This article was originally posted July 22, 2014.
As a Florida resident, you have undoubtedly experienced high home humidity firsthand. With outdoor relative humidity often at 90 percent or higher, how can you expect to keep indoor humidity in check? Before you start making drastic changes, learn more about humidity and the ideal level for home comfort.
Why Is High Humidity Uncomfortable?
Your body keeps you cool by sweating. As the sweat evaporates off your skin, it causes a cooling effect. That’s one reason squirting yourself with a spray bottle and letting your skin air dry helps you cool off.
When the air is quite humid, it’s already saturated with water. It can’t hold much more, so it doesn’t evaporate the water from your skin as quickly. This creates a muggy, hot feeling that makes you feel much warmer than if the room was at a lower relative humidity.
Why Is High Humidity Expensive?
The thought of improving home comfort may compel you to lower the humidity, but you can also save energy. You might set the thermostat to 74 degrees, but if it’s overly humid inside, you could still feel overheated. On the other hand, an ideally humid environment with the thermostat set to 77 degrees may feel perfectly cool and comfortable. This clearly demonstrates the old saying, “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity.”
In addition, excess moisture can damage drywall, musical instruments and wood fixtures in your home. Replacing these items that have rotted, warped or became moldy in overly moist conditions can be quite expensive.
Why Does High Humidity Degrade Air Quality?
Have you ever seen a cold soda can “sweat” when it’s hot outside? This condensation can occur on various cool surfaces throughout your home if the humidity is too high. Condensation creates a breeding ground for mold. When mold grows indoors, you may begin to exhibit symptoms of mold spore exposure, including sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing, throat irritation and watery eyes. Keeping the humidity level down helps you breathe easier by preventing mold growth.
What Is the Ideal Humidity Level?
With all this talk of improving comfort, lowering energy bills and promoting cleaner indoor air, what humidity level should you aim for? In the summer, home humidity should remain between 40 and 60 percent.
Measuring indoor humidity is easy with a hygrometer. This small, handheld instrument displays the relative humidity in the room. You can carry it around with you to different rooms and accurately measure the relative humidity throughout your home. Hygrometers are available at your local hardware store.
Lowering Home Humidity Levels
To maintain a comfortable interior, you need to keep humidity in check. Use these tips:
- Increase air movement inside by running ceiling fans. Air circulation helps dry up standing water and creates a cooling wind-chill effect to keep you comfortable.
- Run the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans when you shower and cook. These activities produce a lot of humidity that you don’t want building up inside your home.
- Open windows when outdoor humidity levels are low. This lets in a fresh breeze that can help even out home humidity levels.
- Keep the windows closed when the humidity level is higher than the ideal 30 to 45 percent. Keep a small weather station on hand to help you track outdoor conditions right where you live.
- Check for water leaks that could be contributing to higher indoor humidity. Look in easy-to-reach spots such as under the bathroom and kitchen sinks, behind toilets and in unfinished spaces.
- Run a whole-house dehumidifier. Air conditioners remove some humidity, but Florida’s muggy climate may need an extra boost. A whole-house dehumidifier runs independently of the air conditioner so you can operate it alone on mild days or in conjunction with the A/C to boost the equipment’s moisture-removing abilities. A dehumidifier allows you to program the humidity level you want so the machine runs when it’s needed and turns off when the ideal home humidity is reached.
Choosing a Dehumidifier
While all the other suggestions for keeping home humidity low are sure to help, the best way to see the biggest difference is to install a whole-house dehumidifier. Choose a dehumidifier that’s suited to your home’s size. Then, look for features that improve convenience, such as an on-board hygrometer, quiet operation and drain connection kit.
For more help measuring and controlling home humidity, please contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air, proudly serving the Sarasota and Bradenton areas since 1974.
Written by John Miller
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