Elisa Shackelton: Around the house: monitoring indoor humidity
November 16, 2007
Craig — The word humidity refers to the amount of water vapor in the air, and this time of year, it is important not to let the air inside your house get too dry.
Skin irritation, difficulty breathing, bloody noses, headaches and static electricity are among common problems that develop when indoor humidity is too low.
Low indoor humidity is a bigger issue in winter months, when heaters, especially forced air and wood stoves, can rob a home of humidity. A touch of moisture in the air makes heated air feel warmer, so you can keep the heat at a slightly lower temperature (thus saving on your heating bill) if your humidity is balanced. If your woodwork is cracking or your skin seems excessively dry, you need more moisture in your home. A furnace-mounted humidifier is likely the answer if your home has central forced-air heat and other measures don’t moisten things up. If you have a wood stove, put a tea kettle (non-whistling) on it and add water regularly (check it daily to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated away).
The only way to determine the humidity level in your home is to use a humidity meter, also known as a hygrometer.
They are easy to find and cheap to buy, so there is no reason not to get one. The optimum relative humidity level is generally considered to be between 40 percent and 50 percent. Anywhere between 30 percent and 60 percent is acceptable, but a figure below 50 percent is recommended to help control dust mites which are bad for allergy sufferers. If you discover that a humidifier would be beneficial, look at the different types, recommended features, and decide between a whole house humidifier or a single room option.
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Moisture on windows
Your humidity level is too high if excessive moisture collects on windows and other cold surfaces. Excess humidity for a prolonged time can damage walls, especially when outdoor air temperatures are very low.
Indoor sources of excessive moisture include long showers, boiling or steaming cooking methods, houseplants and clothes dryers that are not vented outside. Since a tight, energy-efficient house holds more moisture inside, it may be necessary to run kitchen or bath ventilation fans or open windows briefly.
Good storm windows and caulking around windows also can help keep the interior glass warmer and reduce condensation of moisture there.
For more information, contact Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.