We live in one of the most humid parts of the country. As Alabama residents, we’re all used to stepping outside into summer weather that is a little (ok, a lot) hot and sticky. Living with the extra moisture may not be pleasant, but it’s the price we pay for living in such a great state!
But while we live in a humid environment, that doesn’t mean we necessarily want all that extra moisture in our homes. A little moisture is needed to keep things comfortable, but too much can lead to some serious problems for your home.
Why is indoor humidity a problem?
Are you seeing condensation on your windows? Maybe your home has a musty smell, or you are having issues with mold or mildew. If so, these are all symptoms of too much humidity in your home.
A good humidity level for a home is between 30-50%, with 40-45% being an ideal measurement. This humidity level keeps things comfortable for most people without being too dry. But higher humidity levels can create problems, and these can lead to some big air quality issues.
The first problem is that high humidity levels lead to condensation. Condensation leads to the perfect home for mold and mildew…they just love a damp environment in which to grow. There’s no question that a buildup of mold in your home can cause health problems for everyone who comes in contact with the mold or airborne spores. Even for people who aren’t generally sensitive to allergens can feel the effects of a mold overgrowth – itchy eyes, scratchy throat, runny nose, and coughing. For those who have sensitivities, mold and mildew can cause serious reactions.
Condensation problems that are left untreated can lead to structural issues in your home. Higher humidity levels that allow water to build up can lead to wood rot, and once wood starts to rot it generally has to be replaced. This usually is a problem that occurs over years of humidity issues in a home, but in this case an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure.
Another nasty problem related to high humidity levels? Dust mites. These guys just love moist environments, especially if you have carpeting in your home. For those with allergy issues, high humidity can mean uncomfortable reactions.
Combine all of these issues with the fact that humid air tends to hold on to heat, and it doesn’t take much to see that your home can quickly become an uncomfortable place!
What can you do about it?
The very first thing to do if you’re experiencing humidity problems is to check the ventilation in your home. Good ventilation is the best way to keep your home at comfortable humidity levels, but this is actually a larger problem in newer homes. Because of new construction rules, new homes can be a little too airtight – while this is great for climate control, it’s not necessarily good for air quality. If there is nowhere for the high humidity air to go, it (and all the water it’s carrying) stays in your home.
Start with the major sources of humidity in your home: bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. Each of these rooms should have ventilation that leads directly to the outside of your home (not to the garage or attic). Ventilation fans should be run whenever someone is taking a shower, or when cooking will produce large amounts of steam. In the event that you don’t have access to great ventilation in these areas, then use the oldest ventilation tool in the book: a window.
Next, check the ventilation in your attic. Without a good ventilation system, moisture can build up in this space and begin to cause problems with mold, mildew and rot.
Your basement can also be a source of too much moisture. Know that musty smell that a lot of basements have? That’s a symptom of high humidity. To reduce moisture in this space, it’s important to make sure your home has proper outside drainage. Water shouldn’t be pooling near the foundation of your home, where it can find its way into your basement. If your drainage is good, then it might be time to invest in a portable dehumidifier.
If you have dealt with ventilation issues, drainage issues, and have confirmed that you have no major plumbing or roofing issues, but are still seeing signs of moisture problems, then it might be time to contact a professional for an assessment. For homes that continue to have issues maintaining humidity levels, an HVAC system with a better ability to help regulate humidity levels or a whole-home dehumidifying system may be the best way to keep things under control.