In the summer, most homeowners are focused on keeping their homes cool. However, there's another aspect of your home's indoor air that deserves just as much, if not more, focus: humidity. High humidity is often an issue in the summertime, and it can lead to a range of issues from mold growth to warped wooden floors. In order to keep your home safe from these woes, it's important to know the basics of indoor humidity.
What is the ideal indoor humidity, and how can you measure yours?
Experts recommend keeping indoor humidity below 50%. If you can get yours down around 40%, that's even better. You can measure your humidity using a device called a hygrometer, which can be purchased at most hardware stores for a few dollars. Some are made for outdoor use while others are intended for indoor use, so read labels carefully when shopping.
Most of today's hygrometers are digital. They will take a sample of the air, measure the amount of moisture it contains, and report the percent humidity on a little screen.
What are some consequences of high humidity?
The best known consequence of high humidity is probably mold growth, which can surely lead to health issues as well as the destruction of your property. Bacteria also like to breed in moist environments, so you're more likely to become ill in a moist home. Your wallpaper may start separating from the walls due to the moistening of the paste that holds it to the wall. Condensation may stain your walls and other items.
How can you reduce your home's humidity?
If your humidity is just a bit on the high side, you can likely get it under control just by running the air conditioner. Central air conditioners work not only by cooling the air, but also by removing moisture from it. When using the unit with hopes of lowering humidity, make sure you keep it on constantly rather than turning it off in the daytime. You don't have to keep your home cooled to 68 degrees F when you're not in it, but maybe keep it at 74 or 75 degrees F during the day. This will keep moisture levels from creeping back up, so the unit is not so over-taxed when you cool the home more thoroughly when you're home at night.
Also, keep your windows closed. Resist the urge to open the windows to cool off the home on a cool night. You might save a little on your electric bill, but you'll also be letting the humidity right back inside -- leading to all of the mold, illness, and damage issues discussed above.
What can you do if your air conditioner is not lowering humidity effectively?
If you live in a very humid area or have a home with a lot of air leaks, then your air conditioner alone may not be able to keep your humidity levels in the healthy 40 - 50% range. In this case, you'll want to have a whole-home dehumidifier added to your HVAC system. This type of unit will remove moisture from your air as it is cycled through your air conditioner and blower, so the air throughout the entire home stays dryer.
If you cannot afford a whole-home dehumidifier, an alternative would be to purchase a small, portable dehumidifier and place it in the room where you're having the most issues with moisture. You can even move it between several rooms. It won't do as thorough of a job at treating the whole home as a dehumidifier integrated with your HVAC system would, but it's better than nothing.
If you want your home to be a healthy, happy place, then keep an eye on your humidity levels. For more information, speak to your HVAC specialist. They can analyze moisture issues in your home and give you personalized advice as to how to improve them.