Managing Home Humidity for Maximum Comfort

Updated on

Brenda Nyawara

Brenda Nyawara is an editor at Archute. She is a graduate architect with a passion for edge-cutting ideas in design, fashion, art and modern world interests.
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When you first move into a new home, you may be looking for that new house smell. For second-hand homes, these will not always be present. After all, the home has been lived in and has its unique smells and odors from years of household living. 

While odors are easily managed with proper ventilation and an air freshener or two, humidity is something else altogether. Excess humidity can be detrimental to respiratory health. It can also cause wood furniture and support beams to swell, and cause mold formation. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC) plays a big role in managing humidity levels.

If you experience a heavy feeling, it could indicate excessively humid air. Here’s how to restore the proper humidity to the home, so you can experience a comfortable existence. 

Relative Humidity Defined

The TV weather forecaster uses the term relative humidity frequently, but they don’t define it during each forecast. The term relative humidity (RH) refers to a measure of the moisture present in the air as opposed to the maximum amount of moisture possible in the air. Expressed in a percentage, relative humidity can refer to an indoor air quality measure or an outdoor one. While outdoor humidity can reach 100 percent, that would spell disaster for your home.

How to Control Humidity Levels

High humidity levels can be dangerous to your health since humidity promotes mold and mildew growth. Here are a few ways in which you can control indoor humidity levels and keep excess moisture buildup.

1) Use Dehumidifiers and Air Conditioning Units

A whole house dehumidifier removes moisture from the air

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Dehumidifiers are made to specifically remove moisture from the air, chill it, and then separate it from the rest of the air. The extra water may drip into a tray that needs to be periodically emptied, depending on the type of dehumidifier you choose. Either way, you will have the ideal indoor humidity levels every time.

If you choose one of the many air conditioners on the market, you should know that they primarily function to cool off a room by removing hot air. Consequently, they also reduce humidity. Moisture from the air is removed during the process of removing heated air.

2) Use a Plastic Cover in Crawlspaces

Using plastic in the crawlspace in your home

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Crawlspaces can introduce moisture inside your house. This is why using a plastic cover to cover the dirt in crawlspaces is recommended for homeowners. Additionally, the plastic sheet will act as a vapor barrier to maintain the ideal indoor humidity level. This will give you better humidity control and keep excessive moisture out.

3) Fix any Leaks

Fixing leaks in the plumbing

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Water can enter your house at any point. Be it from seepages in your pipes or a lack of gutters. Even if you live in a hot and dry area, always select a house where the ground slopes away, rather than toward. Your home’s humidity level will soar if you have a leakage. Therefore, it is paramount to fix any leakages as soon as you notice them.

Sometimes you might not notice them until it’s too late. However, the sooner you fix it, the better you can avoid more severe moisture and water damage. If more moisture condenses inside your living space from around bathtubs and sinks, toxic mold and mildew could grow.

4) Keep Carpets and Area Rugs Dry

Keeping carpets and area rugs dry

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Carpets and area rugs are notorious for absorbing water vapor and causing moisture problems. If you must have area rugs and carpets, ensure to vacuum them every day to reduce moisture content in your house. Additionally, if you aren’t careful, they can house dust mites that can cause dermatological and respiratory issues.

5) Install Exhaust Fans

Installing exhaust fans

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Sometimes you can’t escape moisture problems since all modern homes are fitted with a shower and kitchen. However, you can prevent moisture damage by installing exhaust fans that release moisture into the outside air. They purge the air of impurities, including smoke, dampness, and undesirable odors, to lower humidity.

6) Increase Air Circulation in Your House

Increasing the home's air circulation

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Increasing air circulation is a great way to reduce moisture content in your house. Letting outdoor air in by opening windows and doors is a great option. This will reduce your home’s humidity levels by circulating fresh air to expel moisture. Additionally, it will help prevent any moisture from settling on any rugs or carpets and reduce humidity in your home.

7) Dry Your Laundry Outside

Dry your laundry outside

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Some clothes need to be air-dried and can’t stand a drier. Therefore, hanging your clothes on an outside drying rack or clothesline is recommended. In the summer, wet clothes will increase the moisture level in your house. Additionally, water droplets can penetrate the wood and cause rot if you have wood floors.

What is The Right Amount of Humidity?

The human body finds a relative humidity of between 40 to 60 percent to be the comfortable region. The high end of that figure, though, 60 percent, signals the danger area for mildew, mold development, and bacterial growth. Summer often tempts us to set the humidity in our homes to 60 percent or higher due to the extremely hot temperatures.

