Excessive humidity can negatively impact indoor comfort and aggravate a variety of respiratory ailments. Humidity issues are often difficult to identify and remedy because the transference of water vapor is a complex process.
The term used to describe the amount of moisture in the surrounding air is “relative humidity.” From a technical standpoint, relative humidity is the percentage of water vapor in a volume of air at a set temperature relative to the total amount of moisture the air is capable of holding at that same temperature. When the air is saturated with all the moisture it can hold, it has a relative humidity of 100 percent. If the air is only holding half of its moisture capacity, it has a relative humidity of 50 percent.
Low Humidity Issues
When a furnace operates in the winter, it raises the indoor temperature without affecting the total moisture content of the air. Since warm air can hold more moisture, the relative humidity level inside the home can drop by as much as 10 percent. Humans are most comfortable in an environment where the relative humidity is somewhere between 40-50 percent, so occupants will begin to feel some level of discomfort as the total humidity falls below that threshold.
Extremely dry air can cause rough and flaky skin conditions, static electricity, chapped lips and unmanageable hair. Low humidity levels contribute to the development of colds and flu because mucous membranes in the respiratory tract dry out and become irritated. Any moisture from the body evaporates quickly, which leaves the person feeling chilled even when the thermostat is raised.
Furniture, floors and other items made of wood can shrink, split and warp when humidity levels are too low. Doors won’t close properly, moldings can separate and other wood items may lose functionality.
High Humidity Issues
High humidity issues typically strike in the summer when your air conditioner is running regularly. Colder air has less capacity to hold water vapor, so the relative humidity climbs. This condition is most obvious when condensation forms on windows, and there is a clammy feeling in the air and on your body. Excess humidity can promote mold growth and cause structural damage due to rot and decomposition of wood and other organic materials. Insects and other pests are drawn to environments where moisture is abundant, especially termites and other invasive bugs.
Unsafe humidity levels also create a dangerous health issue for the elderly and those with heart problems or respiratory conditions. The body uses perspiration as a cooling mechanism when the surrounding temperature rises. However, sweat physiology only works when the excreted water evaporates, which is the actual process that cools the skin. As the relative humidity rises, the evaporation rates falls. This places additional stress on the heart and circulatory system as it tries to combat the effects of a rising temperature.
A high moisture content in a building will also promote fungi, mold and dust mite growth. These organisms can trigger severe reactions in those with allergies or asthma. Perhaps worse, the air conditioning system continually circulates the contaminants through the duct network until they are unknowingly inhaled by one of the home’s occupants.
Changing a Building’s Relative Humidity
There are a number of ways to address humidity problems inside your home. A hygrometer is an inexpensive meter that will register the relative humidity of the indoor environment. Once the device displays a reading, it can be used to compare the building’s humidity to recommended standards. A professional HVAC technician from Conroe Air can provide a variety of solutions to improve comfort by restoring indoor humidity to healthy levels.
To Raise Humidity
- Attach a central humidifier directly in your HVAC system
- Humidifiers are available in both steam and atomized mist configurations
- Keep environmentally-friendly houseplants in your home
- Use portable humidifiers in individual rooms
- Take showers instead of baths
- Boil water on the stove without a lid instead of using the microwave
- Install a fresh air exchange unit
To Lower Humidity
- Install a high-efficiency central air conditioner
- Install a central dehumidifier
- Add active venting to bathrooms, laundry room and other high humidity areas
- Use cooler water during showers and limit bathing times
- Clear obstructions in drier venting
- Remove indoor plants
- Turn off humidifiers
- Install a humdistat
- Place portable dehumidifiers in rooms with high humidity levels
The Role of Air Conditioning in Humidity Control
A central air conditioning system plays an important role in humidity control and home comfort. When warm, moist air is pulled from the living area and drawn across the evaporator coil during the refrigeration cycle, the vapor is condensed into liquid water and drained outdoors. The moisture that is removed helps lower the relative humidity level, which improves the perception of comfort.
To ensure proper dehumidification, it is essential that your central air conditioning system in sized correctly. Oversized units will short cycle, and they may not run long enough to bring the humidity down to comfortable levels.
Complete Home Comfort
Conroe Air provides a complete array of heating and air conditioning services. Contact one of our courteous representatives to learn more about our complete line of humidifiers, dehumidifiers and indoor air quality products and services.
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