From now through September, when it peaks, the average humidity will be on the rise here in Western Pennsylvania. Humidity makes us uncomfortable because it interferes with our normal cooling system, sweating. (Ew, right?)
Hot air can hold more water vapor than cooler air. We get all sticky and hot because the warm, humid air is already so saturated with moisture that the sweat doesn’t evaporate off our bodies to give us that cooling relief!
It’s one thing if it’s humid while you’re enjoying the sunshine and fresh air on your deck with some barbeque and a beverage. But when it’s humid inside your house? That can make you truly miserable.
So, let’s talk about how to keep you and your family members from turning into puddles this summer by offering you simple ways to manage your indoor humidity level!
What Should My Indoor Humidity Level Be?
In the summer, indoor humidity is comfortable in the 30-50% range. If the indoor humidity is higher than that, not only will you be uncomfortable, but it can also cause damage to your home. High humidity can lead to mold, as well as warping and rotting of wood in your home. Plus, high indoor humidity often contributes to allergies and other respiratory issues, and it can even disrupt your sleep!
On the other side of the coin, air below the 30% humidity level is also problematic. Air that’s too dry can also worsen respiratory issues, and its drying effects create challenges for other bodily systems. Low humidity dries out the skin, eyes, nose, and mouth, which can lead to nose bleeds, sore throat, dry eyes, and a host of skin conditions.
Maintaining and indoor humidity level between 30-50%, is the sweet spot between these problems for both your home and your family members.
How Do I Measure Indoor Humidity?
Our bodies will tell us when the humidity is “off.” A scratchy throat, a dry cough, flaky, cracked skin, and dry eyes let us know the humidity is low. Excessive sweating indicates the humidity is up. However, if you want to know the precise humidity level inside your home, you can buy a hygrometer, which measures the level of moisture in the air.
You can find hygrometers at a nearby hardware store or order one online. They’re pretty inexpensive, too, ranging from roughly $10-50. Place the hygrometer in the living area of your home to get the exact humidity level. If it’s above 45-50%, you’ll likely want to find ways to drop it closer to the 30% lower limit.
How Can I Reduce Indoor Humidity?
Your hygrometer reading is high – or you and your family are simply sticky and uncomfortable – so you know you want to manage your indoor humidity level. All you need to know now is how to do it. We can help!
Turn on the A/C
We tend to think that our air conditioners keep us cool by pushing cooler air into our homes. However, air conditioners take heat and humidity out of your home, while blowing the cool air in. Here’s how it works.
Think about how the outside of a cold glass of water will collect condensation when the air around it is warm. The evaporator coil on your HVAC system condenses the water vapor in the air like the cold glass does. When the hot, humid indoor air contacts the cold evaporator coil in your HVAC system, it’s condensed into water, which is then sent down a drain and out of your house.
See? You’re A/C keeps you comfy because it’s both removing heat and humidity and pushing cooler air into your home!
When it’s humid outside, your air conditioner has to work harder to deal with the extra moisture in the air. So, make sure your family stays comfortable by regularly changing the filters and scheduling a tune-up with us every year.
Deal with Leaky Fixtures
More water in your home – more humidity in the air. If you have leaky pipes or faucets that drip, they’re elevating your indoor humidity level. Call a plumber to fix faucets that drip and also to address pipes that are leaking.
Another way to limit added moisture from your plumbing system is to add insulation wraps to any exposed pipes. This insulation prevents condensation from forming on the pipes.
Even if you don’t see any fixtures dripping, it wouldn’t hurt to do a quick inspection of your plumbing and the areas around it. Unexplained spikes in your water bill, find wet spots around your home, and stained drywall indicate you may have a leak somewhere you can’t see.
Take a Cold Shower!
Okay, not really! (Though, some swear there are health benefits, including a boost in happiness, to icy bathing.) But, as your bathroom mirror will tell you, hotter showers add more moisture to the air. Dial back the heat a bit when you’re showering to limit the amount of humidity you’re adding to your indoor environment.
We’re not saying your shower has to feel cool, just dial back the water temp by a few degrees from scorching hot to comfortably warm. The less steamy your shower, the better you’ll be able to manage the indoor humidity.
Turn on Ventilation Fans
Speaking of showers…. Use the ventilation fans when you’re in the kitchen and during showers. And don’t turn them off immediately after those activities. Leave the fans on for a little while after cooking or showering for best results.
Use a Clothesline
No, you don’t have to turn into a 1950s housewife and hang out all of your family’s clothes. Simply skip the indoor drying racks for those items you can’t toss in the dryer. Drying racks are fine in the wintertime – when hanging clothing outdoors isn’t really an appealing or effective option, anyway. But if you’re using drying racks when it’s warm out, where do you think the water from those garments goes?
You’re right! The water in your laundered clothing evaporates into the air in your home, adding to the indoor humidity level. Instead, manage your indoor humidity by using a clothesline or outdoor drying rack. If you live where this isn’t possible due to space available or neighborhood bylaws, consider buying a dehumidifier. Place it where you’re drying your clothes inside, especially if it’s in your basement. Pittsburgh area basements tend to be damp in the summer, so you may want to consider getting a dehumidifier no matter where you dry your clothes. Which brings us too…
Purchase a Dehumidifier
Obviously, using a dehumidifier is a foolproof way to lower the humidity level in your home. You can purchase a dehumidifier for that one, damp room in your home, starting around $40. Alternatively, we can install a whole-house dehumidifier that integrates with your furnace air handler. These units ensure that moisture is removed from the air throughout your home, as it dehumidifies all the air as it passes through your system.
The best part about using dehumidifiers is that it lessens the workload on your air conditioner. A dehumidifier helps to remove humidity, so your A/C doesn’t have to work as hard when it’s on, and it’s likely to kick on less frequently. This translates to lower energy bills over the summer.
Ask Us About Our Whole-Home Dehumidifiers
If your HVAC unit doesn’t already have a built-in dehumidifier, and you’re interested in this simple way to manage your home’s humidity level – and keeping your utility bill low – give us a call. Our expert technicians will recommend the best solution for managing your indoor humidity and keeping it in the comfortable, healthy humidity range all year long.