What is the right amount of humidity?

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The same problem occurs during winter. During the cold weather months, many of us lower the relative humidity in our homes to about 40 percent while using the fireplace or other heating accessories. Some dip lower than that, and those very low humidity settings help condensation form on windows and walls. That leads to the development of mildew, mold, and bacteria.

Essentially, keeping a balance between comfort and environmental safety complexifies indoor humidity. If only you could just set it to what you feel comfortable in, everything would feel great.

Where Do You Set Humidity Levels?

Where do you set humidity levels?

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Most new HVAC systems offer an RH setting. The RH setting refers to the relative humidity that the HVAC system helps create and maintain.

Today’s HVAC systems include whole-home humidification systems that let you humidify or dehumidify the home. You might not find this setting if you own an older HVAC system. Your home may require a separate humidifier, a portable device that you can move from room to room so the room in which you spend time remains comfortable.

How to Select The Right Humidity Setting

Maybe you’d like a humidity setting as the Emeril cookware gets you when making dinner. You want to set it and forget it. While you can do that with a crockpot, it won’t work for a humidity setting. While ideally, every thermostat could remain in a steady state of 68 Fahrenheit and 50 percent relative humidity, temperature fluctuations happen.

How to select the right humidity settings

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The weather outside influences the setting for your indoor humidity, just as it does for your indoor temperature. When the weather grows cold, you increase the temperature on your thermostat, but you need to decrease the humidity setting. Going below a 40 percent setting produces danger though, due to the risk of mold growth and other icky substances.

Summer creates the same issue. As temperatures hover in the 90s to 100s Fahrenheit, people tend to want to set the humidity higher. That keeps the air indoors moist, which works well with the cooler air. You’ve probably noticed that in very hot temperatures, high humidity makes it feel as if you took a shower in sweat.

Signs of the Wrong Humidity Setting

Signs of the wrong humidity setting

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Sure, the typical safe range for humidity indoors starts at 40 percent and stops at 60 percent, but that doesn’t mean those figures work perfectly for your home in every situation.

Despite following best practices, the weather outdoors, the age of your home, its condition, and other devices running in the home can affect the humidity. For example, if you operate an ASICS to mine cryptocurrency and cool that room with a window unit on top of the central heat and air, you’ll affect the appropriate humidity setting.

So, how do you know when you need to change the setting?

    • The windows fog up indoors. That results in condensation, which means you need to reduce the humidity setting.

    • The walls seem to sweat. They appear moist or damp. That also signals condensation, meaning you need to reduce the humidity setting.

    • You notice tiny black dots on or around any of the air conditioning/heating vents, windows, or ceilings. That signals a mildew problem. Your home has already started developing the signs of an environmental issue related to too high humidity.

    • Your room door jambs. It proves tough to open or won’t open at all. Your home lacks humidity. The wood swelled. If it rains and you notice this problem solves itself, you have confirmation that you need to increase the humidity in the home.

You can adjust the overall humidity setting in the home, then use a portable humidifier to make your bedroom more comfortable for yourself. Just turn it off if you notice the signs of too much humidity. Adding insulation to your home can help reduce humidity but turning off a portable unit offers a quick solution.

Frequently Asked Questions About Home Humidity Levels

i) What is a good humidity level for a house?

Most people find that a relative indoor humidity between 30 to 50 percent is the most comfortable.

ii) How can I reduce humidity in my house?

The best way to reduce humidity levels in your home is to use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates.

iii) What is too high of humidity in the house?

Anything higher than 50% humidity is considered high. High humidity levels and excessive moisture can cause discomfort and health issues, and they can even wreak havoc on a home.

iv) What does humidity do to a house?

Not only are high humidity levels uncomfortable, but they can also contribute to mold and mildew growth, poor indoor air quality, and wood rot.

vi) Is 70% humidity high humidity?

Yes. 70% humidity is high humidity. A 70% humidity level can cause damage to your property.

The Bottom Line

The humidity level in your home can be caused by many factors. Let’s not forget that high humidity levels make you hot and uncomfortable and can cause mold growth and cause condensation in the walls. On the other hand, dry air without enough humidity can trigger respiratory infections. Getting the ideal humidity will help to keep your home humidity level better for the wellness of your house.

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About the author

Brenda Nyawara

Brenda Nyawara is an editor at Archute. She is a graduate architect with a passion for edge-cutting ideas in design, fashion, art and modern world interests.
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