Why Humidity Matters in Home Efficiency and Electrical Costs

Humidity plays a large role in a person’s comfort level.  It also makes a major impact in how hard a home’s heating and cooling system has to work in order to maintain a comfortable temperature.  Understanding how humidity affects our comfort allows you to know how to adjust the humidity in your home to the optimal level in order to improve your life and cut your electricity bill.

Simply put, humidity is a measure of the amount of water vapor that is in the air.  Relative humidity is the most common measure of humidity and it is the amount of water vapor in the air as a percentage of the maximum water capable of being in the air at that given temperature.  As the relative humidity increases, it makes the air feel warmer. To understand why you must understand how sweat works.

Humans cool themselves off by sweating.  As the moisture escapes our pores, the warmest part of the liquid evaporates leaving the coolest part of the liquid on our bodies to lower the surface temperature on our skin.  But when the relative humidity is high, the air cannot hold much more water, so the evaporation process is slowed and the warm sweat stays on our skin longer, preventing us from cooling down.

In addition to tracking the temperature of your home with a thermostat, you should track the humidity level in your home.  Some newer thermostats will also display the humidity level, but you may need to upgrade your thermostat or purchase a separate humidity monitor to be sure you know the relative humidity levels in your home.

In the summer, humidity levels should be relatively low in order to help keep occupants in the home cool.  Indoor humidity should be between 30 and 45 percent during the summer. High humidity will cause the air to feel warmer and for the air conditioner to work harder to make the home feel comfortable.  To remove the humidity in your home, use dehumidifiers and exhaust fans. It is recommended that you leave the exhaust fan in your bathroom on for at least twenty minutes after taking a shower to remove the water vapor from the air.  Cooking and boiling water will also add humidity to your kitchen, so be sure to use the exhaust fan above your range to remove excess water vapor after making a meal.

In the winter, humidity levels should be between 45 and 55 percent.  The water vapor traps warm air and will help keep your home warmer. The higher the humidity the less your heating system will have to work to keep you warm.  You should run a humidifier in occupied rooms in your home if your humidity levels are too low. Another way to increase your home’s humidity levels is to add living plants to your home because they will emit water from their leaves through the process of transpiration.  You can also boil water on your stove or place water basins near your heating system.

Keep an eye on the humidity levels in your home because it can be harmful to your health if your home’s humidity levels are too high or too low.  If the humidity levels are greater than 60 percent, mold can grow in your home. If humidity levels are lower than 30 percent, your skin will dry out and you will be more susceptible to colds.

Maintaining optimal humidity levels is a great way to improve your comfort, health, and lower your energy costs related to heating and cooling your home.


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