Did you know that the humidity level in your home can affect both the health of your family and that of your home? Humidity is the amount of water vapor in air, whether inside or outside. Optimum indoor humidity is considered to be between 40 and 50 percent, with anywhere between 30 and 60 percent acceptable.During the winter humidity levels drop because cold air holds less moisture than warm air. Homes that utilize forced air heating have an exacerbated problem because furnaces use combustion to create hot air, thus burning out most of the water vapor that existed in the first place. To make matters worse, when humidity levels dip the ambient air feels cooler than more humid environments, and we turn up the heat to compensate.
Low humidity causes static electricity, dry skin and hair, increased susceptibility to colds and respiratory illness, and can allow certain viruses and germs to thrive. Wood floors, furniture and millwork will split and crack, paint will chip, and electronics can be damaged because of low humidity levels.
When humidity levels rise above optimum levels, mold, mildew and musty odors can develop, along with peeling wallpaper and warping wood. Dust mites and many other pests such as termites and cockroaches thrive in high humidity, contributing to allergies and deterioration of your home. Homes that are more energy-efficient are actually more likely to suffer from problems with higher humidity. The tighter your house is, the less air that is exchanged and condensation can develop on windows and walls. Basements are notorious for having higher humidity levels. Bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms also have higher humidity levels. Bedrooms and rooms closer to these areas will have a higher humidity level than ones further away.
You can measure the humidity in your home with a hygrometer, an inexpensive meter available at discount, department and hardware stores. A hygrometer can identify which parts of your home have less than ideal humidity levels.
Humidity levels can be increased by using a humidifier. They can be decreased by installing and using exhaust fans and or installing a dehumidifier.
It may take a little practice at first, but maintaining the proper humidity levels in your home is worth it. After all, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Make sure you’re spending that time in a healthy environment.