Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. It is best considered in relation to temperature. As temperatures go up or down, the capacity of the air to hold water changes.
Suppose the humidity is consistently higher than recommended levels. In that case, excess moisture can foster mold growth, which leads to various problems, from health issues to structural damage in your home. Low, unhealthy humidity levels can cause itching and dryness.
No matter what type of climate you live in, the levels of relative humidity in the air can affect the comfort of your home, as well as the proper functioning of your heating and air conditioning units.
Simple solutions can help you manage the ideal indoor humidity levels in your home. Managing humidity should be a priority for every homeowner, especially when tailoring your heating and cooling preferences to meet your personal home needs.
What's the Best Humidity Level for your Home [how do you maintain the level throughout the year]
You may have thought, "What is the ideal humidity level for my house in the summer or winter months?"
During the summer months, the average humidity should weigh in between 30-45 percent (below the 50% mark). Winter may require lower than 40% relative humidity to avoid condensation on your windows. By staying in the proper ranges, problems can be prevented.
In other words, the right humidity levels help your home to feel cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
If levels are not properly maintained, your home will not only feel very uncomfortable to live in, but you and your family may also become susceptible to respiratory disorders or chemical reactions.
Additionally, improper humidity levels can also cause damage to both the inside and outside of your home.
Removing unwanted moisture in your home is one of the primary functions of your home’s air conditioning system. However, your air conditioning system may not be enough to remove the excess moisture that comes into your home.
The ideal temperature in your home will be specific to your family's preferences and maintaining recommended humidity levels at different times of the year will ensure your comfort and safety.
ASHRAE suggests a range of 45% - 55% humidity to manage health effects and illnesses.
Comfortable: 30% - 60%
Recommended: 45% - 55%
High: 55% - 80%
How to Manage Home Humidity Levels Through the Seasons
Whether there is too much or too little humidity, your health and home are affected. Balance is the key.
Tips for a comfortable summer:
- Discontinue the use of humidifiers
- Use air conditioning to remove moisture indoors
- Use exhaust fans
Tips for a comfortable winter:
- Use a portable room humidifier
- Add houseplants
- Add a whole-house humidifier
Indoor Air Quality: HVAC Humidity Problems and Solutions
When we think of cooling or heating our home, we usually think about the temperature setting. We seldom give thought to the relative humidity that plays a factor in how the temperature feels and humidity control.
HVAC equipment is designed to manage humidity problems and all the issues with low or high humidity.
Let's break down the effects of humidity on HVAC performance...
Humidity and Central Air Conditioning Systems
If your air conditioning system is working efficiently, it will remove the proper amount of heat and moisture from your living area, resulting in the comfortable environment you want.
If not, it will become hard to achieve the comfort level you desire, regardless of the temperature setting.
When humidity is high, it makes sense that A/C systems have to work harder to keep the home cool. If you're dealing with an older, inefficient, or wrong-sized system, it may not be able to handle the job. Your home may end up feeling warmer than it is because the air is holding extra moisture that isn't being properly removed.
What's more, the system will be working longer and harder without providing the desired result. This adds wear to the unit and can result in higher utility bills.
It's important to know that a larger capacity air conditioning system will not necessarily produce the cooling effect that you want in your home. Your system must be appropriately sized for your unique home by a professional.
If you are using your central air conditioning system but not getting the results you want, you can safely assume that excess moisture in the air is one of the problems.
Some apparent signals that you'll experience if this is the case include:
- The air in your home feels moist
- There is a damp or musty smell in parts of your home
- Your windows are foggy
These factors can suggest there is too much humidity present, and you should take action to adjust humidity levels.
Strategies for Dehumidification
It's a good idea to have a plan to deal with humidity before the hot, humid summer months begin. The most efficient and reliable way to manage the moisture in your home is to have a professional install a dehumidifier directly on your HVAC system.
The dehumidifier will work with your air conditioning system to pull excess water from the air before it is sent through the air ducts in your home. A knowledgeable HVAC professional can recommend a compatible dehumidifier for your HVAC system. Or, if you are having a new system installed, it is a good idea to add a dehumidifier simultaneously.
With this option, you will be able to manage both temperature and humidity levels in your home at the same time.
Alternatively, you can purchase a stand-alone dehumidifier and manage the humidity level using a manual humidity level indicator. This will require you to monitor humidity levels ongoing and run the appliance when you need it.
When humidity levels are managed in the summer months, A/C systems can perform more effectively. The benefits will be added comfort and more energy efficiency. Any unpleasant effects of high humidity will be reduced as well.
Humidity and Heating Systems
In the winter, low humidity becomes the primary problem in many homes as cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air.
When your furnace is active for months, humidity has the opposite effect than in the summer heat. A dramatic drop in moisture levels can make your living area feel cooler than your thermostat reading.
