Thoughts on humidity
Even in the best of relationships, the temperature in the home can be a source of great contention. One partner wants it warmer, and the other wants it colder. Very few times, however, do you hear anyone complain about humidity. Mostly, we either we don’t notice it or as a species we share a fairly standard tolerance of its ordinary presence or absence.
While the amount of ambient moisture may receive little thought, it does bear monitoring even beyond basic human comfort.
Relative humidity of greater than about 50 percent, for example, helps create an ideal atmosphere for hatching tick and flea eggs. Humidity too high or too low can harm electronics, either by over-facilitating the conduction of electricity or allowing the build-up of static electricity. Humidity below 35 percent can violate warranties for cabinets and wood floors, which become more likely to splinter and crack.
In lieu of a proper measuring tool—called a hygrometer—there are several visual signs when a room’s air is too damp or dry.
- Is there condensation present on the inside of windows or on other glass surfaces?
- Do your ceilings and walls bear visible damp spots?
- Is there a moldy, mildew smell?
- Do people sneeze more when they enter the dwelling?
- Do occupants suffer from chapped lips or visibly dry skin?
- Are there complaints about dry noses and throats? Increased thirst?
- Are people getting small shocks of static electricity as they touch household items or one another?
In many cases, proper home ventilation can help move in air that has a more suitable percent of water vapor. The key is to employ predictable ventilation on a consistent basis, monitoring outdoor and indoor circumstances to ensure proper levels exist to make a positive change.
Of course, since many such exchanges also impact temperature, the considerate spouse will take steps that the thermometer isn’t overly nudged.
Ken Nelson Ken Nelson is the Northwest Regional Sales Manager for the Panasonic Eco Products Division, specializing in ventilation solutions for residential and multi-family living environments. Over the past four years, Ken has spoken throughout the Northwest, teaching and training builders, building science advocates and professionals on the physics of moisture and air movement in homes of all sizes, types and age.