Humidity plays a significant role in home comfort. Too much in the summer and you’ll feel too hot. Too little in the winter, and you’ll suffer from dry skin and itchy eyes, maybe even nosebleeds. So, it’s important to keep your home’s relative humidity between 40 and 60 percent all the time.
What makes that difficult is that the amount of moisture that’s naturally in the air changes with the seasons.
We don’t get too much in the way of severe weather here in Havertown, PA. Things never get as hot as they do in Florida, nor as cold as Wisconsin or Northern Michigan.
But, we still see swings from single digits all the way up to 100 degrees or more in the summer. Those changes greatly affect moisture — and your home comfort.
We talked about moisture in the air and how it affected viruses and your indoor air quality in our last article. This time, we’re focusing more on comfort — and your furniture. You’ll see what we mean.
You can use this as a guide to prep your home for the coming season, be it summer or winter, so that it’s no more or less humid that you want it.
Let’s start with the basics.
Relative Humidity Vs. Absolute Humidity
Absolute humidity is a measure of exactly how much water vapor is in the air. Relative humidity measures that amount in relation to the temperature and is expressed as a percentage. It’s the one you hear about in weather reports and when it comes to making your home comfortable.
These are technical points, but it’s important to understand the difference. The reason we measure relative is that hot and cold air naturally hold different amounts of moisture. And when it comes to how you feel, that saturation is what makes the biggest impact.
Here’s what we mean: Cold air, by nature, does not hold as much water vapor as warm air. That’s why the air feels drier in the winter than the summer.
It’s also why you feel hot and sticky when the temperature rises. There’s naturally more moisture in the air — it’s more saturated.
So, the exact amount of moisture isn’t nearly as important as how much there is related to the temperature. If there’s somehow the same amount of moisture when it’s 100 degrees versus forty degrees, the colder temperature won’t feel nearly as humid.
High Humidity and Home Comfort in Havertown, PA
The Delaware Valley is experiencing more frequent heatwaves in the summer — and, as we’re probably all tired of hearing, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”
You’ll experience all sorts of home comfort problems when there’s too much moisture in the air. People with seasonal allergies or any sort of respiratory ailments will notice them first. Dust, pollen, and other small particles tend to hang in the air. They latch on to water vapor droplets instead of falling to the ground or other surfaces.
When that happens, they’re much easier to breathe in since they’re right by your nose and mouth. When that happens, people’s allergies or asthma get triggered. It results in a lot of coughing, running noses, and watery eyes.
Meanwhile, everyone starts feeling hot and sticky because your body can’t sweat and get rid of heat the way it wants to.
The water vapor around you acts as a blanket. Sweat sticks to your body instead of evaporating. That leaves you feeling sticky. Then, the heat you’re trying to get rid of by sweating has no place to go.
This problem affects your furniture, too. Wood can warp, and components in your electronics can rust.
Then there’s the problem of mold and mildew — nasty stuff that needs dampness and darkness to grow. Every home has some dark nooks and crannies. Add in excess moisture, and these contaminants can take hold.
Low Humidity and Home Comfort
Are you prone to sudden nosebleeds when it’s cold out? If so, low humidity is to blame — and it causes other problems, too.
We discussed how cold air is naturally dry air. Well, in most homes, the problem is even worse inside than outside. That’s because forced-air heat is even dryer, even though it’s warm.
Your furnace heats the air in your home. But, that air starts off cold, so it’s naturally dry. The system adds heat, but not moisture. So, now you’re stuck with even lower relative humidity: warmer air that’s unnaturally dry.
This problem is what causes nosebleeds. The membranes in your nose dry out and crack, releasing blood. It’s also why people get itchy skin and dry, irritated eyes. There’s not enough moisture for your body to use.
And, once again, furniture can take a toll. Wooden couches and tables can crack without enough moisture.
If you’re a musician, your acoustic guitars are in danger, too — cracking guitars is becoming a big problem as heating dries out the air even more.
Now that we know what problems humidity causes, let’s talk about how to fix them.
Control Humidity and Increase Your Home Comfort
You can control the humidity in your home using a dehumidifier in the summer and humidifiers in the winter. Your home will be more comfortable when you keep the relative humidity consistently above 40 percent, but comfortably under 60 percent.
Depending on how bad the problem is in your home, you can choose between off-the-shelf products, or bigger appliances that treat your entire home at once.
If you’re unsure, start off with a humidistat. You can find one for under $50, and it will tell you how much moisture there is in the air. Use that information to determine how big of a change you need to make.
If your relative humidity doesn’t drift that far or that often outside the acceptable range, you can start with some simple consumer-grade products. You know, the kinds you buy in a convenience or hardware store, plug in, and turn on.
Each one will only treat one room at a time. So, you can leave them in the one room that needs the most help or rotate them through the house.
Here’s a hint: In the summer, start with the basement. That’s where the majority of the moisture in your house gets in. Keeping that area dry has the biggest impact on the entire house.
Whole-Home Comfort Solutions
If you’re suffering from any of the ailments we described above, and if you’re noticing damage to your furniture and electronics, then it’s time to bring your HVAC system into the game.
That means investing in dehumidifiers and humidifiers that attach directly to your forced-air system. They’ll treat the entire house using your ductwork and vents.
And they work automatically. Just like you don’t manually turn your furnace or central air on and off, you can let these appliances work on their own. They’ll use a humidistat just like your thermostat tells the heat and AC when to turn on and off.
If you’re ready to make your home more comfortable by controlling the humidity, call or email us at John Cipollone. Starting with an in-person or virtual consultation, we’ll assess your home’s unique challenges and come up with a customized plan.
[…] Okay, let’s dig a little deeper into the physics of it, and then connect it all to air quality and comfort. […]