The Importance of Controlling Humidity
The importance of controlled humidity is seen on how extreme variations in humidity, the amount of moisture or water vapor in the air, can adversely affect personal comfort, health, air quality, indoor temperature, and even the home. Relative humidity is as important as humidity as a relative humidity level of 100 percent means that the air is at its maximum capacity to hold water vapor at a given temperature.
Ideal Humidity Level
When measuring humidity with a hygrometer, people should aim for relative humidity levels between 20 percent and 60 percent to accommodate for seasonal and indoor temperature variations and 35 percent to 50 percent, the level recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency, throughout the year for maximum comfort. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers can be used as needed for added comfort and to effectively control humidity.
At the most basic level, humidity affects personal comfort and everyday living. People in a highly humid space can develop clammy, sticky, or sweaty skin and feel that the indoor temperature is several degrees higher than the actual temperature. Dehumidifiers can make a humid day tolerable.
Poorly controlled humidity poses certain dangers to health. In low humidity, people can develop dry skin and hair, itchy skin, chapped lips, and sore throat.
On the other hand, asthmatics and allergy sufferers should avoid high humidity as dust mites and molds thrive in humid environments. For example, molds thrive well if the indoor humidity is above 50 percent. A mold allergy sufferer should maintain humidity between 35 percent and 45 percent. Bacteria, viruses, and cockroaches also thrive in high humidity. Regularly using dehumidifiers can reduce the incidence of asthma, allergies, and other illnesses by removing the excess moisture that pathogens love.
Humidity can influence the quality of indoor air. Indoor air quality diminishes in humid locations as the populations of dust mites, mold, bacteria, and other air pollutants increase with increasing humidity. People should observe for signs of poor indoor air quality such as allergy-related and respiratory diseases, a feeling of stuffiness, mustiness, frost or condensation on windows, and growth of mildew and molds.
Using a Dehumidifier
The warning signs of poor indoor air quality are also indications for using a dehumidifier. Some central air-conditioning systems act as dehumidifiers. For an AC system to effectively remove humidity, it must have:
- A SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) efficiency of 16 and higher for it to be classified as a high efficiency system. This system offers variable operating speeds and produces less noise than systems with lower SEERs.
- Energy efficiency. A dehumidifier or AC needs to run for long periods to effectively remove and control humidity, so it must be an energy-efficient system.
- Control of indoor air temperature. AC systems doubling as dehumidifiers primarily function in improving indoor air temperature by preventing drastic variations in indoor temperature. Regulating the temperature indoors prevents the buildup of humidity and checks the growth of molds and other organisms that thrive in warm and humid environments.
Controlling humidity is important to some people who just want to get through a humid day without feeling sticky and sweaty. It becomes even more important to some people whose health depends on humidity that they need active interventions to control humidity just to survive a day without sneezing from allergens.