Humidity involves the water content of the air, and is generally discussed in terms of relative humidity, or the moisture as a percentage of water vapor carried in the air at its current temperature. Consequently, warmer air can hold more moisture, which is why it gets so muggy during the summer. Once you recognize the effect humidity has on your comfort, you can learn to adjust indoor humidity and manage both aspects of climate control.
How Humidity Affects You
The moisture content of the air can affect air quality, temperature, as well as structural elements and overall health of your house.
- Air Quality – When the air becomes dry, dust can accumulate, skin can flake, and your lungs and throat can become scratchy and irritated. Dry air can also warp wood floors and cause caulking to weaken. On the other hand, when humidity rises too much, moisture can accumulate in cracks and poorly-sealed joinders, increasing the risk of mold, mildew, and harmful bacteria (contaminates love hard-to-dry crevices). Dust mites can also infest when humidity levels run high. Any moisture imbalance can also trigger or intensify allergies or other respiratory issues.
- Temperature – Humidity affects temperature and vice versa, as moist air holds heat more adequately than dry air. As a result, if you adjust your home’s humidity during colder months, you can make your home more comfortable, reducing the pressure placed on the furnace. As such, having both a humidifier and dehumidifier can maintain optimal moisture levels in the indoor air.
Controlling Indoor Humidity
During warm seasons, experts recommend keeping indoor humidity at around 35 to 45 percent. In cold seasons, this range runs closer to 30 percent. In fact, lowering humidity to this point can prevent frost condensation from accumulating on windows during freezing temperatures.
Different types of humidifiers and dehumidifiers exist to help you manage indoor moisture. Small, portable devices work best for problem areas like bathrooms with poor ventilation, while whole-house humidifiers can effectively control humidity throughout your home, treating air and keeping ductwork and temperatures at optimal levels. More importantly, since whole-house systems work automatically, you can adjust levels to suit your needs. Since larger systems are more complex, they should be installed by licensed HVAC professionals, but portable devices can be installed and operated more easily.