Humidity: The good, the bad and the moldy.
Humidity is rough. You can walk outside and say, “ugh. It’s so humid out today!” and almost everyone knows exactly what that feels like. In Buffalo (and any city close to a lot of water), humidity in the summer is something we’ve just learned to deal with. But how much do you really know about humidity?
Many people mistakenly believe that the best alternative to really high humidity is really low humidity. In fact, most people are most comfortable if the humidity levels are between 30%-50%. So while less is more, too dry isn’t that much better.
Do you ever feel like high humidity makes you sneeze? Just like air that is too dry causes drying that leads to sneezing, air that has too much moisture often leads to sneezing. It’s not the moisture that’s making you sneeze – it’s what thrives in the moisture.
Mold spores and other irritants flourish in warm, humid areas. And they’re most likely to bloom where you can’t see them – inside vents, floors and walls. A house that’s too humid will very quickly start to build up these irritating spores and dust mites, causing allergic reactions and lots of sneezing. Sounds gross, right?
Is your house carpeted? Did you know that carpeting in a double-whammy of humidity woes? Carpets trap moisture, which leads to lower quality and higher humidity. In addition, dust mites already love taking residence in carpets, so they are a true breeding ground for asthma and allergy causing spores and mites.
Humidity gets absorbed into soft surfaces and wreaks a little havoc. That includes things like the wooden structure of your home – which can lead to rot, or inside pillows and mattresses. If you’ve ever been near a swamp, you know that bugs love warm, wet environments. If your indoor humidity is too high, it might as well be a swamp as far as bugs and mites are concerned.
So we know that indoor humidity levels that are too high can be irritating for reasons beyond the sticky skin and moldy bread. But what causes it and how can you fix it?
Let’s start with what causes it. Obviously, the outside air is a major contributing factor. If the outside air is very humid, it’s difficult to keep the inside air drier, especially without proper air conditioning and dehumidifying equipment installed in your home.
But anything that uses water contributes to the humidity level in your home. Think about your hot showers or baths – you can see the steam; you can see the condensation building up on mirrors and walls. Eventually, the condensation evaporates. But did you think that evaporation is the equivalent of disappearing? It’s simply evaporated into the air, increasing slightly the amount of moisture in the air. That’s humidity. Same with cooking or boiling water – any water that evaporates in your home is contributing to the overall humidity.
Unfortunately for plant lovers, plants also release water vapor into the air. This shouldn’t surprise you – ever walked into a greenhouse? That’s what happens when a whole bunch of plants are put in a room without any ventilation.
What can you do about humidity levels that are irritatingly high?
Installing or repairing humidity-control devices is the first, best way to control the air quality in your home. Air conditioners do more than cool air down; they control the quality of air by filtering outside air and pumping it through your home. Of course, if your ducts are dirty and filled with spores and dust mites, your central air conditioning is not going to be as effective at controlling air quality. So make sure you’re starting with clean vents and ducts!
Properly fitted windows and doors also help keep moist outdoor air out and conditioned inside air in.
When was the last time you checked all your washer/dryer hookups and connections? Connections that aren’t fitted or vented outside properly are also releasing water vapor into your home.
You may have noticed that we mentioned earlier that bathing increases indoor humidity. You and your family could stop bathing. But then a different type of skin problem would just replace the sticky skin from humidity problem. A better solution is to make sure that your bathroom is properly vented. If you have overhead vents, make sure they’re turned on when showering. If you don’t, have them installed! Vents that lead directly to the outside are most effective.
You can also buy dehumidifying units for your home if the problem is more perpetual than just a few months over the summer. Air conditioning can help control humidity, but in Buffalo we have fewer months where we need AC. A dehumidifier can work with or without air conditioning, so you can use it all year long. Or if your problem is on the other side of the coin, you can purchase whole-house humidifier units that will help alleviate the irritating dryness of the air. It’s a lot easier to add humidity to the air than to get rid of it.
Capital Heat has a full line of humidity control products as well as ventilation solutions that we can install to help you control the humidity levels in your home. Because no one likes to try to go to sleep when your blanket sticks to your legs and you’re lying in a pool of your own sweat.