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How to understand and manage indoor humidity like a pro

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For most homeowners, ensuring that their house is inviting and comfortable is a top priority. The perfect temperature, lighting and furniture are key, but have you considered how humidity levels affect your livelihood? The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends that households maintain relative humidity levels of 45-55% for optimal comfort. But, why and how you should go about perfecting your indoor humidity can be a tricky situation to unravel. That’s why we’re breaking down some of the most common questions so that you can live happier and healthier under your own roof:

Q: How can I tell if my air is too humid, or not humid enough?
A: At the most basic level, if your air is in need of some moisture, you’ll notice your mouth and nose drying out and potentially even cracking—especially as you sleep overnight. On the other end of the spectrum, with overhumidification your air feels damp, there may be a musty smell (in areas like the bathroom and basement), and condensation appears on the inside of your windows. For a more accurate reading you can buy a humidity meter or download a Hygrometer mobile app.

Q: What are some ways I can increase or decrease humidity levels?
A: Generally, humidity is lower throughout the winter and higher in the summer months (making the air seem “sticky”). The easiest way to add moisture to the winter air is with the regular use of a room or whole-house humidifier. Live houseplants also add vapor into the air—about 97% of the moisture that they take in—and if push comes to shove you can also place water basins near your home’s heating unit. To decrease humidity, switch off all humidifiers, turn on the air conditioning and use exhaust fans wherever possible.

Q: How does indoor humidity impact my health?
A: The most common symptoms of dry air are dried-out skin, irritated eyes and bloody noses. Bacteria and viruses hang longer in the air, and as the air removes the mucus and moisture from your nose you become more susceptible to colds and infection. Asthma sufferers are more likely to suffer an attack too. High humidity levels make it harder for moisture to evaporate off of your body which can make you sweaty and uncomfortable, impacting your ability to get a full night’s rest.

Q: How does indoor humidity impact my home?
A: When there isn’t enough moisture in your air it’s not just your skin that cracks—it’s also your wood floors, wood furniture, and walls as the drywall separates from wallpaper. It can also spoil your wine and damage your musical instruments if left unchecked. Conversely, high humidity creates an environment perfect for mold growth, which gradually destroys whatever its on and also releases spores into the air that make you quite sick. Your valuable electronics may also get short circuited.