Feeling uncomfortable in the home, or experiencing more allergy-related symptoms?
While you might not think too much about humidity in your home, it does play an important role when it comes to allergies and other issues. It can also be harmful to your furniture or produce mould.
What, exactly, is humidity?
Humidity can be defined simply as the concentration of water vapor in the air.
When there’s more water evaporating, more water vapor will rise into the air and this will boost the humidity of your home. Warmer regions are usually higher in humidity than cooler ones because heat results in water evaporating at a quicker rate.
Whether there’s too little or too much humidity in the air, it will have an effect on you and your environment.
What Are The Effects Of High And Low Humidity?
While you can’t control how much humidity is outside, you can make a difference to the humidity levels in your home, and this is important to do.
What happens when there’s too much humidity in your home?
High levels of humidity will lead to the following issues:
- You might feel tired and sluggish. Very high levels of humidity can increase your body’s temperature, which results in your body being unable to release heat, and this can lead to overheating.
When your body overheats, this puts you at risk of heatstroke, fainting, dehydration, muscle cramps, and fatigue. It’s interesting that we usually associate such symptoms with high levels of heat, but they can occur with high humidity.
- Your home will be more susceptible to mould. You probably know that mould is usually an issue in high-humidity areas, such as your bathroom. Mould can be harmful to your health, especially if it’s black mould. This can result in serious health issues, such as asthma attacks, lung conditions, and vomiting.
- Your home could have more bugs. This is because higher levels of moisture in the air will attract bugs, who need moisture to survive.
- You’ll have health problems. These include allergy flare-ups, sleep problems, and respiratory problems.
- You’ll have more dust mites. Although you won’t be able to ever completely remove dust mites from the home, you can decrease their numbers by lowering your home’s humidity because dust mites require high levels of humidity to survive.
- You’ll cause damage to your appliances. When the humidity is too high, this can cause condensation to form inside the appliance’s electrical components, which leads to rust and can shorten their lifespan.
- You’ll damage your wood furniture. Wood can swell, creak, and crack when the humidity is too high.
On the other hand, low levels of humidity can be problematic in the following ways:
- Your skin will suffer. When your skin doesn’t get enough moisture, it will be prone to itching, redness, dryness, and even conditions such as eczema.
- Your eyes will become itchy and irritated from the dry air. This can lead to feeling discomfort, especially if you’re already prone to eye allergies.
- You could experience nasal congestion. This is as a result of how your nose senses that it’s inhaling dryer and cooler air, and this results in sneezing and congestion.
- You increase your chance of getting influenza. Research has found that in low humidity conditions, such as dryness during the winter, there’s a higher transmission of flu. If you’re particularly susceptible to getting colds and the flu, it could be as a result of low levels of humidity that you’re constantly experiencing.
How Much Humidity Should You Have In The Home?
Before you can try to reduce or increase the amount of humidity that’s in your home, it’s important to know what the ideal humidity range should be.
You should try to keep your indoor air humidity between 30 and 50 percent.
Anything less than that is considered low humidity while anything over that range is too high.
To find out how much humidity you’re dealing with in your home, you should purchase a hygrometer. However, there’s also a quick test you can do to find out if you’re dealing with high or low humidity.
You will have to do it in a room of the house in which you think there’s either low or high humidity, but avoid conducting this test in the kitchen as cooking steam could give you an incorrect result.
So, this is what you need to do to test if you’re dealing with high or low humidity.
- Get a glass, a few ice cubes, and a spoon. Put two or three ice cubes in a glass and add some water to it. Stir it and wait a few minutes to see what happens.
- If you don’t see any moisture accumulating on the glass exterior, the air is very dry. On the other hand, if the water has condensed, this could mean that your humidity is too high.
There’s another test you can do if you’re worried about your home’s humidity. It makes use of two thermometers, a cotton ball, cardboard, and a rubber band. Here’s how to do it.
- Leave one thermometer as it is (this will be the dry bulb in the test).
The second one will need to have its bottom wrapped in a moist cotton ball (this thermometer will be the wet bulb in the test). You can secure the cotton ball with a rubber band.
- Once you’ve prepared your thermometers, put them both on a piece of cardboard.
- Let them sit for five minutes, then check their temperatures. Make a note of their results.
- Then, subtract the wet bulb temperature reading from the dry bulb temperature. The dry temp will be higher.
- Take the measurement and compare it to a humidity chart online to see how high or low (or normal!) your home humidity is.
Of course, the above tests won’t give you highly accurate humidity readings, so they should be taken lightly. Trying to increase or decrease the humidity in a room could backfire – you might make the humidity even higher or lower.
It’s therefore better to purchase a hygrometer as this will measure the humidity in your home on a regular basis.
What is a hygrometer?
A hygrometer is a device that measures the amount of water that’s in the air, and an electrical hygrometer is the most common type you’ll find on the market. You can usually find hygrometers at your local pharmacy or online.
How To Control Humidity In The Home
It’s clear to see from the previous section that controlling the amount of humidity in your home is important so that you feel good and comfortable, while also avoiding health issues.
Here’s how to keep your humidity balanced and healthy.
How to deal with high humidity in the home
Seal up all the leaks around the home
One of the most important things you should do to prevent too-high humidity in the home is to seal up leaks around windows and doors. This will prevent too much moisture from entering the home.
