Humidity is nothing more than moisture suspended in the air, but the humidity level inside your home is of the utmost importance.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) both advise keeping the humidity level inside your home between 30 and 50%. When humidity levels fall outside of that range, they risk damaging your property and your health.
What Happens When the Humidity Inside Your Home Is Too High?
Black mold is the primary reason why you do not want your home’s humidity level to exceed 50%. To be certain, no single species of fungus is specifically named “black mold.” The name commonly refers to Stachybotrys chartarum, a fungus which thrives on and inside substances with high cellulose content including medium density fiberboard (which is used to make furniture, cabinetry and flooring) and drywall (which is used to make most homes’ ceilings and walls).
You are no doubt already aware of the cosmetic damage black mold can do to a home. It would make even the most beautifully designed space appear hideous. But because black mold consumes the materials it grows on, it can gradually decay them until the walls, floors and ceilings all collapse. Mold can also damage a home’s HVAC system once it has spread to the ductwork.
Black mold can be just as hostile to a home’s occupants. It produces mycotoxins – literally “mold toxins” – which are likely to cause adverse health reactions to people with allergies and asthma. Long-term exposure to mycotoxins may also cause headaches, nosebleeds and skin irritation in people with otherwise healthy immune systems.
Black mold is the reason why the EPA and CDC both advise keeping your home’s humidity level lower than 50%. The vile fungus can only grow and reproduce in an environment where humidity is higher than 55%. In short, when your home’s humidity is 50% or lower, black mold cannot take hold.
High humidity isn’t only hazardous because it breeds mold, of course. It can damage wood furniture, flooring, window sills and door frames by forcing them to swell and become distorted. It can cause condensation to gather on your window panes until it gets absorbed by your walls (where it can nourish mold). High humidity may also damage the circuits inside your expensive electronics.
What Happens When the Humidity Inside Your Home Is Too Low?
Indoor humidity that is lower than 30% would prevent the growth of black mold, but you do want some humidity to keep you safer from several harmful microorganisms. Low-humidity environments provide optimal breeding grounds for bacteria including those which cause sinus infection, strep throat and pneumonia. Dry air also makes it easier to catch several diseases because it lacks the aerosols that otherwise could have blocked their airborne transmission. And even when dry air doesn’t contribute to a home’s occupants falling ill, it can still make them uncomfortable by drying out their skin, throat, eyes and nasal passages.
As with high humidity, low humidity is harmful to wood. Even after it has been dried, wood can contract if it loses additional moisture. If it shrinks too much it will warp permanently. Electronics aren’t safe in low humidity, either. Once the humidity level drops below 30%, the risk of static electricity frying circuit boards and other electrical components becomes much higher.
How Do You Control the Humidity Inside Your Home?
To begin, you must be able to measure the humidity level inside your home. That means purchasing a hygrometer – an inexpensive little device which displays humidity as a percentage.
When your hygrometer says that your home’s humidity exceeds 50%, you can attempt to lower it by creating less steam during your daily routine. That includes taking cooler showers, covering pots while you are cooking, and placing potted plants outdoors (even when plants absorb 100% of the water in their soil, they naturally release it as gas via transpiration). Alternatively, you may simply purchase a dehumidifier.
When your hygrometer says that your home’s humidity is lower than 30%, you should take the opposite approach by creating more water vapor. That includes leaving the tub full after you have bathed, hang drying clothing indoors, or simply placing a pot of water on your range while you are baking something in the oven.
Adding a humidifier to your home is the most convenient way to ensure that your indoor humidity remains safely above 30%. Air becomes dryer during the winter, which is why autumn is the perfect time to contact Haugan Heating and Air Conditioning for expert humidifier installation and maintenance in the greater Sioux Falls, SD area!