Problems that arise in the home can include discomforts from dry skin, dry nasal passages, irritated eyes, and aggravated sinuses — even damage to furniture and flooring. Your furnace or heat pump may be using a high amount of energy to run and still not provide the warmth you need in the colder months.
Strategies for Humidification
In the winter or cold climates, a lack of moisture in the air becomes an issue that can contribute to discomfort in your living spaces.
You will want to take an opposite approach from the warm weather by adding an appropriate amount of moisture to the air with a humidifier.
Like a dehumidifier, this appliance can be installed right on your system to help improve HVAC performance. It adds moisture to air before it is forced through the ducts in your home.
The result is a warmer, more comfortable home and a likely reduction in your energy bills.
A stand-alone humidifier can also be purchased to add humidification to the home. Depending on the size of the appliance and the size of your home, you may need multiple units in different rooms of the house to feel comfortable.
To address problems in your home's humidity levels, you may need additional equipment, such as a whole-home ventilation system or a humidification system. These systems are designed to increase your home comfort and decrease your risk of humidity-related health issues.
There are a variety of humidifiers on the market today.
Let's unpack the types of humidifiers you can use in your home...
Types of Humidifiers You Can Use in Your Home
Humidifier therapy adds moisture to your air to prevent dryness. The type of humidifier depends on your preference, budget, and size of your home or area you need to add moisture.
1. Warm Mist Humidifiers (Steam Vaporizers)
Warm mist humidifiers boil water to create steam. This is then sprayed into the atmosphere of your room to increase the amount of moisture in the air.
They are a great help if you are suffering from nasal congestion and throat irritations. Warm mist humidifiers can also be helpful with medications.
2. Cool Mist Humidifiers
Cool mist humidifiers come in three types - evaporative, ultrasonic, and impeller humidifiers:
- Evaporative - In an evaporative humidifier, a fan pulls in warm air from the room and uses it to evaporate water held inside a wick. The air becomes more humid as water naturally evaporates and is carried away.
- Ultrasonic - Rather than use a fan, an ultrasonic humidifier uses high-frequency ultrasonic vibrations to evaporate the water which makes them significantly quieter.
- Impeller - Uses a rotating disc to fling water at a diffuser to produce a cool mist.
When choosing a humidifier, the leading choice you need to make is between a cool-mist humidifier and a warm mist humidifier. Cool mist humidifier benefits tend to outweigh those of the warm mist variety, and cool mist versions are typically more popular.
3. Whole-Home Humidifiers
The whole house humidifiers are built into your HVAC system and are designed to add moisture to your entire home.
While many different kinds of humidifiers are available at the store or online to be set up as a stand-alone unit, people accustomed to a dry climate all year long often outfit their ventilation and ducting system with a built-in humidifier. This usually attaches to an intake or outflow point somewhere on your ducting system (usually requires professional installation).
4. Whole-Home Dehumidifiers
On the opposite side, a dehumidifier is going to be beneficial in the summer months. (Fewer allergies, less mold, less window fog, fewer smells, etc.)
Overall health benefits to perfecting your air...
1. Clears your sinuses, which improves your breathing.
2. Reduces risk of infections. Viruses and bacteria do not dwell in moist air. Studies have shown that increasing humidity levels significantly reduced the ability of airborne viruses to cause flu infections.
3. Increases healing time from infections. Humidifiers will keep your nasal passages moist.
4. Softer glowing skin. Humidifiers assist in keeping your skin moist to help prevent dry and dull skin.
5. Snoring relief. When wet air moisturizes the respiratory systems, snoring can decrease in volume and subside over time due to relaxing nasal passages and a natural decrease in irritating particles in the air such as dust.
6. Improves sleep. Besides relief from snoring, humidity in your bedroom will help with dry throats.
7. Helps alleviate sore throats.
As the heat travels through your HVAC, it spins out dry air to warm your home. This dry air can also create some problems in your household. Using a humidifier will improve, prevent, or eliminate the following:
1. Electric shocks. A humidifier can make the air a bit less dry and consequently lower the possibility of you getting shocks at home.
2. Cracked wood furnishings. Over time dry air can warp your furniture.
3. Having a humidifier in your home will protect your paintings, photos, and even your stamp collection from brittleness, discoloration, flaking, and more.
When you have an HVAC representative in your home to discuss options, asking about humidity-controlling products is recommended.
An efficient air conditioning system will help to remove unwanted moisture in your home. However, to do this, your equipment and ductwork must be sized and installed correctly.
Appropriately sized systems have sufficient capacity, run times that are long enough, and ample airflow to pull excess humidity out of your home. A custom-designed and installed HVAC system for your home keep you more comfortable. It can also save you money in the process.
If you are concerned about managing home humidity levels in your home, consult with trusted, professional heating and cooling expert to ensure that your systems keep your home environment healthy and comfortable.
Central Heating & Air Conditioning wants to create a home environment where you can enjoy your life.