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What is the ideal indoor humidity and how do I reach it?

Hygrometers help you identify whether ideal indoor humidity is being maintained

Hygrometers are just one way you can keep tabs on the humidity in your home.

What is the ideal indoor humidity and how do I reach it?

By Dhanesh Misir on January 04, 2018

Identifying your ideal indoor humidity level is the first step towards keeping your home safer and more comfortable.

Humidity levels have an impact on how warm you feel in the winter and how cool you feel in the summertime. Being able to feel comfortable in the house you worked so hard for is obviously a big deal. Still, maintaining ideal indoor humidity is about much more than comfort. The moisture levels in the air you breathe can actually have an impact on the health of you and your loved ones!  

Luckily, whether your concerns are with annoyances like general discomfort or more serious issues like breathing disorders, there are ways to manage and maintain the humidity in your home — including methods that are both natural and surprisingly affordable.  
 

Exterior weather affects interior humidity

 Your walls might protect you from the elements, but they don’t keep the climate outside from impacting your indoor air. To some degree, the most comfortable humidity level will depend on the individual, but there are general guidelines that can shed some light on which settings might work best for your home.  

  • Typically speaking, having a relative humidity level somewhere between 35 and 50 percent is desirable for both comfort and health purposes.  
     
  • During the winter when the air gets colder, it loses its ability to hold as much moisture. This dry air can make conditions quite uncomfortable, so having an indoor humidity between 30 and 40 percent is recommended.  
    • Signs of low indoor humidity include increased static shocks (getting zapped when you grab a doorknob might only be an annoyance, but these shocks can actually damage electronics), feelings of dehydration and nosebleeds.  
  • In the summer, the moisture in the air reaches elevated levels. This translates to the hot, humid kind of climate that no one enjoys! At this point, dehumidifying it becomes the priority. The general consensus for ideal indoor humidity during the summer months is 60% or lower.  
    • Visible symptoms of excessive interior humidity include peeling paint or wallpaper, condensation on windows and pipes, and musty smells around the house.  

Looking out for telltale signs can give you a good idea of the humidity levels in your home. If you want a more detailed reading, a hygrometer could be the solution you’re looking for. The cost of this device can range from expensive to very cheap, depending on its quality and available features.  
 

Negative impacts of excessively low or high indoor humidity

If your home’s humidity levels haven’t been at acceptable levels lately, you’re likely feeling some of the effects. Humidity that is too low or too high can create big problems for a household, many of which only get worse over time if left unchecked. These issues are particularly destructive if your home contains very young or elderly people, as well as individuals with breathing complications.  

Low humidity translates to dry air, which can lead to dry lips, very dry skin and dried out air passageways. In environments with excessively low humidity you might become more susceptible to sinus infections, and people with allergies might experience a worsening of their symptoms. You’ll also feel colder, which can actually hurt you financially as you spend more to feel comfortable in your home.  

Excessively high indoor humidity leaves you feeling hot, sticky and uncomfortable. It also makes the heat feel much more debilitating, which can force you to crank up the air conditioning as you seek comfortable temperatures in your home. Worse, heightened humidity and mold growth are connected, as moisture in the air allows organisms like mold, mildew and assorted bacteria to thrive and spread throughout the house. This causes a decline in air quality that worsens symptoms in people suffering from asthma, allergies and other breathing disorders. Humidity and indoor pets are also connected, as felines with asthma can experience complications due to excessive humidity levels.   
 

Methods for raising or lowering indoor humidity levels include natural solutions

The most effective tools for maintaining ideal indoor humidity levels are the humidifiers and dehumidifiers designed to be used for entire houses. Systems like this work with your HVAC system to add or remove moisture based on your preferences. However, a big investment into your heating and cooling setup isn’t the only course of action available to you.  

  • Houseplants serve multiple purposes, including air purification and aesthetic improvement of a space. That isn’t all, though — they also release moisture into the air, making them a natural humidifier! A few clusters of plants around the house should be enough to make a noticeable difference.                                                                                        
     
  • Shallow dishes of water placed near heat sources can also increase the humidity levels around your home. The science here is simple but effective — the heat causes the water to evaporate, which in turn adds moisture to the air.  

  • Rock salt is a highly absorbent material that can draw water in from its surroundings. This quality makes it a perfect alternative to electric dehumidifiers! To use this method:  
    1. Collect 2 buckets (make sure they’re the same size) and the rock salt you’ll be using.
       
    2. Drill holes into the sides and bottom of one bucket, and place it on top of the intact bucket.   
       
    3. Pour the rock salt into the bucket that’s on top. The bottom bucket will collect the excess water.   
       
    4. Place the buckets in the area you wish to dehumidify.  
       

If you have a central air conditioning system that isn’t adequately removing humidity from your indoor air, Russ, an HVAC Expert on JustAnswer, offers a simple solution for reducing indoor humidity. “You may have to lower fan speed,” says Russ, as this will decrease the unit coil’s temperature, allowing more water to condense and removing more moisture from the air.  

There's no shortage of options when it comes to achieving the best possible humidity levels for your home. The methods included here will allow you to improve your home’s indoor air quality, but there are options for anyone interested in learning more. Whether you’re looking for insights regarding devices like a thermostat with humidity control, or you need general assistance with your HVAC, the Experts on JustAnswer can help you identify and maintain ideal indoor humidity levels in your home.    

What's worse: too much humidity, or too little? How do you maintain ideal levels in your home? Share your thoughts in the comments below!