Maintaining the proper humidity level in your home is essential for your health and comfort. Too much or too little humidity can lead to a wide range of issues, including static electricity, drying out of woodwork and paint, and even mold growth. The ideal relative humidity level for indoor spaces is between 30 and 50 percent.
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Low humidity in a house is usually caused by a drastic temperature decrease. Cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air, so the relative humidity decreases. Additionally, heat systems further dry the air by pulling moisture out.
The rest of this article will cover the effects of low humidity on your health and overall comfort, along with five possible causes of low humidity in your home. I’ll also provide some tips on how to increase the humidity level in your home. Buckle up, and let’s get to it.
Effects of Low Humidity
Dry air can cause a variety of problems, both for your home and for your health. With the EPA recommending relative humidity levels of between 30 and 50% for indoor spaces, it’s important to take steps to increase the humidity in your home if the level falls below this range. Here are some of the effects of low indoor humidity:
Dry Skin and Sinuses
One of the most common side effects of low humidity is dry skin. When the air inside your home is dry, it sucks the moisture out of your skin, leaving it moisture deprived, itchy, and cracked. In extreme cases, this can lead to eczema.
Dry air can also cause sinus problems. The mucous membranes in your nose and sinuses need moisture to stay healthy and function properly. When the air is too dry, these membranes can become irritated and inflamed, leading to sinus infections, congestion, and headaches.
When the air is too dry, static electricity becomes a problem. Static electricity is caused by the buildup of electrical charges on the surface of objects. When you touch something with a static charge, you can feel a shock.
Static electricity is more than just a nuisance – it can be dangerous. The sparks created by static electricity can cause fires, and the shocks can be painful.
Dry Woodwork and Paint
Low humidity levels can cause woodwork and paint to dry, crack, and peel. This is because the air’s moisture helps keep these materials pliable. When the air is too dry, the moisture is sucked out of them, causing them to become brittle and crack.
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Allergies and Asthma Attacks
Low humidity levels can exacerbate allergies and asthma. Dry air can cause the mucous membranes in your nose and throat to become dry and irritated, leading to sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, or worse, triggering an allergic reaction.
Additionally, dust mites thrive in dry environments. These tiny creatures are common allergens and can trigger asthma attacks.
Stuffy Nose and Nosebleeds
Air with a low moisture content can cause the lining of your nose to become dry. To compensate, your body starts producing more mucus, leading to a stuffy nose. In extreme cases, the membranes in your nose can become so dry that they crack and bleed.
5 Causes of Low Humidity in Your Home
There are several factors that can contribute to low humidity levels in your home. Here are five of the most common causes:
The most prevalent cause of low humidity is the temperature outside. During the winter months, the outside air is colder than usual and doesn’t hold as much water as it does during the warmer months.
This means relative humidity levels will drop down. When you leave a door or window open, you’re allowing cold and dry air to enter your home and lower the humidity levels inside. When the air gets heated, it expands and can’t hold as much water, decreasing the relative humidity level.
2. Excessive Use of Air Conditioning
While air conditioners help improve indoor air quality and keep us cool during those hot summer months, they can also contribute to low humidity levels. Air conditioners remove moisture from the air as they work to cool down a room.
Most modern HVAC systems have an evaporator coil that condenses moisture from the air, which is then drained out of the system. This process can lower humidity levels, leading to dry, parched air inside your home. During colder months, it’s recommended that you use a humidifier along with your air conditioner to help offset the drying effects.
A dehumidifier is a device used to remove moisture from the air. While dehumidifiers can help relieve asthma and allergies, using one for extended periods can lower humidity levels far too much. Inside a dehumidifier, you’ll find refrigerated coils that cool the air and remove moisture.
As the air passes over these coils, the water vapor in the air condenses and is collected in a reservoir inside the dehumidifier. The result is cooler, drier air inside your home, which inevitably leads to lower relative humidity levels.
Dehumidifiers can also worsen certain conditions like pneumonia and eczema. It’s essential to use a dehumidifier sparingly and always stay properly hydrated when using one.
4. Heating Systems
Ironically enough, heating systems can lower humidity levels inside your home just like air conditioners. Heating systems like furnaces and space heaters work by circulating dry, hot air throughout your home.
As the warm air circulates, it evaporates the moisture in the air, leading to drier conditions. This hot air sucks the moisture out of the indoor environment, which can cause humidity levels to drop.
Additionally, many homes have a central heating system that uses forced air to circulate the heat. These systems also tend to remove moisture from the air, lowering humidity levels. It’s essential to use a humidifier to help offset the drying effects of these systems.
The weather can also play a role in indoor humidity levels. Dry, arid climates tend to lead to lower humidity levels indoors and outdoors. This is because there isn’t as much moisture in the air, to begin with.
Since the air outside is already dry, it doesn’t take much for the indoor air to reach low humidity levels too. Additionally, homes in these climates are often built to be more airtight to keep the cool air inside. This can further reduce indoor humidity levels.
How To Raise the Humidity Levels in Your Home?
If you are struggling with low humidity levels in your home, there are a few creative ways to combat this issue in order to preserve your health and comfort.
1. Get a Humidifier
One of the best ways to raise humidity levels in your home is to invest in a humidifier. A humidifier is a device that adds moisture to the air.
There are several types of humidifiers in the market, including central humidifiers, impellers, evaporative humidifiers, and ultrasonic humidifiers – each is designed to fulfill particular needs. Choose one that is the right size for your home, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use it properly.
2. Add Houseplants
Houseplants are an excellent way to add aesthetic appeal to your home. But did you know that they can also help increase humidity levels?
As plants transpire, they release water vapor into the air, which can help make the surrounding air more moist. Tropical plants such as ferns, palms, and peace lilies are especially good at increasing humidity.
3. Dry Your Clothes Inside
Hanging your clothes up to dry inside on a drying rack can also help increase humidity levels in your home. As the clothes dry, they will release moisture into the air. Just make sure you have a good ventilation system so that mold and mildew don’t start to form, leading to a whole other range of health-related risks.
4. Leave the Bathroom Door Open
When you take a hot shower, the steam from the shower can help increase humidity levels in your home. To maximize this effect, leave the bathroom door open when you shower so that the steam can circulate throughout your house. If you use a bathtub, leave the water in for a few minutes after bathing to release more steam into the air.
5. Boil Water on the Stove
Boiling water on the stove is one of the easiest ways to raise the humidity levels in your home quickly. As the water boils, it will release its vapor into the air, which is what you’re looking for. Even though this isn’t the best long-term solution, it can be remarkably effective in a pinch.
Low humidity levels result from low temperatures and are a common problem during winter. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air, so as the temperature outside drops, humidity levels in your home will also drop.
Low humidity is detrimental to your health as it can cause respiratory problems, dry skin, and static electricity. It also provides the perfect environment for dust mites, mold, and mildew to thrive, further exacerbating health problems.
Installing a humidifier, adding some houseplants, and boiling water on the stovetop are all great ways to raise the humidity levels for a comfortable and healthy home.