Proper temperature and relative humidity levels inside your home are an important part of maintaining good indoor air quality and comfort levels. The term ‘relative humidity’ may sound familiar, but many homeowners don’t truly know what it means and what kind of effects it can have on your indoor environment.
Humidity is the term we use to measure of moisture in the air – ‘relative’ modifies this term to reflect the maximum amount of water the air can hold. That maximum is dependant on the temperature of the air. Warmer air always holds more water than colder air – which is why we never have humidex warnings in January!
A relative humidity in your home that reads 100% means that your indoor air is containing the absolute most amount of water it can. A home with a relative humidity of 100% is going to be sticky and uncomfortable – but a home with 10% relative humidity can be equally as unlivable. Maintaining an even humidity in your home is essential for comfortable living.
Humidity levels that are elevated inside can be a sign of poor ventilation or a connection between the outdoors and the building. Laundry facilities, cooking facilities, poorly vented bathrooms or improper use of humidifiers can cause the relative humidity to rise leading to a mould and bacteria problem. One of the major indicators is when your windows show excessive condensation. Should this be the case, you may want to have an indoor air quality assessment performed to determine the source of the condensation.
Knowing if you have a high relative humidity inside your home isn’t always easy to tell, but there are a number of signs that may point to too much moisture:
To help reduce the amount of humidity in your home, the following tips are a good place to start, finding a permanent solution is the only way to reduce your indoor humidity levels in the long term.
Beyond the damage that high humidity can cause to your property, an elevated level of moisture in your indoor air quality can affect your health as well. Relative humidity that is too high can result in mold, whose spores can affect the respiratory system and aggravate conditions such as asthma, making life indoors very uncomfortable for some people. Dust mite infestations, bacteria, and some viruses also grow and multiply faster in humid environments.
Conversely, low relative humidity settings can also make life difficult. Dry air is proven to aid in the spread of respiratory infections, allergic rhinitis, and asthma. It can also cause dry skin, sore eyes, and painful sinusitis. Most experts agree that a relative humidity in your home of 40-60% is the ideal range. Low humidity levels are usually the result of low outdoor levels experienced in Canadian winters when the outdoor humidity levels can reach the low teens.
A psychometric chart won’t tell you your future – but it can tell you more about the temperature and humidity of your home. A psychometric chart plots data points that represent your indoor air humidity at certain times of the day and year to find your optimal comfort zone. Terms like dry bulb and wet bulb temperature are used to capture specific points in time and can help a qualified reader to offer solutions to high home humidity based in science.
Humidity levels should be managed throughout the year at appropriate levels for the season. In general ASHRAE Standard 62-2001 for Indoor Air Quality states the following:
To achieve these guidelines, the best thing you can do is to find solutions for areas in your home that may be causing high humidity. Running a dehumidifier or your air conditioner (which can remove humidity from the air) are only stopgap measures that are wildly energy inefficient. Not only will they cost you in your monthly heating and cooling bills, but they’ll also result in increased maintenance costs for your air conditioner or humidifier, which will need to run constantly to keep up with demand.
The best solution to high indoor humidity is awareness. If you’re experiencing any of the problems associated with high humidity, such as condensation on your windows, mold growth, or soaring energy bills, give us a call at SafeAir. One of our staff would be happy to walk you through our indoor air quality assessment process, which looks closely at relative humidity and its effect on your indoor air quality. All homes have unique ecologies that require individualized attention to be the healthiest, safest place for your family to be.