Walk around the home and try to see if there are any obvious leaks. Red flags that you have leaks include unusually high water bills and stained walls or ceilings.
Run exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen
This will help to remove humidity, and the benefit is that it will also get rid of harmful pollutants. For example, smoke that’s released during cooking can hang around in the air and become an irritant.
Keep exhaust fans in these two rooms in the house because they’re usually the most prone to experiencing high levels of humidity.
Buy humidity-loving plants
There are some plants that thrive in high humidity conditions, so put them in your home. Examples include Pothos (Epipremnum aureum). The benefit of these plants is that they will also help to refresh your indoor air.
Use a dehumidifier
If you have high humidity levels in your home, buying a dehumidifier is an important move. How this works is that it pulls warm air into its coils with the use of a fan.
The warm air contracts as it moves through the refrigerated coils and then condensation is left behind in the dehumidifier. This water accumulates inside the machine and cooler air is released into your home.
Install low-flow showerheads
Replace your showerhead with a low-flow model as this will prevent the amount of water and humidity in your home. While you’re in the shower, also try to have shorter and colder showers as the hot temperature can increase the humidity.
Of course, colder showers aren’t ideal during winter, but try to keep your showers short. The bonus is that doing this will save water and lower your water bill.
Dry your laundry outside
On summer days, don’t keep your washed laundry inside to dry it indoors.
This will just contribute to the humidity in your home, so rather dry it in the tumble dryer or keep it outside where it can make use of the sun’s rays.
Ventilate your home
Make sure that your home is properly ventilated to decrease the high levels of humidity. Open windows and doors, especially if you’re showering or cooking, as the bathroom and kitchen can both be prone to high humidity.
It’s also essential to ventilate your attic. Make use of fans in the attic to ensure that the air there remains dry.
Use dry heat
While you might use gas heating to warm up your home, it can make your problems worse if it’s already got a lot of humidity.
Dry heat sources, such as wood-burning stoves or space heaters, can help to dry the air while they keep the indoor temperature warm during winter.
How to deal with low humidity in the home
If your home’s got low levels of humidity, you need to inject more humidity into it. You can do this in various ways.
Put water bowls around the room
Set bowls on a variety of surfaces around the home, such as on bookshelves and on windowsills. Just make sure you keep them out of the path of traffic in your home to prevent them from being spilled.
Leave the door open
After you’ve had a hot shower and you leave the bathroom, leave the door open. This will encourage the humid air to move into the other rooms of the home. Just make sure you leave your exhaust fan turned off.
Bathroom door aside, you should also leave the dishwasher door open after you’ve used it so that you can bring some moisture into the air.
Start using a humidifier
A humidifier contains a tank that gets filled with water and then releases a warm or cool mist into the room. This helps to keep the air more hydrated, making it easier to breathe in without experiencing nasal irritation from dry air.
Dry your laundry indoors
You can boost the humidity in the air by hanging laundry inside the house as this will bring a small amount of moisture into the air as it evaporates on your clothing.
Set up a fountain (or two)
While it’s good to place some bowls of water around the home, you can also put a fountain inside a room that’s got low levels of humidity.
Pro tip: position the fountain next to a heat source or in a shaft of natural sunlight that’s entering the room.
This is useful because when water circulates around the fountain, some of the water will get evaporated into the air.
Spray water around your home
An easy way to boost the humidity in your home is to fill a spray bottle with water and spray it around your home every now and then. This is also a good way to make your home feel cooler during the hot summer months.
Just be careful to avoid spraying furniture and leaving it wet as this could leave stains.
Use your air conditioner
Switching on the air conditioner can also help to humidify the air. How it works is that it pulls air from the home and then cools it down.
Compared to a dehumidifier, it’s different in that it directs the air outside the home whereas dehumidifiers recirculate the air back into the room.
What’s Absolute Vs. Relative Humidity?
You’ve probably heard about absolute and relative humidity, but what are they? Basically, absolute humidity is the actual amount of moisture that’s present in the air, and it doesn’t have any connection to the temperature.
The more water vapour that’s in the air, the higher the absolute humidity will be. When you can feel the humidity in the air, this is known as absolute humidity.
What about relative humidity?
This is known as a percentage or ratio of the quantity of water vapour in a volume of air that’s relative to the temperature as well as the amount that it can hold at that temperature. So, warm air is capable of holding more moisture in the air than cold air.
What makes it a little complicated is that at the same level of absolute humidity, the relative humidity can be lower if you’re dealing with warm air and higher if the air is cold.
When people talk about the amount of humidity in their home, they’re usually referring to the relative humidity.
Are our homes naturally more humid during the winter?
It’s natural for the inside of our homes to become more humid during the cold months.
This is because of how we’re using more heat and keeping our windows and doors closed. By decreasing the air circulation, leads to the accumulation of moisture.
When is your attic most prone to condensation and humidity?
The winter and spring months are both times of the year during which warm and moist air tends to enter the attic from the main area of your living space. This can increase the humidity in your home.
You might not think about the level of humidity in your home, but you should.
As we’ve seen in this article, you have to ensure that your home has enough humidity but not too much, otherwise this can lead to various negative consequences – not just for your health but also for your home, such as when it comes to your furniture and mould.
After reading this guide on humidity, you now know how to either increase or decrease the humidity in your home so it will be more comfortable.