Home Humidity – When you first move into a new home, you may be looking for that new house smell. For second-hand homes, these will not always be present. After all, the home has been lived in and has its own unique smells and odors from years of household living. 

While odors are easily managed with proper ventilation and an air freshener or two, humidity is something else altogether. Excess humidity can be detrimental to respiratory health. It can also cause wood furniture and support beams to swell, and cause mold formation. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC) plays a big role in managing humidity levels.

If you experience a heavy feeling, it could indicate excessively  humid air. Here’s how to restore the proper humidity to the home, so you can experience a comfortable existence. 

Relative Humidity Defined

CUTLINE: The term relative humidity (RH) refers to a measure of the moisture present in the air as opposed to the maximum amount of moisture possible in the air.

The TV weather forecaster uses the term relative humidity frequently, but they don’t define it during each forecast. The term relative humidity (RH) refers to a measure of the moisture present in the air as opposed to the maximum amount of moisture possible in the air. Expressed in a percentage, relative humidity can refer to an indoor air quality measure or an outdoor one. While outdoor humidity can reach 100 percent, that would spell disaster for your home.

The Right Amount of Humidity

The human body finds a relative humidity of between 40 to 60 percent to be the comfortable region. The high end of that figure though, 60 percent, signals the danger area for mildew and mold development as well as bacterial growth. Summer often tempts us to set the humidity in our homes to 60 percent or higher due to the extremely hot temperatures.

The same problem occurs during winter. During the cold weather months, many of us lower the relative humidity in our homes to about 40 percent while using the fireplace or other heating accessories. Some dip lower than that and those very low humidity settings help condensation form on windows and walls. That leads to the development of mildew, mold, and bacteria.

Essentially, keeping a balance between comfort and environmental safety complexifies indoor humidity. If only you could just set it to what you feel comfortable in, everything would feel great.

Where Do You Set Humidity Levels?

Most new HVAC systems offer an RH setting. The RH setting refers to the relative humidity that the HVAC system helps create and maintain.

Today’s HVAC systems include whole-home humidification systems that let you humidify or dehumidify the home. If you own an older HVAC system, you might not find this setting. Your home may require a separate humidifier, a portable device that you can move from room to room, so the room in which you spend time remains comfortable.

Deciding the Right Setting

Maybe you’d like a humidity setting like the Emeril cookware gets you when making dinner. You want to set it and forget it. While you can do that with a crockpot, it won’t work for a humidity setting. While ideally, every thermostat could remain in a steady state of 68 Fahrenheit and 50 percent relative humidity, temperature fluctuations happen.

The weather outside influences the setting for your indoor humidity, just as it does for your indoor temperature. When the weather grows cold, you increase the temperature on your thermostat, but you need to decrease the humidity setting. Going below a 40 percent setting produces danger though due to the risk of mold growth and other icky substances.

Summer creates the same issue. As temperatures hover in the 90s to 100s Fahrenheit, people tend to want to set the humidity higher. That keeps the air indoors moist, which works well with the cooler air. You’ve probably noticed that in very hot temperatures, high humidity makes it feel as if you took a shower in sweat.

Signs of a Wrong Setting

Sure, the typical safe range for humidity indoors starts at 40 percent and stops at 60 percent, but that doesn’t mean those figures work perfectly for your home in every situation. Despite following best practices, the weather outdoors, the age of your home, its condition, and other devices running in the home can affect the humidity. For example, if you operate an ASICS to mine cryptocurrency and cool that room with a window unit on top of the central heat and air, you’ll affect the appropriate humidity setting.

So, how do you know when you need to change the setting?

  • The windows fog up indoors. That results in condensation, which means you need to reduce the humidity setting.
  • The walls seem to sweat. They appear moist or damp. That also signals condensation, meaning you need to reduce the humidity setting.
  • You notice tiny black dots on or around any of the air conditioning/heating vents, windows, or ceilings. That signals a mildew problem. Your home already started developing the signs of an environmental issue related to too high humidity.
  • Your room door jambs. It proves tough to open or won’t open at all. Your home lacks humidity. The wood swelled. If it rains and you notice this problem solves itself, you have confirmation that you need to increase the humidity in the home.

You can adjust the overall humidity setting in the home, then use a portable humidifier to make your home office or bedroom more comfortable for yourself. Just turn it off if you notice the signs of too much humidity. Adding insulation to your home can help reduce humidity but turning off a portable unit offers a quick solution.