Rainy winter months means spending a lot more time indoors, but unlike the summer months when the weather is unbearably hot, more moderate winter climates allow us to throw open the doors and windows every once in awhile, letting the cooler air in. It may be tempting to turn off the HVAC unit altogether. Doing that in attempts to let fresh air flow through your home is good in theory, but can cause other problems you may have not considered, including one particularly foggy foe: indoor humidity.
You know when your home has excess moisture - foggy windows, dampness and even mildew spots. The Environmental Protection Agency lists three criteria for healthy indoor air quality, and simply throwing the windows open and hoping for the best could be missing two of these qualities. The air must be fresh (check!), it must be clean (possibly - always check the air quality in your city, especially if you suffer from allergies or asthma), and the relative humidity must be lower than 50%. In South Texas, this is where we see the most issues. Relative humidity depends on the temperature and air pressure in the area that you’re looking at, and it is very important in helping you regulate your body temperature.
What is relative humidity?
In climate control and human comfort, the relative humidity is important to note. Since we regulate our body temperatures by sweat evaporating off the surface of our skin, the more humid the surrounding temperature is, the less efficient we are at cooling off, and the less comfortable we are. While humans can be comfortable in a large range of relative humidities (30 - 70%) around 50-60% is most commonly recommended.
For a further example, if the outdoor temperature is 75 degrees, and there is no humidity, it will feel like it’s a comfortable 69 degrees. With 100% humidity, that 75 degrees is a balmy 80 degrees. That’s a huge difference!
Indoor Climate Control
For regulating humidity indoors turn to your HVAC system. The key with your system is to maintain your system within the comfortable 50-60% range. That way, you’re able to avoid any foggy windows or indoor mugginess, but you also escape the problems associated with very dry climates. If there is too little indoor humidity, sweat evaporates almost immediately, but can cause you to dehydrate faster. Wood shrinks, and can cause cracks in the paint. At a high humidity, you run the risk of having mold and mildew build up, not to mention once you’re sweating, you may not be able to stop.
Of particular importance in your home are areas that are most likely to become too humid- the kitchen and the bathroom. Ventilation is your friend here, and in those areas, you should always ventilate during use, especially during long, hot showers that create a lot of steam, and keep the fan running for a little longer to push that humid air out. Be on the lookout for any signs of water accumulation, mold, or mildew growth. It’s easier and much less expensive to catch these issues early.
If those changes aren't enough, consider using a dehumidifier, and placing it in those high-humidity areas, or wherever those with allergy or asthma symptoms spend the most time.
So go ahead and enjoy the cooler weather! Plan outdoor family activities, sit on your porch, and feel free to throw open a window and enjoy the fresh air, but make sure that you’re not ignoring signs of too much indoor humidity. If you have questions about your indoor air quality, contact Covenant Air Conditioning & Heating at (512) 515-6946 today!