We are all want a comfortable home. We pay close attention to the temperature and drafts, but we rarely question the humidity level of the indoor air. However, the percentage of humidity in the air is a very important consideration when it comes to the comfort and health of your family and pets.
What Happens When the Humidity Levels in the Home are Too Low?
Low humidity levels mean that there is not much moisture in the air, causing the air to be very dry. The first thing you may notice is that you are thirsty more often than normal. As we breath, moisture escapes through our nose and mouth, particularly when the surrounding air is particularly dry. Therefore, a dry, sore, scratchy throat – even the loss of ones voice – is a common complaint when the humidity is too low.
Dry air dries up the nasal passages. It is the moisture in the nose that captures germs in the air and stops them from entering further into the body. Without this moisture barrier, we are more likely to catch germs, bacteria and viruses of every kind, including cold and flu. Bloody noses are often caused by dry nasal passages.
Pets can suffer, too, from low humidity. They are thirsty more often and need to be let out more frequntly. If the weather is particularly cold, this is not pleasant for the pet or the homeowner. The pet’s fur will dry out in a house with low humidity. This causes the pet to scratch because he has itchy, flaky skin, shedding dry hair around the house.
Human skin is damaged by dry air in the home, too. Moisture in the upper layers of skin evaporates, meaning that the family needs to use a lot more skin moisturizer than normally required. Without treating the skin, it becomes cracked and chapped, especially the lips, hands, elbows, knees and heels.
Even plants suffer with the furnace turns on in the cold weather. They depend greatly on a steady environment. A drop in the moisture level will cause the leaves to wilt and turn yellow.
Delicate wood, such as in pianos and other musical instruments, are the first wooden items to suffer from the effects of being dried out. Any wood that is not sealed on all sides will be effected by moisture being drained from it. Tables, chairs, dressers and carvings need to be kept in the proper humidity range to keep their luster and avoid cracking.
So as you can see, maintaining the proper humidity level indoors is vitally important to the comfort and well being of all the occupants in the house.
What Happens if the Humidity is Too High?
A high humidity level and poor air quality carry an entirely different set of problems.
Too much moisture is a breeding ground for mold, fungus and bacteria. Homeowners who live in in humid parts of the country are familiar with the battle to keep mold from growing on the shower walls and ceilings. The high humidity in the air coupled with the added humidity of the shower enable these organisms to take hold. The only way to get rid of them for good is to reduce the humid conditions so they do not have a welcoming environment to grow.
These pesky organisms not only deface the walls of a home, they are very detrimental to the lungs, especially for people and animals with asthma or any breathing problem. A lung infection from any of these pathogens can lead to serious illness and even hospitalization, especially with the elderly.
What is the Correct Ideal Indoor Humidity Level?
Having the proper percentage of humidity in the home creates the best environment for happy, healthy people and pets.
A meter – a hygrometer – which measures the humidity in the air can be purchased at a local hardware store or online.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the ideal humidity level in the home is between 30% and 50%. When the outdoor temperature drops to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, lower the indoor humidity to 20% to 30%.
Best Ways to Reach and Maintain the Ideal Indoor Humidity
The best way to have control over the humidity in your home is to have a central heating and air system with a whole-home humidifier and air cleaner included. Contact us to get a free consultation with an HVAC specialist.
A secondary method is use a portable humidifier, especially in the bedrooms where dry air during sleeping hours can cause snoring and dry, scratchy throats. A seriously dry throat can even interfere with a good night’s sleep, which is vital to good health and sense of well being.
It is important to keep the humidifier clean at all times:
- Use only distilled or demineralized water. Do not use tap water.
- Put fresh water in the humidifier every day to prevent film and mineral scaling to build up in the unit.
- Wipe and dry the inside of the unit to remove any moisture-loving organisms that have lodged there.
- Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using and keep the humidifier in optimal working order.
As you can see, maintaining the proper indoor humidity level in the home is not just a matter of comfort. It is an important step in warding off illness and keeping people and pets feeling their best. Contact a HVAC specialist today to learn more about this issue and what you can do to create the best environment for the occupants and visitors in your home.