When moving to another location or making improvements to our current homes, humidity usually won’t be among the top things to consider. Yet though you never see it, the water content in the air around you can exert a significant influence on the quality of your daily living. Here are the key pointers to know.
How humidity can affect everyday life
Anyone who’s spent time in a warm, humid area can attest to the sensation of physical discomfort this causes. When the air around you is saturated with moisture, the body’s natural cooling mechanism – sweat – is less effective because it evaporates slowly. This causes discomfort and a sense of lethargy as the environment actually feels hotter than the listed temperature.
But extremes of humidity can have more serious implications on health and home maintenance. Homeowners know that excessive moisture makes wooden doors and floors expand or buckle, while dry air causes wood to contract and splinter; preventing the resulting damage is why experienced contractors will apply a moisture mitigation primer above the concrete substrate. Low humidity, typically associated with cold weather and the onset of ‘flu season’, makes our skin dry and flaky; sensitive areas such as the eyes and respiratory tract become more prone to irritations and infection. On the other hand, high humidity can make electronic devices prone to over-heat or short-circuit; fabric surfaces may develop mold, and individuals with asthma or other respiratory illness also face increased difficulty breathing which can worsen their conditions.
Know the sources of moisture
Where you live will play a major role in determining your exposure to extreme levels of humidity on a daily basis, but there are other sources of moisture in the home besides atmospheric fluctuations. Each room in your home may have different moisture levels due to its location and functions. The basement’s proximity to concrete foundations and typical lack of ventilation can make it a more humid environment; kitchens and bathrooms also tend to have more moisture. Issues with plumbing or drainage, and damage to the sealing in a room can also affect humidity. You can buy a hygrometer to test humidity levels across different parts of your home; this can alert you to potential problems with leaks or poor ventilation.
Controlling humidity levels
Living in an indoor environment gives you control over its conditions. If your testing reveals areas in the home where humidity goes above or below the tolerable range (generally between 30-60% relative humidity), there are various options to explore. Make sure that the home is well-sealed and that water doesn’t accumulate in areas where it shouldn’t be present. Fans, especially exhaust fans in the shower or clothes drying area, are an effective way to improve circulation in humid rooms. Portable dehumidifiers can also help in specific rooms, while silica gel packets protect electronics. If the weather conditions are too dry, a humidifier will keep the indoor air at a more comfortable level of moisture. Upgrading your central HVAC system with the capability of a humidifier or dehumidifier may be an effective long-term solution for large homes, especially in regions with constant variations in humidity.
The invisible presence of moisture in the air is something we all take for granted, except on those occasions where it’s excessive or absent. Knowing its effects and the steps you can take will allow you to respond and be in control of the quality of life in your indoor environment.