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Humidifiers: How you Can Take Control of Home Humidity

on March 31, 2017

Humidifiers: How you Can Take Control of Home HumidityHumidity: regardless of what it’s set at, someone is also going to have a problem with it.  You also won’t get a break from issues with humidity since parts of the year are dry and others are extremely humid.  The coldest weather in Spokane is often the driest for us (except when it’s snowing of course) which can leave our homes humid throughout the year.  All that excess moisture can lead to increased mold, wet surfaces, damaged home structures, and a hotter environment.  Fortunately, we have the tools to mitigate and control home humidity.  Whether it’s the drying action of furnaces and AC units or the installation of a humidifier to counter-act incredibly dry air.

How Humidity Affects Home Climates

Relative Humidity Heat Index

Heat Index Chart provided by the NWS

If you’ve ever heard someone say “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” you may have wondered what they’re talking about.  It’s a weird trick of physics but the relative humidity of a room (or the outdoors if you’re outside) affects what the temperature actually feels like.  As relative humidity (that amount of water vapor in the air relative to the amount needed for saturation at that temperature) increases, the perceived temperature also increases.  A high humidity day will feel warmer than a low humidity day when the outdoor temperature is the same.

This is because our bodies use water evaporation as a cooling mechanism.  Water takes energy to evaporate and become water vapor.  To do this, it pulls in heat from the surrounding area.  As water evaporates from skin, it cools the surface.  In a humid environment, it’s harder for water to evaporate, making it harder for objects to cool.  In the winter and colder springtime, we can take advantage of this by increasing the humidity in our homes.  Higher humidity means we’ll feel warmer than it is, allowing us to cut back on furnace operation times.  It’s not a huge benefit but it’s worth the extra money saved.

Portable Air Conditioner, Room Dehumidifier

A mobile room dehumidifer

Here’s the tradeoff: high humidity means excess condensation on surfaces.  Excess condensation and higher moisture levels increase that chances of mold in your home.  Mold enjoys warm and wet environments.  You can mitigate the chances of mold forming by keeping the air from stagnating (run your fans in reverse to circulate warm air around the room), keeping humidity at 45% (too high and mold could gain a foothold, too low and the air dries out), and by keeping rooms a little colder (a sweater can help you save money and prevent mold).

Dry Air: Causes and Effects

The funny thing about dry air is that most of our climate control options cause it.  Air conditioners dry out the air as they cool it (this is often how dehumidifiers work) while the heating action of furnaces removes moisture.  Both units condense water (which is why occasional cleaning of drip pans and condensate lines needs to occur during seasonal maintenance), removing it from the indoor climate of your home.  Dehumidification is useful for keeping your home mold free, preventing food from spoiling as quickly, and for keeping your home cooler in the summer, but it comes with its own problems as well.

Dry air:

  • Aggravates sensitive membranes in the nose, eyes and throat
  • Leads to chapped lips and dry skin
  • Increases static electricity
  • Makes the air feel colder during the winter

In many homes, thermostats include a relative humidity sensor that can tell them how humid their indoor air is. If your home lacks this instrument, any of the above items can tell you that your indoor air may be too dry.  An in-home humidifier may be the right call for balancing the amount of moisture in the air.  If nothing else, sleeping with a humidifier will help offset a sore throat when you wake up in the morning.


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For more information on home and business electrical inspections, HVAC and furnace services, or plumbing service throughout Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, visit Mainstream Electric, Heating & Cooling online.

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