Humidity Hassles in Your Home

For you folks who tune into the Weather Channel, you’re probably familiar with my Forecast For Health reports.  These daily segments on the network focus on how the environment or climate affect your lifestyle and health. That’s why I thought this month would be a perfect time to write an article on the importance of Balancing the Humidity in your home for your health and ultimately the health of your home. Most likely, you’re sitting in the comforts of your home or public building reading this article, and what I would like you to do is close your eyes and imagine stepping outside on a hot summer day. On those dog days of summer, it’s easy to feel the effects of humidity. Your skin is sticky, sweat drips from your brow and the air is thick with moisture. Okay, now open your eyes When it comes to humidity inside your home, those effects are replaced by itching, sneezing and coughing because humidity promotes the growth of mold, mildew and dust mites. On the other hand, low indoor humidity is a big issue during the winter months because the combination of heaters and cooler temperatures lower the moisture levels in the air. Humidity in either extreme not only affects the health of your home but the health of you and your family.

Weather 101: Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air and the vapor comes from many places. Outdoors, most of the air’s humidity comes from water that evaporates from bodies of water ranging from a pool to the Atlantic Ocean and water vapor that plants give off.  Air comes into your house with a certain amount of humidity. Then, of course, cooking, showering and doing laundry all produce water vapor, which can raise your indoor humidity.

Recently, my crew and I interviewed a family with a very dry house-the home’s indoor humidity was well below 30% which is way too dry.  Matter-of-fact, every time the parents went to kiss their little girl they’d get shocked by static electricity! Basically “Dry-home syndrome” is common in older, energy-inefficient homes; drafts can lower indoor humidity.   Low humidity levels in your home can dry out your nose and throat and cause colds (Did you know a dry respiratory tract and nasal passages make you more vulnerable to viral and bacteria infections?) Plus, the family could not apply enough body lotion to soothe their dry cracked skin. When it came to the health of their home-such a low level of humidity was causing their wall paneling, wood trim and hardwood flooring to shrink; there were cracks in their drywall. In fact-some of their wood furniture was becoming loose and flimsy.  The piano in the family room was completely out of tune!

This particular family simply solved their home’s low humidity hassles by getting a whole house humidifier to help add moisture to their home’s air.

Conversely, we met a family with a home that was simply too wet-their indoor humidity level was greater than 50%.  The family’s basement was covered with mildew, and in their seasonal clothing closet, they were dealing with a dozen suits covered in mold! A home with this high level of humidity can be a breeding ground for mold, rot, pests (ie termites and cockroaches) and condensation. Condensation can stain your ceilings and walls, cause your wallpaper to peel and your home’s paint to flake. When it comes to you and your family’s health, humidity is a breeding ground for mold and dust mite population growth. Both of these are significant indoor allergens and can set off allergic sensitivity and trigger a stuffy nose and asthma attacks.

Our family with the wet home solved their high humidity hassles by improving their ventilation by installing exhaust fans in all spaces of the home where water vapor is created (ie bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room). Another strategy –they installed a whole house dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air.

As I explain in my Forecast For Health reports on The Weather Channel-when it comes to your home’s indoor humidity level-it’s a fine balancing act. The key thing to remember is for the best indoor comfort and health, a relative humidity of about 45% is ideal!

Tips To Handle Humidity Hassles:

  • Use a hygrometer to measure humidity level
  • Place hygrometer where humidity problems most obvious
  • Goal: Keep humidity level between 30%-50%
  • Use a dehumidifer
  • Improve ventilation (install exhaust fans in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry area)
  • Use Air conditioning
  • Install hard surface flooring (carpets are paradise for  dustmites!)

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