Humidity is a tricky little bugger! Too high and you’re sticky and clammy, too low and you’re dusty and dry. Either way, humidity (or lack of it) can wreck havoc with your health, your comfort, even the interior of your home.
If you’ve got a question or concern about humidity, we’ve got answers! Here are some of the most common questions asked about humidity, humidifiers and dehumidifiers so that you can be more comfortable in your home all year long.
What Is The Ideal Humidity Level For My Home?
Everyone’s tolerance for humidity is a little different, so the best humidity level for your home depends in part on how you feel. But, in general, indoor humidity should be between 30 -50%. That’s the ideal range for health, comfort and to avoid unpleasant side effects like mold growth.
Why Is My House So Dry During Winter?
There’s no way around it: if you live in New Jersey or pretty much anywhere in the northeast, your home is probably about as dry as the Sahara desert during the winter. We’re not even exaggerating! The Sahara desert has an average humidity of 25%. On a good day, your indoor humidity might be somewhere around 15%.
But why? Blame physics. It’s not that the warm air dries things out as much as the fact that cold air simply can’t hold much moisture to begin with. The air outside during winter is drier by virtue of the fact that it can’t hold water. With nowhere to get moisture from, the air inside is simply dry, dry dry.
What Happens If Humidity Is Too Low?
And it doesn’t stop there. Dry air contributes to dry nasal passages, sore throats, even bloody noses. As your body’s protective membranes dry out, you’re more susceptible to illnesses like colds and flus, sinus infections, and other viruses. Dry air exacerbates allergies and asthma, in part because it contributes to drier, more irritating air and in part because dust and pet dander just love dry air. Airborne particles are more likely to stir and drift through your home on every air current, where they can be inhaled by your already-compromised immune system.
Your health is not the only thing that can suffer when humidity is too low. Your hardwood floor may start to separate as the wood dries out. Trim, molding, even wood furniture can dry out and begin to crack.
In very dry conditions, static electricity can become a problem. It’s not just a bit of aggravation as you get zapped every time you kiss your kids goodnight, but it can damage electronics, too.
Low humidity may even cost you more in energy bills during winter. Since dry air feels cooler, you’ll naturally raise the heat to compensate. That will put extra strain on your HVAC system and end up costing more in energy to stay as comfortable as you would have been if the humidity had simply been a little higher.
What Happens If Humidity Is Too High?
You’ve probably heard – and even used – the cliché, “It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.” Cliché or not, you’d be right. Heat is exacerbated by humidity, so even on a summer day in the low 80s, it may actually feel more like 95, 100 degrees or more!
What’s worse, high humidity messes with your body’s cooling mechanism, namely sweating. You’re hotter than ever, so your body sweats more, but since the air is already full of water, the sweat stays on your skin instead of evaporating. That’s the uncomfortable clammy feeling you get on a humid day.
Not only is it uncomfortable but it can be bad for your health, too. Overheating can cause fainting, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Too much moisture in the air can contribute to the growth of mold and mildew, which is bad for health, allergies and asthma. Many bacteria and viruses thrive in high humidity, leading to all sorts of unpleasant illnesses.
When it comes to your home, high humidity may be even worse for wood floors and furniture, not to mention musical instruments. It can warp wood, peel paint, and put everything from guitars to pianos out of tune.
You may notice condensation on windows, which can quickly lead to mold and mildew growth, damaged frames and woodwork. Condensation on pipes, tanks and toilets are damaging and breeding grounds for mold.
Even your food isn’t safe. Dry goods can retain moisture and turn bad. Even canned food may be compromised if cans rust.
If you have a basement then you may find it almost unusable, whether from the damp, muggy feeling of being in the room or the musty mildew smells emanating from it.
What Can I Do To Maintain A Healthy Humidity Level?
Sometimes it’s too high, others too low, but rarely is it just right. If you really want to maximize your comfort, reduce illnesses and allergies, and save your floors and furnishings, you may want to choose a two-pronged approach. That includes using a humidifier during winter, and a dehumidifier during summer.
Both can be installed to work with your HVAC system so that your whole home is covered. That will give you the option of using one or the other as needed.
You can choose portable varieties, too, if you have a small area or a problem spot.
There are pros and cons to each, and different types of systems to choose from, so if you have more questions about what’s right for you, just ask.
Do Whole House Humidifiers And Dehumidifiers Need Maintenance?
The short answer is yes. But it’s neither extensive nor complicated. There’s no shortage of advice online for how to perform some maintenance tasks yourself, or you could simply hire a professional HVAC company to service your entire system twice a year – once in spring, and once in fall, to ensure that everything is clean and in good working condition.
As an added bonus, keeping your home at the proper humidity can actually reduce the maintenance and repair needs of your furnace and air conditioner. Proper humidity levels mean less wear and tear on the entire system.
Whole house humidifiers and dehumidifiers also require less maintenance than portables ones. They can be cleaned and serviced once a year by a professional, as opposed to cleaning, filling or emptying, and replacing filters constantly for the portable variety.
Will A Humidifier (Or Dehumidifier) Fix My Home’s Indoor Air Quality Problem?
If the humidity levels in your home are out of whack, then bringing them back in line will certainly help to improve the air quality. For best effect, you’ll want to consider installing an air purification system that can help to actually remove pollutants and airborne particles.
But proper humidification can also help. For starters, you can avoid the unhealthy side effects of high humidity, like mold and fungus growth, and thwart the effects of low humidity, like dry eyes and sore throats.
Overly dry air can make dust and dander more of a problem, as particles are more likely to become airborne and stay that way, circulating through your home’s vents. Conversely, dust mites thrive in high humidity, making them an even bigger threat to allergy sufferers.
Proper humidity levels can also mitigate the spread of bacteria and viruses – both those that thrive in moist conditions, and those that enjoy the dry air.
Should I Get A Portable Humidifier Or Dehumidifier?
That depends entirely on your needs. But here are a few considerations to help you choose.
If you have a consistent problem throughout your home, a whole house unit is going to provide far more comfort and benefit. A portable unit can be helpful for small or isolated areas.
It also depends in part on how severe the problem is. If your home or even one room is consistently above 50% or 60% humidity during summer months, for example, a portable unit may not have the power to net you any real benefit.
Portable units tend to require less initial investment, but more long-term maintenance. You’ll need to change filters, which can add up in cost, as well as clean the unit regularly.
If you’re looking for a short-term, inexpensive solution for a smaller area, then a portable unit may be right for you.
For something longer term that will regulate your entire home, and that requires almost no attention on your part if you have a maintenance contract, go with a whole house unit.
And finally, keep in mind that whole house units are attached directly to your HVAC system, and require very little space. Once installed, you’ll most likely forget they’re there. Portable units require a floor or table space, must be plugged into an outlet, and usually don’t fit with anyone’s idea of chic home décor!
If you spend the winter months itching, scratching and sniffling, or summers sweating in misery, let’s talk. Contact us for a free consultation and estimate to install a humidifier, dehumidifier, or both. Or just get in touch if you have more questions. We care about your comfort.