Your home’s humidity level in the winter has a direct impact on your family’s comfort. During the winter as temperatures drop, the moisture in the air decreases significantly. When the air in your home is dry, you are more likely to catch a cold and suffer from issues like dry, itchy skin. Structural problems can occur in a home with low humidity too—including wood rot and damage to siding.
In the winter, high humidity in a home is also a potential issue. In the South, the winter months are typically full of days with wet, stormy weather. Weather conditions are not the only cause of high humidity during the winter; day-to-day activities could impact a home’s humidity level too. For instance, boiling water on the stove and taking long, hot showers even in a well-ventilated home can increase indoor humidity levels. Too much humidity in a home promotes mold growth, attracts insects, and makes the house feel stuffy.
During the winter months, the goal is to keep the relative humidity level inside the home right around 40 percent. The following tips can help you control your home’s humidity level throughout the winter season.
Signs of High and Low Home Humidity Levels
Heating your home during freezing temperatures will be the number one culprit for causing low relative humidity levels. Cold air doesn’t hold as much moisture as warm air and once a heater turns on in a home, it doesn’t replace the missing moisture. These are the top signs of low humidity in a home:
- Skin changes: Dry, itchy skin is a common sign of a home having low humidity. Your nose may also feel dry or stuffed up.
- Static: Electrostatic discharge or “shock” is more common in places with dry air. Feeling a shock when you touch a metallic object could be a sign of low humidity. Electrostatic discharge is problematic for home electronics since a television or computer could be damaged through exposure to an electrical charge.
- Increased thirst: When the humidity is low in the home, the air will deplete moisture from your body to replace it. You are likely to feel dehydrated when spending prolonged periods in dry air.
- Wood damage: Wood furniture expands when exposed to excess moisture and constricts in low humidity environments. Cracking and warping can occur due to prolonged expanding and shrinking.
Relative humidity levels over 50 percent in the winter are also problematic. Despite colder temperatures, too much snow or rain, overuse of a humidifier and cooking/bathing habits could make the humidity too high. Common signs of a home with high humidity include:
- Allergy symptoms: Too much humidity is harsh on allergy sufferers as symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes become more widespread.
- Condensation: Humidity in the home is potentially too high if you notice condensation forming on windows.
- Mold growth: If you see signs of moisture or mold on the walls and ceilings of your home, the relative humidity is too high. Water stains may also be visible on the walls and ceilings. There may also be a musty smell prevalent in the home.
- Structural damage: High humidity causes paint to bubble. Any type of wood in the home could also show signs of rot.
- Bug infestations: Many insects thrive in moist conditions. If you notice an increase of pests in the home, this could be an indication that you need to lower the relative humidity in the house.
If you are unsure of the current relative humidity level in the home, there are tools available for purchase. A hygrometer will measure the humidity in the home. Several indoor thermometers also include a gauge for humidity.
Fixing Home Humidity Levels
During the winter, the easiest way to add moisture to the air is with a humidifier. Humidifiers measure the relative humidity in the air and turn on when the level is too low. Single room humidifiers are available, or consumers may purchase whole house humidifiers that work with their HVAC systems. Portable humidifiers are inexpensive and will produce a vapor to be released into the room. Whole-home humidifiers are controlled by a humidistat and work in the same fashion as a furnace.
Home remedies are available for temporary low humidity fixes. Homeowners may boil water, air dry wet laundry in the home and leave the bathroom door open while showering. Houseplants and indoor water fountains are also DIY options to add more moisture back into the air.
When a home has too much humidity in the winter, repairs may be required. Leaky pipes, HVAC issues or a leaking roof could cause a surge in the air’s moisture levels. Ventilation issues could also be contributing to your home’s high humidity. Installing ventilation fans in the kitchen and bathrooms could resolve the issue. Home drainage systems should also be evaluated. If downspouts and gutters are blocked, that could contribute to excess home moisture.
A dehumidifier will remove excess moisture from the air by speeding up the evaporation process. Like humidifiers, there are different size dehumidifiers available and can also be installed as part of a whole house HVAC system. With a built-in humidistat, dehumidifiers turn on and off to maintain ideal relative humidity.
Carolina Pest Management has seen firsthand the importance of controlling humidity levels in a home. Homes with too much moisture in the air attract unwanted houseguests including bugs and rodents. Our professional and expert team of pest control technicians can help prevent infestations with moisture control services in your Carolina home. Contact us today to learn more.