We’ve all heard (and probably used) the expression, “But at least it’s a dry heat” when we talk about broiling Texas summers in the more arid parts of the Lone Star State. But when it comes to considering your home’s HVAC system, humidity is no joke. You might think of your home’s HVAC system primarily as a way to adjust the temperature, but it can also help you manage, and improve, the humidity in the air so you can enjoy cozier winter nights and cooler summer days.
How Dry I Am: Humidity Matters
We’ve all felt the uncomfortable dryness of chilly winter breeze, or endured the sticky sensation of a windless noon in high summer. The seasons can affect the relative humidity of your home’s air, and without proper care, you and your family could end up dealing with an assortment of health problems, general discomfort, and even damage to your home itself.
The wrong level of relative humidity in your home can be a serious issue, even for folks who don’t live in extremely wet or dry climates.
In 2009, the World Health Organization released a set of guidelines for optimal indoor air quality, with a special section dedicated to dampness, mold, and humidity. They found that excessive humidity can make your home a host to all sorts of unpleasant molds and microorganisms, and contribute to a host of health issues, including respiratory difficulties.
Simply put, if your home is too damp, you may find yourself at risk for mold, interior wall and insulation damage, wood rot, and difficulty sleeping.
Excessive dryness is an issue as well. If the air in your home is too dry, you might experience dry, tight skin, sinus issues or coughs, electric shocks (aka “sock shock” or “doorknob zaps”) and cracked or warped wooden furniture.
Striking a Balance
The home energy pros at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs recommend keeping your home’s humidity levels at 30-45% during the summer months, and 45-55% during the winter. This will ensure you have the proper quality of breathable air while reducing the risk for health concerns associated with excessive dryness or dampness.
In the summer, one of the best ways to control humidity in your home is to make sure you’ve chosen an HVAC system with a built-in humidifier. You can also reduce excess humidity in your home by making sure you have working, properly ventilated exhaust fans in your bathrooms and kitchen, where moist air from bathing or cooking can accumulate. Reducing humidity is most important in the summer, because the higher the ambient humidity, the more heat the air can hold—and the more energy it takes to cool it down to a comfortable level.
In the winter, you can help ensure your home holds onto the extra moisture needed to keep things comfortable by making sure your home is properly sealed and your windows and doors are treated for winter. Track down any potential air leaks, as they can allow warm, moist air to escape, leaving you high and dry when temperatures dip. And, naturally, adding a humidifier (either to your main system or in selected rooms where they’re needed most), can help you raise the moisture to comfortable levels during the chillier months of the year.
Are you feeling like your home is a saturated sauna? How about a bone-dry desert? Either way, now’s the time to schedule an appointment with your local HVAC expert. They can help you find the best solution for humidity control in your home, and make sure you and your family are comfortable, dry (but not too dry!), and happy all year ’round.