Balanced Humidity: A Topic Most Cincy Homeowners Avoid But Shouldn’t
Like many home comfort issues, balanced home humidity is a matter of “not too little, but not too much.” Getting it just right in all seasons, however, doesn’t happen naturally. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends limiting indoor humidity to the range of 30 percent to 60 percent. Here in southern Ohio, high humidity’s a summer issue. Keeping humidity above 30 percent can be a challenge during cold dry winter weather. High indoor humidity can result from outdoor humidity migrating indoors through air leaks, or originating inside due to normal activities such as cooking or bathing. Low humidity happens when dry winter air draws humidity out of the home, or as the drying effect of the combustion and circulation of forced air heating. Excessive humidity makes the home harder to cool in summer. A/C operating costs escalate as humid air holds more heat. Low humidity causes physical irritations like dry skin and respiratory symptoms, as well as structural problems relating to wood shrinkage and splitting. Dry air heats less efficiently, too, so the furnace runs extended “on” cycles. Here are some guidelines for balanced home humidity:
- Be aware of what the relative humidity is indoors and out. Some models of programmable thermostats display a humidity reading in addition to temperature.
- If indoor humidity is excessive during summer, try increasing air circulation with fans. Even while running an air conditioner, moving air reduces humidity. Make sure your air conditioner receives an annual evaluation including coil cleaning, since humidity extraction results from a clean evaporator coil. Install spot exhaust fans to reduce humidity from bathrooms and the kitchen. A whole-house dehumidifier installed in the HVAC ductwork can remove humidity from circulating air.
- To lower humidity loss in winter, make sure the house is well-sealed. Where occupants spent long hours, such as bedrooms, individual room humidifiers can add moisture to the air. For acute bouts of dry air, keeping pans of water heated on the stove also helps. A whole-house humidifier will add water vapor to the entire volume of household air.