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Let's Talk Humidity
Humidity has become a hot-button topic in HVAC circles these days. As it turns out, it’s more than just the reason for “bad hair days” and prescription-strength antiperspirant.
Excessive humidity can also cause significant structural damage to your home or workplace and it has been implicated in many health issues.
However, too much humidity isn’t the sole perpetrator of poor health or home repairs: not enough humidity is just as guilty of causing health symptoms and home damage.
What can you do to balance out the humidity levels inside your home? Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry—it can all seem like too much to manage!
In this article, we will explain how humidity affects you and your home or workplace and steps you can take to ensure year-round optimal humidity levels.
So what precisely is “humidity?” According to Canada’s Department of Environmental and Climate Change, humidity is a measure of how much water vapour is present in the air at any given time.
Meteorologists commonly use the term “relative humidity” to express how much humidity is in the air from one day to the next. They do this by comparing the amount of water vapour in the air on that day versus the amount of vapour that would be present if the humidity was at 100 percent.
The closer the percentage of relative humidity gets to 100 percent, the more likely you are to see rain, dew, mist, and/or fog forming. This is caused when the air releases excess water vapour.
Seasonal Humidity Explained
As you have no doubt noticed purely by experience, humidity tends to increase in the hot summer months. It also tends to decrease during the cold winter months.
However, thanks in large part to our increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, this model does not always hold firm.
There can be times, for instance, when the weather is quite hot yet the humidity is very low (if you have ever been to Arizona in the United States, you already know how hot, dry weather can feel!).
And there can be times when winter gets really damp, especially when a cold front hasn’t quite blown through yet and it is raining and sort of muggy. During these times, you might feel like you can never completely dry off or warm up.
However, as the Ontario Lung Association (OLA) points out, there are some guidelines that can help you sort out the humidity levels inside your home, even if you can’t control what is going on outside your four walls.
The recommended range for humidity indoors is between 30 and 50 percent. In the summer, the level will likely hover closer to the 50 percent mark. In the winter, you are more apt to see humidity levels around the 30 percent mark.
But if humidity climbs higher than 50 percent or drops lower than 30 percent, this is when you will see issues begin to crop up on both health and structural levels.
The Dangers of Too Much Humidity
Perhaps the best-known and most publicized danger of too-high humidity levels is mould and mildew growth.
Optimal conditions for mould and mildew growth are warm and damp, but they will propagate quite happily when it is cool and damp as well.
Many homes see mould and mildew growing sporadically in naturally damp, humid rooms such as the bathroom, laundry room, kitchen, or the basement. At humidity levels above 50 percent, however, there is the risk that small mould or mildew colonies will send out spores that will settle and replicate in other areas of your home as well.
Mould and mildew aren’t just expensive to clean up. They are also toxic when you breathe in the spores. Living in very humid conditions can also cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke and increased risk of bacterial and fungal infection and illness.
The Dangers of Too Little Humidity
Of course, just when you are fervently wishing for less humidity, the cold season arrives and the humidity index plunges. Now, instead of too much humidity, you are coping with too little humidity, which brings its own series of dangers with it.
As long as the humidity level in the air is at 30 percent or higher, you are unlikely to experience too much discomfort, especially because even in winter, humidity can fluctuate.
But when the humidity levels plunge lower than 30 percent, you may begin to notice your respiratory health deteriorating as your nasal membranes dry out. Your skin may crack and your lips may chap. If you catch a cold or the flu, you will likely get sicker because there isn’t enough mucus to send the airborne germs packing.
Anything made of wood, from flooring to furniture to cottages, will also experience stress during very low humidity conditions. Cracking, buckling, and separation are all common side effects of too little humidity.
How to Balance Your Indoor Air Humidity
You need three key components to keep your indoor air humidity balanced year-round:
Hygrometer. This simple, affordable device can be found at any local hardware store. It will measure the humidity level in your home.
Humidifier. These fabulous devices will add essential humidity to your indoor air supply during very low humidity conditions to keep your furnishings and your health in optimal condition.
Dehumidifier. These incredible devices will remove excess moisture (water vapour) from your indoor air and keep the humidity level within your desired range.
Give Us a Call
Are you having problems keeping your indoor humidity levels balanced, safe, and healthy? We can help! Give us a call at 705-687-3402 or 877-885-3403 or contact us online.