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A Complete Guide on How to Manage Home Humidity Levels
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
If you live in a humid climate, you know how it can impact the “real feel” of temperatures. Having a perpetually uncomfortable home is no fun, but it also means your HVAC system has to work overtime to remove humidity. And high humidity can create an environment more conducive to mold, mildew, and dust mites.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce high home humidity levels. From simple DIY alterations to major renovations, you can make your home more comfortable while saving on your utility bill. Keep reading to find out how.
Table of contents
How to Determine Home Humidity Levels
There are easy ways of testing indoor humidity, including basic hygrometers. These are inexpensive, and you can find them online or at your local hardware store.
There are also a few simple signs that high humidity is an issue in your home. These include a moist or clammy feeling to the air, musty aromas, or foggy windows. More tangible and severe manifestations can include peeling paint, visible mold, or rotting wood.
A simple DIY test is the “ice cube method.” Place a few ice cubes in a glass of water and wait approximately four minutes until the ice melts. If there is no condensation on the glass, your home humidity levels may be normal. If there is, it’s a good sign that the levels are too high.
Some humidity is good. Air that is too dry can be discomforting and cause problems as well. This includes damage to wood, dust particles in the air, and dry skin. The ideal humidity for indoor living spaces should generally be between 30 and 50 percent.
Negative Effects of High Humidity
Excess moisture in the air is how humidity impacts comfort. High humidity levels cause the rooms in your home to feel sticky or swampy.
It can make spaces more prone to mold and mildew as well. In the long term, high humidity can cause rot in wood, affecting your furniture and your home’s foundation.
High humidity can be bad for your health. Some studies have shown a link between higher humidity and greater air concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can exacerbate or cause skin problems like eczema and nervous system issues and even increase cancer risk.
High humidity levels can negatively impact your HVAC system as well. It has to work longer and harder to reduce humidity than it would otherwise. Not only does your A/C working harder mean higher utility bills, but this causes more wear and tear, shortening the life expectancy of your system.
If you notice a lot of bugs in your home during warmer months, the culprit could be high humidity. Insects need water to survive. An indoor space with moisture is more enticing to them than a drier environment.
How to Control Home Humidity Levels
There are several ways to address high or low humidity levels. These depend on the severity of the situation as well as the scope. Tackling high humidity in certain spaces warrants different tactics than altering the levels throughout your home.
You may not be able to replace your entire HVAC system, but reducing home humidity is a good reason to consider it. Many homes have the wrong size unit. If it is too big, it is cooling the home but not running long enough to remove humidity. Too small, and it has to work extra hard to do so.
The best thing you can do is consult with a home A/C specialist. They can suggest upgrades or replacements and give you an idea about how HVAC preventative maintenance would impact home humidity levels.
Stand-alone dehumidifiers, in general, are a good way to address problematic rooms. You can find a home dehumidifier online for a variety of room sizes.
Most bathrooms have built-in fan systems. These are great for removing moisture following a bath or shower. Keep them going as often as you can–the energy to run them will more than offset what you’ll save, leaving the job up to your HVAC system.
There also are whole-home dehumidifiers. These use the main ventilation system to remove moisture throughout the building. They usually are for the most severe problems but can be a smart alternative to other major HVAC mechanical upgrades.
Installing attic ventilation can reduce some of the heat and humidity that accumulates in the space. If you cannot ventilate your attic, an attic dehumidifier can tackle the problem head-on. A combination of these two is the best solution.
Proper insulation can play a big role in controlling humidity as well. If there are spaces in your home, such as the attic, with porous protection from the outdoors, no amount of mechanical dehumidification will help. Securing these areas will make them easier to control both temperature and humidity-wise.
Sealing air and duct leaks throughout your home is another good way to control humidity levels. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends updating siding and weatherstripping around windows and doors throughout your home. This helps create a better sealed indoor environment for keeping moisture out.
Most new homes have cement floors in basements and crawl spaces. If you have an old home with exposed dirt, consider covering or encapsulating it. Soil retains a lot of moisture that can seep into the crawl space and your home.
Upgrade Your Home’s Humidity Controls
Now that you know what causes high and low home humidity levels, you can determine which solution best fits your needs and budget. Remember that upfront costs can pay dividends in utility bills and HVAC system longevity.
Energy Attic specializes in making your home more energy-efficient, including managing humidity levels. This combines three components: radiant barriers, insulation, and ventilation systems.