Humidity is the amount of moisture or water vapor in the air. Humidity is typically measured as relative humidity, or RH. RH is a percentage of moisture in air at a given temperature of the total moisture that the air could hold at that temperature. If the air cannot hold any more water without producing moisture as condensation, then the relative humidity of that air is 100%. If the air is only holding 1/2 of what it could before producing moisture, the relative humidity of that air is 50%.
Water vapor in a home is produced by plants, animals, and people. Water vapor is added to the air with the activities of daily life – showering and bathing, doing laundry and dish washing, cooking and housecleaning, and more. Water vapor is also importantly determined by climate conditions and current weather.
Humidity is a natural condition for comfort and health. However, too much or too little humidity will be adverse to our comfort and health. Too much or too little humidity will cause problems, for people and for furnishings. Signs of high humidity include condensation on windows, moldy bathrooms or basements, musty smell and allergic reactions. Signs of low humidity include chapped lips, scratchy nose and throat, and static electricity.
We can feel humidity but to measure Relative Humidity, an instrument called a “hygrometer” can be used. They are not expensive and are easy to use. Make sure you follow operating instructions to get accurate readings. Hygrometers are often available at hardware stores. Getting some accurate readings with a hygrometer will help determine measures to take to increase humidity (with a humidifier for example) or to lower humidity. Humidity readings will vary in different areas – it can be higher close to windows, or in basements so take this into account when assessing overall humidity. Also, warmer air can hold more humidity than cooler air so RH readings will change when air temperature changes (if air is for example, hotter in afternoon, cooler in the mornings).
So what is an appropriate humidity level? Typically an RH between 30-50%, closer to 30 in the cold season but if you have lots of plants, a hot tub or an indoor swimming pool, allow for RH on the higher side. If windows show condensation with RH levels of 30-40%, windows may need upgrading.
What actions can be taken? Humidity can be controlled. If the humidity is too high it can be lowered. It the humidity is too low it can be increased. Humidity is usually lower in cold winter weather then in hot summer weather. Humidity can be reduced by using a dehumidifier and by running air conditioning (also consider running exhaust fans). Humidity can be increased by running a humidifier (stand alone unit or unit installed on heating/cooling system), or having more house plants for example. If low humidity persists in cold weather, weather stripping and caulking may be in order. Opening doors and windows will increase or decrease humidity depending on the relative humidity outside compared to the relative humidity indoors. If you install a dehumidifier or humidifier, follow operating and maintenance instructions to get and maintain good performance. Dehumidifiers should be placed in the areas with the highest relative humidity.
Humidity will jump in rainy weather and in particular wet weather that causes flooding. In the case of flooding, air movement and de-humidification is particularly important and part of any professional flood water removal or flood restoration service.
For more information on humidity control, or other household air conditions, call Ram Cleaning Services at 403-291-1051 and talk to one of our representatives.
Complete Cleaning Care and Maintenance in Calgary and area since 1967
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