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Understanding Home Humidity

Posted by Jordan on Jan 2, 2015 10:25:59 AM

Striking A Balance With Home Humidity

Think of some of the most common problems in a home: damp or musty smelling basements, peeling
Home humiditypaint, creaky floors, condensation, etc. Chances are, at some point you’ve dealt with one of these home issues, and they were likely caused by a problem with humidity, or the amount of water vapor in the air. If the humidity is too high or low, it can cause damage to your home and cause health issues for the people living in it. Maintaining the proper humidity of your home is a delicate balance, but there are some best practices for striking that balance. 

Low Humidity Issues

Problems with low humidity seem to happen most often in the winter months, when the cold air outside is the driest. When that air enters the home, it lowers the indoor humidity level. Signs of low humidity can show on our bodies as well as our homes. Dry, cracking skin, scratchy throats, itchy eyes, and chapped lips are all signs that you need to boost the humidity. If prolonged, those symptoms can lead to infections, colds and viruses. 

Our homes show signs of low humidity most often in the wood and floors. Moisture will be pulled from the wood and into the air causing gaps in the molding, shrinking and creaky floors, warping doors, splitting furniture, peeling wallpaper, sealants, and glues. Just like skin, everything dries out and that leaves it open to further damage if not fixed  not to mention the little shocks we get from the static electricity just by walking around the house.

High Humidity Issues

High humidity issues happen most often in the summer, but can occur in the winter months if the home is too well-sealed, or if too much humidity is added in cold weather. Have you ever seen condensation or even ice build up on windows?  That happens when the indoor humidity is too high and the indoor window surface is too cold. Just like moisture forming on the grass on a cool spring morning, dew can form on indoor surfaces if the conditions are right  high humidity and cool window surface. How about bathrooms or basements that smell damp or musty? That means there isn’t enough airflow to wick the moisture and humidity away, so it stays put in the wood, floors and walls of our home, which can lead to mold.

With mold, there comes a whole list of home and health concerns. Life for allergy and asthma sufferers is worsened if left unfixed. Rot in your wood can lead to more pests and bugs looking for a free meal. And, if neglected long term, it can cause major respiratory issues in people and structural damage in homes.

Home Solutions

You have several options when it comes to balancing humidity and controlling moisture in your home. The EPA says that by “air-sealing and using energy-efficient construction, uncontrolled air leakage is greatly reduced, a more controlled indoor environment is created, and moisture can be maintained at acceptable levels without the use of a humidifier.” 

A single room humidifier can do the trick in a pinch, but the EPA says humidifiers require maintenance (new filters and cleaning) to avoid becoming breeding grounds for biological contaminants like mold.

A whole-home humidifier/dehumidifier system is a great long-term option to offer you better control year round compared to a smaller humidifier. It’s hooked up to your heating and cooling system, and provides the whole home with balanced humidity.

If You Have High Winter Home Humidity:

A portable dehumidifier is a good option, but some portable models don’t work when the room temperature is below 70 degrees, so check with the manufacturer. The whole house dehumidifier is a great solution and it will work year round.

Another option is a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) that exchanges the air in the home. It provides a balanced transfer of outside and inside air across a heat exchanger so that up to 85 percent of the heat being exhausted is recovered and transferred to the fresh incoming air. Fresh winter air is dry, so it reduces the overall humidity level in the home, and it can be controlled with a de-humidistat, to make the system completely automatic.  

If You Have Low Winter Home Humidity:

Add humidity with an automatic humidifier – it’s your best option to avoid the dry skin and chapped lips we previously mentioned. Also, be sure to seal up your home. Weather stripping, new windows and doors, and patching up leaks keep the cold air out, the humidity on target, and the energy bills under control. 

If you’re feeling any of the uncomfortable issues with humidity, contact your local Minnesota HVAC expert to help you find the right home humidifier. Your family and your home will thank you for it!


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