How Humidity Can Damage Your Home in the Winter
The cold season is harsh on your health, but it can also do damage to the home. Keeping humidity inside during the wintry weather helps your skin and throat not dry out, but you may be surprised to hear that humidity puts stress on your home’s health, too. If your humidity levels are too low, your house and furniture will experience deterioration, and particularly nasty molds and bacteria will thrive this is why regular mold inspections are necessary.
Your house is supposed to keep you insulated from the cold, not give you one! Learn why humidity drops in the winter and what percentage to keep in your home to ensure a balanced environment for your overall health and that of your home. With a few strategies, you can keep humidity at the perfect level.
Why Humidity Drops and Where to Keep It
Humidity levels drop in winter because cold air doesn’t hold moisture the way warm air does. The lower the temperature, the less water exists as vapor. As the cold air mixes with the ventilation, or infiltrates through other means, there’s less water vapor in the indoor air. When levels go low, ambient air feels cooler to the skin, and you crank up the heat to make yourself feel more comfortable.
So, what humidity levels should be kept in the home to deter such damage? Ideal conditions are between 35 and 45 percent in the home. In energy-efficient homes, that number can be on the higher end of the spectrum. Under 30 percent is too dry, and over 50 percent is too much humidity.
There’s too much humidity if you notice fogging and condensation on windows and moisture or mold buildup on the walls. Cracking paint or increased occurrences of static electricity are also signs of increased humidity in the home. If the humidity is too high, mold and bacteria growth become a risk.
Strategies to Prevent Mold and Bacteria Growth
You must take into consideration what humidity-generating activities occur in your household, adjusting the humidity accordingly. Don’t overdo it, though — especially when you’ve got soup on the stove, and someone’s in the shower.
Regulate the humidity as you go about your daily routine. Use these techniques to prevent mold and bacteria from spreading:
- Install a humidifier to add moisture back into dry air. In a well-insulated home, a humidifier shouldn’t be necessary and is often a Band-Aid in a house with air leaks. Dehumidifiers will help with too-damp air.
- Seal up air leaks in your home for winter and save on the energy bill. Leaks commonly occur in the attic and basement, but also remember to insulate around recessed lights, seal open stud cavities, close chimney and flue gaps, and tighten areas around old windows and doors.
- Turn on exhaust fans over the stove and in the bathroom to regulate moisture from humidity-building household activities. Cook with covered pots. Take shorter or cooler showers. Opening windows a crack will also help.
- Add a little moisture back by using a drying rack in a well-ventilated room to hang dry delicates and towels, which are quick to dry.
- Use a shower liner to prevent mold and germ growth in the bathroom, as standing water can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Make your own air purifying mists to increase moisture levels and freshen up a space by combining a little water, rubbing alcohol and essential oils of your choice.
Your preferred level humidity may be at the lower or higher end of the spectrum, but should remain within 35 to 45 percent to be on the safe side. Too much humidity in the home creates a breeding ground for bacteria and mold growth and increases health risks, and too little humidity poses health risks, too.
Take into account which of your daily household activities increase or decrease humidity levels. Utilize exhaust fans, shower liners, humidifiers and other strategies to keep humidity at a steady and comfortable level in the home. Your home and energy bill will thank you!
Megan Wild is a residential construction expert who enjoys flipping old homes. When she’s not scouring her neighborhood for her next project, you can find her tweeting home inspiration at @Megan_Wild.
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