How to Know If Your Home Needs a Humidifier or Dehumidifier

Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning

Gaithersburg HVAC Contractors


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Most of us are familiar with the term “humidity,” but we often don’t think about it concerning our homes. However, the humidity level in your home can significantly impact your health, comfort, and the valuables in your home. That’s why it’s so important to know the signs that your home’s humidity level is out of balance—and what you can do about it.

Let’s breakdown the basics – what is humidity, what level of humidity is comfortable, how much is too much, how it affects us and our homes, and what you can do to get it back into the comfort zone.

Home Needs a Humidifier or Dehumidifier

What Is Humidity?

Humidity is the amount of water vapor present in the air. Though water vapor may be invisible, it’s always present in the air around us—even when there isn’t a cloud in sight. When the air is saturated with water vapor (when it contains as much water vapor as it can hold at that temperature), we say it’s 100% relative humidity.

The ideal relative humidity for most homes is between 30% and 50%. However, this can vary depending on the season and where you live. For example, homes in tropical climates may be comfortable at a higher humidity than those in arid climates. Humidity levels are a personal preference.

What Are the Effects of High Humidity Levels?

Once humidity levels reach over 55%, you are susceptible to several health risks:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Allergy flare-ups
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Heat Stroke

And your home is susceptible to damage:

  • Excessive condensation on windows, walls, and floors
  • Peeling paint and/or wallpaper
  • Staining of walls
  • Warping of wood products – furniture, musical instruments, building materials
  • Increased risk of bacteria, mold, and mildew growth
  • Increase in dust mites

What Are the Effects of Low Humidity Levels?

When humidity levels are too low – below 30%, you run the risk of:

  • Dry, flaky, itchy skin
  • Scratchy throat
  • Dried out and inflamed sinus membranes and nasal congestion
  • Increased risk of colds, flu, and other infections
  • Static electricity shocks
  • Cracked furniture, musical instruments, and wood flooring
  • Pictures and books drying out and curling around the edges
  • Ruining your favorite wine due to the cork drying out and letting air into the bottle

So how do you protect yourself, your home, and what’s in your home?  By knowing your humidity level and balancing it.

How to Measure the Humidity Level in Your Home?

The best and most accurate way to measure the humidity level in your house is to ask your HVAC company to measure it. An alternative would be to invest in a hygrometer. They are available at relatively low prices online or at your local home improvement store and come in various styles. It will measure the amount of water vapor in your air.

How Can You Balance Your Home’s Humidity Level?

If you discover your home’s humidity level is out of balance, there are a few things you can do to fix it – use exhaust fans in bathrooms, install storm windows and doors, increase insulation, and use a humidifier or dehumidifier. These devices work by adding or removing water vapor from the air.

Let’s explore the benefits of a humidifier and dehumidifier and when to use each.

What Does a Humidifier Do?

A humidifier adds moisture to the air by pulling dry air into the unit, saturating it with moisture, and dispensing it back into your home. This is particularly helpful in the cold, dry winter months when your heat is running daily.

Adding moisture to the air can also make your home feel warmer since moist air holds heat better than dry air. That’s why humidifiers are often used in winter when central heating systems dry indoor air.

What Does a Dehumidifier Do?

A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air by pulling humid air into the unit and through several kinds of cooling agents to remove moisture from the air and depositing the collected water into a reservoir bucket for removal.

Dehumidifiers are often used in summer when warmer, more humid outdoor air comes into your home through open doors and windows. They’re also used year-round in tropical climates with high indoor humidity levels, even when it’s not particularly warm outside.

How to Choose Between a Humidifier or Dehumidifier

So, how do you know whether you need a humidifier or dehumidifier (or both)? The answer depends on your home’s current humidity level and your personal preferences. Here are some guidelines:

  • If you have respiratory issues; are concerned about catching a cold, flu, or other infections; have wood flooring, furniture, or musical instruments; or have been experiencing dry, itchy skin and eyes, a humidifier will add the needed moisture to your dry air.
  • If you’ve tested your air and your relative humidity level is between 30% and 50%, and you’re comfortable, you probably don’t need a humidifier or dehumidifier.
  • If your home feels sticky and you’ve noticed stains on your walls, condensation on your window or walls, or are concerned with mold and bacteria growth, you should consider using a dehumidifier. If your relative humidity level is above 50%, you likely need a dehumidifier.

Maintaining a comfortable humidity level in your home is essential for both your health and your belongings. If you think your home’s humidity might be out of balance, call the HVAC technicians at Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning in Gaithersburg, VA. They can measure the humidity levels throughout your home and determine if a humidifier or dehumidifier is right for your home. Just complete the free estimate contact form to get started today.

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