It's important to maintain the proper humidity levels in your home and workplace to keep a comfortable, healthy space. Indoor humidity levels should be between 30 to 50 percent, with the ideal level being about 45 percent.
So how do you determine what your home's situation is? Measuring the humidity throughout your entire dwelling will give you a more complete answer. Levels can be easily checked with a hygrometer, which is an inexpensive gauge that looks like a thermometer. Basements are notorious for having higher humidity levels, as are bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. Bedrooms and rooms closer to these areas will have a higher humidity level than ones farther away.
Once you have an accurate idea of just how humid your indoor surroundings are, you can take steps to get to a more ideal moisture level. The nice thing about humidifiers and dehumidifiers is that they are self-regulating. These machines regulate based on what Mother Nature tells them. For example, a humidifier evaporates less water from the filter based on how humid the air is. This prevents too much moisture from being emitted into the air.
If you've determined your humidity is too low or too high, you should know what problems that can cause and how you can fix the problem.
Humidity Too Low
Low humidity or lack of moisture means the air in your house will be dry. Without proper moisture, you open yourself up to all of the pains that come with dry air: dry nose and throat, dry skin, and an increased risk of catching a cold. Aside from all the ways your body suffers, dryness can also impact your home. Low humidity can damage wood and drywall, causing your wood floors to shrink and even causing pianos to go out of tune.
Low humidity is more common in colder climates because cold air cannot hold water vapor. (This is why air conditioners drip water - colder air holds less humidity.) Older and less energy-efficient homes are also more likely to suffer from low humidity.
What can you do about low humidity?
Humidity levels are easily increased by using a humidifier. Humidifiers must be kept clean, changing filters regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions. The most common type of evaporative humidifier uses a wicking filter that absorbs the water.
A fan then blows through the air and evaporates some of the water. Make sure you purchase a humidifier that will cover the amount of square feet necessary for the area it will be used in your home and one that holds plenty of water - you don't want to be constantly refilling it.
Looking to purchase a new humidifier? Check out our Humidifier Guide.
Humidity Too High
Conversely, when things are too humid in your home, that increased moisture can stain ceilings and walls, peel paint and wallpaper, and provide a nasty breeding ground for mold, rot, and insects such as termites and cockroaches.
While many homeowners don't realize it, newer, energy-efficient homes tend to fall victim to problems of high humidity more often. Because these homes are sealed up tight to prevent energy loss from heating and cooling, the home also seals in a lot of moisture.
What can you do about high humidity?
If the humidity is too high in your home or basement, there are two ways you can decrease it.
The first method is to install exhaust fans in rooms where there are higher levels of humidity, such as your kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms.. However, this can be expensive.
The second, and less expensive, method is to purchase a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier is, for all intents and purposes, an air conditioner that has both hot and cold coils. A fan blows air over the cold coil that condenses the moisture in the air, which drips down into the collection area. The air is then passed over a hot coil to restore it to its original temperature. For best results, you should empty the water from your dehumidifier regularly.
Don't Forget About the Office
Don't forget to check the humidity levels at your workplace, too. Hopefully you spend more time at home than you do at work, but most of us still spend at least one-fourth of our time at work. Consider purchasing a small humidifier or dehumidifier for your office, depending on its levels. The cost is minimal, but the effects won't be.
It may take a little practice at first, but maintaining the proper humidity levels in your home is worth it. After all, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Make sure you're spending that time in a healthy environment.