Here in North Carolina, humidity plays a major role in your home’s air quality. The amount of water vapor in the air typically varies with the seasons and the weather.
According to the EPA, optimal humidity levels fall between 30%-50% (45% is ideal). A hygrometer is an inexpensive device that measures the humidity levels in your home. They look like thermometers and are available at most hardware stores. By monitoring and controlling the humidity, you can keep your home and family safe and comfortable.
Air that is above 50% humidity has too much moisture. The air can feel hot, sticky, or steamy. High indoor humidity levels most frequently pose a problem during the summer (think North Carolina in August). You may notice that your hair is frizzier than usual. If the humidity levels in your home are too high, it can lead to health problems and damage your home and belongings.
When there is excess moisture in the air, it needs to go somewhere. Usually, this means anything that is dry, including your carpet, pillows, mattresses, bedding, and clothing. Mold, mildew, dust mites, and harmful bacteria thrive in these conditions, leading to respiratory problems and other health concerns.
Irritated and itchy eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing, and difficulty breathing may indicate that the humidity is too high in your home. These symptoms are even more prevalent in children, the elderly, and people with allergies or asthma.
Damage to Your Home
The same issues that lead to health problems will also damage your home and your belongings. The South, in particular, is especially susceptible. You may notice that your drywall is becoming soggy or your hardwood floors are feeling damp. Paint and wallpaper can begin to bubble and peel. Rust from the moisture will damage pipes and appliances.
Warm, moist air is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and mildew, which can take over your bathroom and kitchen or force you to replace the carpeting in your entire house. Wood furniture, doors, and musical instruments may begin to rot and warp as well. In addition, pests such as termites and cockroaches thrive in warm, humid environments.
Fixing the Problem
The key to fixing high humidity levels in your home is to control moisture. One of the simplest things you can do is to ventilate areas where moisture levels are high, such as your bathroom and kitchen. Always use exhaust fans or open windows to allow the moist air to escape.
Using an air conditioner will also help lower humidity levels. If it doesn’t seem to be working well enough, it may be because the unit is not the right size for your home. Consider contacting Newcomb and Company about replacing your HVAC system with something that is right for your space. We can even install a dehumidifier to help.
Finally, help regulate moisture with indoor plants such as cacti and ferns. The plants will store excess moisture and help balance the humidity in your home.
If your home’s humidity is below 15%, the dry air can also cause issues with your health and home. Low humidity is usually a factor during the fall, winter, and early spring. Have you noticed that you’re getting zapped by doorknobs and light switches lately? If so, it could be a result of low humidity, a common cause of static electricity.
When the air in your home is too dry, it will look for moisture anywhere it can get it. Often, it will find what it’s looking for in your skin. Low humidity can lead to dry, itchy skin that may become irritated or cracked. You may get a sore throat and find it more difficult to breath, especially if you suffer from allergies or asthma. Nosebleeds are also more common during the colder months due to low humidity levels.
Germs and bacteria can thrive in low humidity. By maintaining optimal humidity levels, you can help prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses that flourish in low-humidity environments.
Damage to Your Home
Air that is too dry can cause your wood furniture, doors, and hardwood floors to warp or split. It can also dry out caulk and glue, creating gaps around your doors, windows, and fixtures. These gaps may allow water or cold air to leak and will lead to a less efficient home and higher energy costs.
In addition to causing damage to your home, low humidity can also wreak havoc on your personal belongings. Instruments, artwork, and electronics are particularly susceptible.
Fixing the Problem
There are a few ways that you can fix low humidity in your home. On nicer days, start by opening your windows. Of course, you will want to take energy efficiency into account as well. If it is extremely cold outside, opening your windows may not make much of a different to your humidity levels, but will certainly lead to an expensive energy bill.
Another quick way to fix low humidity is to place containers of water around your home. The water will evaporate and make the air more humid. Just make sure to keep an eye on the containers and refill them as needed.
If neither of the first two methods fixes your issue, consider purchasing a humidifier for your home. You can pick up single room humidifiers at most big box retailers. If the problem is really bad, consider contacting Newcomb and Company about installing a humidifier that will work for your entire home.