of low-cost options. First, I would dry off wet towels indoors, which provided very little moisture. Then, I would get natural stone humidifiers where I’d just add water and wait for it to evaporate. The result was the same, so instead, I got a few water containers that I can hang close to my radiators.
These techniques can work, but only in a very limited capacity. If you want extra moisture, you’ll need a different solution.
These humidifiers get the job done well. I call them ‘portable’ because you don’t have to install them. You can literally pick them up and take them anywhere with you, in any room.
Normally, there are two types of portable humidifiers. Cool mist humidifiers evaporate chilly moist air into the room. On the other hand, warm mist humidifiers first heat the water inside the device and then let the air blow out. While both options are awesome, they need refilling every day, which can be a bit tiresome.
Whole House Humidifiers
Of course, I don’t have to specify that this option is the most expensive. But whole house humidifiers aren’t just more expensive than the previous options. They also take a lot of time to install and maintain. You need a cold water connection for the device, as well as space to place it in your house.
However, whole house humidifiers aren’t expensive or complex for no reason. After all, they are the best way to change humidity levels throughout the whole house. In fact, I also think this method is the easiest. All I have to do is adjust the humidistat, and I’ll get the humidity level that I want.
Related: Warm Vs. Cool Mist Humidifier
Benefits of Proper Humidity Levels
Now that I’ve listed how you can adjust the humidity in your home, let me sum up the reasons why it’s a good idea to do it. Since I’ve gone through it in detail earlier, I’ll just provide you with the bullet points.
- improved breathing and clearer sinuses;
- no more snoring and improved sleep;
- fewer bacteria will form, leading to fewer health issues;
- faster and better recovery if you’re ill;
- help with sore throats;
- better-looking and healthier skin.
- fewer electric and static shocks in your house;
- no cracks or warps on wooden floors or furniture;
- no damage to your paintings, photos or other collectible items that moisture can harm;
- less mold and fewer wet spots;
- no mites, fungi or viruses, as well as no evaporations of dangerous substances.
Humidity plays a vital role in our lives. Ever since I began to pay attention to humidity levels in my house, I’ve lived a healthier, happier life. The only thing I had to worry about was getting the right dehumidifiers and drying the wet spots I already had.
Whether you have air conditioning or not, don’t be afraid of getting a humidifier. It’s a good investment, and more importantly, it will keep your home secure, and your body healthy. Don’t forget to get a hygrometer as well, just to be safe. Finally, make sure that you pay attention to the humidity levels in your house even after you get all of the above. It never hurts to be extra careful.