Solved! This Is Your Home’s Ideal Indoor Humidity Level
Too much or too little indoor humidity can mean health problems for you, and big repair bills for your home. Learn how to achieve just the right level of humidity in your home.
Q: My husband and I just moved from Reno, Nevada, to Baytown, Texas, and the humidity here is high, even indoors. We’re wondering what’s an acceptable humidity level at home, and is there anything we can do to feel more comfortable?
Indoor humidity in Texas: Talk about a sticky situation! While you can’t change the humidity levels outside, there are a number of steps you can take to control humidity levels inside your home. Aim for an indoor humidity level between 30 and 50 percent, depending on the season.
When indoor humidity is higher than 50 percent, not only will you feel uncomfortable, but the increased moisture in the air will also lead to mold growth, and condensation on windows and toilet tanks. Collected water droplets from condensation can potentially cause your home’s materials—including its flooring and structural elements—to rot, which is why it’s best to prevent condensation from collecting in the first place.
Inadequate humidity in the house is also problematic, and can result in dry skin, sinus issues, and increased static electricity. If the air indoors is excessively dry (and by “excessively,” we mean at 5 percent humidity or less), wallpaper can even peel away from the walls. At these levels, wood furniture and building materials can shrink, leading to warping or cracking. Here’s how to achieve ideal indoor humidity levels for the comfort of your family, and the structural integrity of your house.
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Use indoor humidity gauges to determine how much moisture is in the air.
To measure home humidity levels around your home, you’ll need to purchase several moisture gauges (SEISSO’s Mini Digital Humidity Meters come in packs of four, so you can get a good reading of the various areas of your house). Position them in different zones of your home, because humidity can vary from room to room and level to level. Basements are often more humid than other rooms because moisture from the ground can seep through basement walls. If the humidity is over 50 percent or under 30 percent in one or more zones of your home, the following solutions will help you get your humidity levels in check.
Replacing old air conditioners can lower the humidity in your home.
AC units don’t just cool indoor air—they also remove moisture. A central air conditioning unit should last 12 to 15 years before it needs be replaced, and a window unit should last 8 to 10 years. If your air conditioners are older than their predicted useful lives, their components may not be operating at peak efficiency—and may not be removing humidity as they should. Though your 25-year-old central AC may still be chugging along, you may want to look into replacing it—doing so may help get your humidity levels in check.
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Use portable dehumidifiers to remove moisture from humid areas of the home.
Even the best air conditioner might not remove enough humidity to keep you and your family comfortable. A room dehumidifier, such as the Vremi Dehumidifier for Medium Spaces and Basements, can make even the muggiest areas, such as basement bedrooms, feel more pleasant.
The ideal indoor humidity level in summer is 40 to 50 percent; any higher than that and you run the risk of mold and mildew growth. When the indoor humidity levels in the entire home are consistently high—that is, if the humidity is regularly higher than 50 percent—it might be time to consider adding a whole-house dehumidifier to your home’s HVAC system. This type of dehumidifier, which should be installed by an HVAC professional, removes moisture as the air cycles through the main vent system.
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Install a bathroom exhaust vent to remove humid air after bathing.
Much as you enjoy long, hot showers or baths, all that steam will dissipate as soon as you open the bathroom door. Run a bathroom exhaust fan, such as the Panasonic WhisperSense Bathroom Fan, during and after bathing to draw steamy air up, out, and away. (Be sure to determine the right size bathroom exhaust fan for your needs before purchase.)
Cover a dirt basement floor with a vapor barrier.
Most of today’s new homes have poured concrete basement floors, but many houses built before 1950 still have unfinished dirt floors. The moisture in a dirt-floor basement can be as high as 100 percent, depending on how damp the soil is, and that moisture can filter up into other areas of the home. The solution, in this case, is placing a vapor barrier, such as 6 mm plastic sheeting, over the dirt, and then covering the sheeting with several inches of sand or pea gravel to hold it in place.
Add more moisture to the air to achieve the ideal indoor humidity in winter.
In colder months, the optimal indoor humidity range is 30 to 40 percent. If your home’s air is drier than that, these simple steps can add some moisture back into the air:
- Open the dishwasher after the final rinse cycle and allow the steam to flow out rather than using the dry cycle.
- Keep a large pot of water simmering on the stove.
- Air-dry laundry on an indoor clothesline.
- Allow bathwater to cool in the tub before draining it to release moisture into the air. Do this with a sink full of warm dishwater, too.
- Acquire some houseplants, which release moisture into the air through their leaves.
- Keep a fine-mist spray bottle handy and spray the air lightly every hour or so. You don’t want to spray so much that furniture or countertop surfaces become wet; just a light spritz here and there will help raise the humidity level at home.
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Using a humidifier can relieve ailments caused by dry air.
If a family member suffers from dry nasal passages, sinusitis, or skin irritations, all of which can be aggravated by low humidity, a humidifier can help alleviate symptoms. A portable humidifier, such as Pure Enrichment’s Mist Aire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, will introduce soothing moisture to the air and reduce health issues as well as annoying static electricity. This type of humidifier is a great option for bedrooms, living rooms, and nurseries.
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For homes in arid regions, a whole-house humidifier will add moisture all year long.
In the southwestern United States, the air can be severely dry all year long. Homeowners in and around Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico should consider having a whole-house humidifier professionally installed on their home’s HVAC system.
Switch from forced-air heat to a different heating method.
A standard furnace heats the air and then distributes it throughout the home, but the warming process dries the air and removes valuable humidity. If your home has very low humidity during the winter months, switching from a forced-air heating system to radiant heat will keep the air from drying out. Radiant heat can be installed beneath flooring and behind wall panels, but it’s not a DIY job. A professional radiant heating contractor should do the work.
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