What Is the Ideal Indoor Humidity

What Is the Ideal Indoor Humidity?

The ideal indoor humidity level affect your overall comfort as well as the stability of your home or other structure. Excessive humidity encourages the growth of mold, mildew, and similar contaminants along drywall, on wood framework, underneath carpet padding, and along other surfaces inside a home or office.

On the other hand, overly dry air is uncomfortable for breathing and can cause skin dryness and irritations. Excessively dry air inside your home or office also dries out wood framework and hardwood floors, causing the material to shrink, curl, and otherwise warp. In that case, it may be time to think about a whole house humidifier.

Generally speaking, indoor humidity levels should be kept above 30%, with ideal humidity levels in the 40% to 50% range. This should be adjusted throughout the year, to accommodate average outdoor temperatures that affect indoor humidity levels.

What Does “Relative Humidity” Mean?

To better understand the ideal indoor humidity for your home or office, it’s good to understand what is meant by “relative humidity.” In simple terms, relative humidity refers to the amount of water vapor present in the atmosphere, compared to the amount of vapor needed to fully saturate the air.

To help you understand this point, a rainstorm is often measured in terms of 100% humidity. The air is nearly 100% saturated with water vapor when it’s pouring rain; when it’s only sprinkling outside, the humidity levels are lower.

This principle is true inside your home. When there are large amounts of water vapor in the air, your indoor relative humidity levels go up. During winter months, when water doesn’t evaporate and create vapor so easily, indoor humidity levels go down.

Why Humidity Levels Are Important

Note some additional information about why your indoor relative humidity levels are important to consider and control throughout the year. This will ensure you’re doing everything possible to keep your home and yourself safe and protected no matter the outside temperature or humidity levels!

Why You Need to Avoid Excessive Indoor Humidity

Excessive humidity is often more dangerous than homeowners realize and can damage a home in many ways. Note some reasons why you want to avoid excessive indoor humidity and maintain a more ambient humidity level in the home.

  • ​Contaminants like mold, mildew, algae, fungi, and bacteria thrive and grow in humid areas. As said, trapped humidity inside your home or office can lead to the growth and spread of these irritants along drywall, the wood studs that make up the framework of a structure, under carpet padding, on wood furniture, and even on your home’s upholstered furniture, drapery, or fabric items you have stored away!
  • ​As excessive humidity carries mold and other irritants, someone might suffer from more frequent asthma and allergy attacks in excessively humid environments.
  • ​In areas with high humidity, sweat does not evaporate from the body very easily. Even if the temperature is somewhat cooler, you might still feel hot and sticky when the relative indoor humidity is too high. Sweat also hold dirt and dust next to your skin, so you might feel dirtier along with being overly warm!
  • ​When you feel overly warm, your first reaction might be to turn up the air conditioner. However, even the strongest A/C unit can only cool a space so much when there is too much humidity in the air. In turn, you’ll be wasting money and energy and might still feel overly warm and uncomfortable.

​Why You Need to Avoid an Interior That’s Overly Dry

While excessive indoor humidity is damaging to you and your home, an interior that’s overly dry is not safe either! Consider some risk factors if your home or office is consistently dry throughout the year.

  • ​When the air around you is overly dry, your skin, hair, and eyes also feel dry and uncomfortable. You might develop rashes or flaking skin, develop brittle hair and nails, chapped lips, and eyestrain and fatigue.
  • ​Your sinus passages and lungs need certain amounts of moisture to move irritants through your system. In overly dry environments, you might be more prone to coughing fits, asthma attacks, and other such health concerns.
  • ​Building materials in the home need certain amounts of moisture to maintain their structural integrity. If your interior space is overly dry, the wood making up the framework of that structure can become brittle and then crack and chip. Grout and adhesive can also crack and lose their adhesion, allowing tile and other materials to pull away from surfaces. Framework around doors and windows can also crack and warp, creating unsightly gaps.
  • ​As humidity helps hold heat in the air, an overly dry environment can feel cold no matter the actual temperature. If you feel too cold because your home is dry inside, you might then turn up the furnace and waste money and energy just as when you crank up the air conditioner during humid summer months!

​The Ideal Indoor Humidity During Summer

During summer, the humidity outdoors will typically be higher than average. In turn, it’s good to keep your indoor humidity levels lower than usual, to avoid trapped moisture and humidity in the home and to prevent your air conditioner from cycling on more than it should.

In most areas, it’s good to keep your indoor humidity at around the 30% to 45% mark during summer months. If your indoor humidity is higher, your home might feel hot and stuffy or even downright clammy. Adjust this range according to your own comfort levels and as the outdoor temperature and humidity adjusts as well.

​The Ideal Indoor Humidity During Winter

Since air is typically drier outside during winter months it’s good to have a higher humidity level indoors during wintertime, although you want to avoid too much interior humidity. If a home’s indoor space is overly moist when the outside temperature is very cold, you’ll soon notice condensation on the windows and elsewhere. This can lead to water damage of window frames and the caulk around window panes, and even risk mold growth in the home!

Ideally, you might aim for a 40% indoor humidity level during winter months, and can adjust this level according to your own comfort. For example, if you tend to have very dry skin to begin with, you might need a bit more humidity indoors to ensure your skin is healthy during dry winter months. On the other hand, in areas where winter temperatures fluctuate consistently, you might prefer lower humidity levels, to compensate for added moisture levels outside the home.

​How to Maintain Ideal Indoor Humidity Levels

The best way to maintain ideal indoor humidity levels throughout the year is to maintain your home’s heating and cooling systems properly. Your home’s air conditioner will remove moisture as it cools the home, so a high-quality A/C unit will help maintain proper humidity levels during summertime.

While a quality air conditioner will work to maintain humidity levels, note that an overly powerful or large A/C might cool the air before it can remove humidity! If your home feels cool but clammy during summer months, consider swapping out the air conditioner for something smaller and more appropriately sized for the home.

Many residential furnaces also have humidifiers attached so that they deliver some added humidity as they warm the air, keeping a home from feeling dry and stuffy during winter months. If your home’s furnace doesn’t have a humidifier, consider purchasing a stand-alone unit for various rooms of the house. These will add needed moisture through dry winter months and keep your home’s interior comfortable.

​Additional Tips for Maintaining an Ideal Indoor Humidity

Consider a few additional tips for maintaining an ideal indoor humidity level throughout the year, and remember that you can discuss these tips with a residential heating and cooling expert who can also note added ways of ensuring your comfort throughout summer and winter months.

  • ​Use ventilation fans in the home throughout summer. The fan over your stovetop and in the bathroom both help to cool the air as it circulates and to remove excess moisture. Keep these fans running as long as possible after showering or cooking, to help remove moisture from the home’s interior.
  • ​Add live houseplants throughout the home. Houseplants help to clean the air around them and clean air is less likely to hold excess humidity during summertime while also being easier to breathe during winter months.
  • ​If you cannot afford an actual humidifier, place a basin of water near your home’s heating vents and registers. As the air blows out those vents, it will pick up that water and circulate it throughout the home.
  • ​You can also keep a pan of water as a very low simmer on the stovetop during winter months. The steam from that water will also circulate throughout the home.
  • ​Run your ceiling fans throughout the summer and winter months. In summertime, air that is moving is typically cooler and less humid. In wintertime, those fans will push trapped heat along the ceiling to the rest of the room, helping the air to collect and keep humidity with it.

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