We spend around 90% of our time each day indoors. Therefore, the importance of our indoor environment cannot be overlooked. We need to maintain a healthy indoor environment without compromising on the comfort level. We need to think of our home as our body which requires proper hydration for maintaining its health and comfort of others living in it.
Importance of Relative Humidity (RH) levels in our homes
You will be surprised to know that usually indoor relative humidity surpasses outdoor relative humidity and this happens mainly due to certain activities like washing, cooking, drying and bathing that are performed indoors.
Between 30 and 55 % Relative Humidity is required for maintaining optimal wellbeing of the building and the health of its occupants.
If the range exceeds this, the emergence of bacteria, viruses, fungi, ozone production and increased chemical offgasing is encouraged.
To improve the humidity levels within the household environment can be controlled by allowing fresh air into the indoor premises via fixed vents (also called uncontrolled ventilation) or through opening windows and doors. However, this doesn’t always work because the RH level of the outdoor air is either too high or too low and therefore it is often unable to create a perfectly healthy indoor environment.
Additional damages are done by still days that regulate insufficient airflow and thus pollution levels within the indoors increases substantially. On the other hand windy days offer sufficient airflow, which subsequently reduces and even removes indoor pollutants. However, outdoor drafts can also considerably affect comfort and energy costs by reducing the efficiency of heating/cooling systems.
What are the effects of low humidity?
During winters, when the weather is extremely cold, the outdoor air’s natural moisture vanishes which prompts a variety of problems including
- breathing disturbances
- dry/bleeding noses
- cracked/itchy skin
- sore throats
- static electricity
- dust build-up
- dried-out joints in wood furniture and/or musical instruments, etc.
Homes that are old and less energy-efficient tend to suffer most from low humidity.
How can we improve humidity levels at home?
Invest in a humidifier to add back moisture into the air.
What are the effects of high humidity?
If there is too much moisture present in the indoor environment, wet air gets trapped in specific areas such as bathrooms, ceilings, basement, corners and other such enclosed spots. This causes problems such as
- mould and mildew
- condensation on windows
- bacteria and mould growth
- insects and pests (such as termites and cockroaches)
- wood to rot (door and window frames, furniture, staircases, flooring)
Moisture usually gathers in the corners and creates mildew which is at times difficult to get rid of. Another issue promoted by high humidity level is of condensation. It can accumulate in the windows or other such openings and causes the water to drip down and rot the wooden window frames. The areas highly susceptible to condensation include kitchens, bathrooms and laundry area.
High humidity levels means excessive moisture in the air and this is the perfect opportunity for bacteria and mold that need humidity for breeding and if left unchecked this can cause serious health issues. This also paves the way for insects and pests invasion (such as termites and cockroaches).
Therefore, the importance of maintaining appropriate and balanced humidity levels within the household is paramount. Since you spend the majority of a day indoors, that’s why it becomes an obligation to keep the environment healthy and fresh.
Do you maintain a normal Humidity Level in Your Home?
In any indoor area, the appropriate humidity level must be somewhere between 35% and 45%. A few easy, inexpensive and simple tests will inform you about the RH level in your home.
Inspection of windows and walls.
If you notice moisture build-up regularly on ceilings or in smaller rooms and feel that windows are continuously fogging up then this means your home has high humidity. Also inspect bathrooms and cabinets for mold, if it is present then this indicates extremely high humidity levels.
Purchase a hygrometer from a nearby local home improvement store.
Currently, two types of hygrometers are available: mechanical and electric. Both are appropriate for household use. A hygrometer basically measures the RH level of your your indoor environment. You need to place it at a location where humidity is the highest for instance, a bathroom. Hygrometer takes a few hours to work.
How can we Eliminate Excess Humidity?
Humidity in simple words is the moisture in the air and therefore, it isn’t the heat only that encourages high humidity levels in the home. Even human, plants and pets produce moisture through breathing. Humidity of this type is unavoidable but there are several ways through which you can lessen indoor moisture.
Turn the air conditioner on.
This is the most expensive option but the fact cannot be negated that air conditioners reduces humidity and also the heat.
Place indoor plants outdoors or dedicate a specific area for keeping them.
A lot of moisture is produced by the plants and this enhances humidity levels. If you have a lot of plants then don’t ever over-water them.
Take shorter showers and opt for cold water.
A hot water shower means lots of steam and this increases humidity levels.
Install an exhaust fan in the kitchen, basement and bathrooms.
This is yet another expensive method but it has long-term positive impacts and you can easily reduce humidity levels.
Keep the bathroom vent on.
It surely brings down the humidity levels if you leave the kitchen and bathroom fans on for a while every day.
Reduce the usage of stove-top and oven.
Opt for slow cookers over pots since steam has high humidity in its heat.
For homes where humidity levels are way too high (always above 50%) and cannot be solved by the easy fixes above, the best option is to invest in a dehumidifier. These can efficiently remove excess moisture from the air and maintain the humidity level indoors.