What's the first thing you think of when you hear the word "humidity?" Hot, heavy, sticky air probably springs to mind. But moisture levels in the air can do a lot more than ruin your comfort. And they aren't just a problem in hot weather, either.
Normal humidity levels
Humidity is technically the measure of the level of moisture vapor suspended in the air around you. Although you can't see it, it's still there. Normal humidity levels for ideal comfort are somewhere between 30% and 50%.
That doesn't mean that the air around you is comprised of 30-50% water. Instead, it means that the air is holding between 30-50% of the maximum amount of moisture that it can contain.
Too much humidity
When the air has too much humidity, it can harm your comfort, your home, your possessions and your health.
When there's too much humidity, your body can't regulate its internal temperature through the process of evaporation. In fact, if you're in a humid room that's the same temperature as a room with less humidity, the humid room will feel warmer to you.
Overly humid air can create a breeding ground for mold and mildew, which can cause staining and damage to your home. High humidity can also cause wood to rot over time. Moreover, moist wood in your basement and attic can attract insects.
If you have too much humidity in your home, it can cause swelling in furniture and other items, which can cause them to warp.
Too much humidity won't just make you uncomfortable, it can also make you sick. High moisture levels encourage the growth of fungus, mold and dust mites, both of which can create breathing difficulties for people with asthma and allergies.
Too little humidity
Air that's too dry can be just as damaging to your comfort, home, possessions and health as air that's too wet.
Air that is too dry can cause your skin to feel cold and itchy, and can dry out other mucous membranes in your body, leading to sore throats and chapped lips. Dry air can also cause painful shocks from static electricity every time you touch a doorknob.
Dry air can cause extensive damage to your home, especially to the parts of it that are made of wood. Cracking and shrinking can occur around door frames and molding. Wooden floors will also creak more, and can even begin to separate. Wallpaper may even begin to sag or peel away from the wall.
Once again, anything that is made of wood will begin to warp and bend as the dried wood shrinks in size. Items that are held together with adhesives can also weaken, as the glue dries out too much to retain its original strength.
As mentioned above, dry air can affect mucous membranes in your body. This can not only be uncomfortable, but it can also increase your risk of contracting colds, while increasing coughing, wheezing and other breathing difficulties.
To restore proper moisture levels in your home, consider a smart thermostat that can work with your air-conditioning system to regulate humidity. Also consider a furnace or air handler with variable-speed airflow, working in tandem with a variable-capacity air conditioner or heat pump. This combination of equipment can start every cooling cycle with slower air movement to allow more moisture to be drawn out before the air begins to circulate.
Air humidity is also easily regulated by adding a dehumidifier or a humidifier to your heating and air-conditioning system, one that will communicate with your thermostat to maintain ideal humidity levels all year long.