What Should the Humidity in Your House Be?

The Perils of Dry Air

For those of you who live in colder climates, struggling with dry winter air can be a problem that lasts for months. Your skin gets drier, feeling itchy, cracked, and sore. Your hair is more prone to static cling and won’t ‘fluff’ up as nicely. You get electric shocks after touching everything. Many people also complain of stiff joints, since they’re not drinking enough water to counteract the drier air. And, some of us are even prone to nosebleeds thanks to the lack of moisture in the air.

Winter cold, dry air is very tough to deal with, which is why many cold climate dwellers opt to purchase a humidifier. This handy device turns ordinary distilled or tap water into a gentle cool mist or warm mist steam that gently infuses the air with the moisture it sorely needs. That raises the overall humidity levels as well, reducing those dry air effects and making your skin and hair feel suppler.

Some humidifiers have built in controls that let you set a specific humidity level and then the machine will automatically adjust the water vapor until it reaches that level. But, plenty of low cost humidifiers have just a single one-button touch setting, where you turn it on and it works. There’s no controls for finding out how the humidity has changed and what level it’s currently reading.

So, how do you know that you’ve changed the humidity levels in your home?

Measuring Humidity

There are two ways to measure the humidity level in your house that don’t involve a humidifier’s controls. One of them is by using a humidistat, which automatically regulates the amount of humidity in a room or building. This device is similar in shape and function to a regular thermostat, which only measures temperature. You set the humidity range that you want, and the humidistat produces that level.

The other device is called a hygrometer, which looks like a wall-mounted circular thermometer. It specifically measures the water vapor in the atmosphere, which is slightly different than the humidistat regulating the amount of humidity. Hygrometers are most often used by weather stations. They are especially useful when checking to see that the humidifier works sufficiently well in all corners of a large room, such as a basement or living room. Some hygrometers even have an ‘ideal humidity level’ setting, which automatically finds the ideal for your home.

Proper Humidity Levels

After you’ve invested in ways to measure humidity, then it’s time to find the comfortable humidity level for you, your home, and your family. You don’t want it too moist, since water is actually a home’s number one enemy. That would be like dumping extra water on your clothes and furniture. Plus, raising the humidity levels can also approach tropical jungle feel, where you start feeling too sticky. So, obviously, there has got to be a perfect level, not too dry and not too moist.

Indoor Humidity Levels Chart

Your experience may differ from the following information, but this is a general ballpark figure for changing the humidity levels in the home.

Based on an indoor room temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, here is a handy chart that will help you figure out the correct humidity percentage.

Based on Outside Temperature Range of…Indoor Humidity Should Not be More Than …
20 to 40 degrees40%
10 to 20 degrees35%
0 to 10 degrees30%
-10 to 0 degrees25%
-20 to -10 degrees20%
lower than -20 degrees15%

When the outside temperature range starts to rise, the amount of humidity should also slightly rise with it, but, not so much that it becomes too sticky and uncomfortable. Likewise, when the outside temperature drops, you’ll want your humidity levels also to drop accordingly—again, not so much that the air becomes too dry.

So, by using your humidistat or your hygrometer or the built-in controls on your humidifier, you can set to the above percentages and rest assured the air will be just right. For most humidifiers or dehumidifiers, it takes about one to two 24-hour cycles for the humidity to change by 5%. If you’d like to change it by 15%, understand that you’ll be running the machine for about three days. This also depends on room size, as well.

A small dehumidifier can optimise the moisture level in a bathroom in less than 24 hours, whilst even the best dehumidifier for a large basement will take longer.

Humidity and Temperature

The relationship between humidity and temperature is linked, although they’re not the same. We tend to associate winter air with dry air and summer air with moist air, but that’s not always the case. Summers can be very dry, and winter rainstorms in milder climates can be very moist.

There is no one perfect humidity level for your home that you can ‘set and forget,’ since even in the mildest climates, the outside temperature will fluctuate. Weather systems can also bring in thunderstorms or drought-like conditions that further affect humidity levels.

Your best option is to readjust your home’s humidity levels on a continual basis. In the winter time months, you’ll want the humidity to be more towards the higher range, perhaps adding an extra 5% just to make up for how cold and dry the air is. In the summer, many users prefer not to use a humidifier at all and perhaps even switch to a dehumidifier to take moisture out of the air.

Those machines can remove gallons of water from the atmosphere, making it less damp, moist, and sticky. A drier climate like in the West would probably need to run a humidifier year-round, while a wetter climate along the coast or near one of the Great Lakes would opt for the dehumidifier option.

Your Humidity in Your Home

The most comfortable humidity level is one in which you are not suffering the ill side effects of either too much or too little moisture in the air. Once you start changing your home’s humidity levels, you might be surprised at how many problems are cleared up. At the very least, you can walk around without experiencing too many electric shocks.

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