Finding the right humidity level in your home air is crucial to good health, comfort, odor-free living and overall well-being. The ideal humidity level in your home should be between 35% and 55%, according to experts. You can measure your home’s humidity level with an inexpensive hygrometer, a device that works much like a thermometer.
A humidity rate of 40-50% is ideal unless the outdoor temperature is dipping below freezing on a regular basis. You might need a humidifier to reach that level, or you might need a dehumidifier. A lot depends on where you live, what season you’re in, etc.
Why Humidity Levels Vary
Humidity levels are a little more difficult to maintain in modern homes, which do not allow for much air flow and are often tightly sealed nearly year-round. Here is some detailed information on how humidity levels can vary in your living area and why you need to maintain a healthy constant level:
- Humidity levels vary greatly during winter and summer months. Those are the seasons when people often pull out their humidifiers or dehumidifiers, depending on the climate and temperature.
- Humidity levels can also vary a lot within your home. Some rooms might be at an ideal level while others are getting much too moist. This is true of basements, crawl spaces and laundry rooms, all of which can experience excessive humidity and need to be measured separately for their levels. In areas around washing machines and furnaces, moisture can accumulate and grow mold and mildew. If you smell musty odors or find that your clothes are damp after sitting out for just a short time in the laundry room, you probably have too much humidity in the air. Dust mites, bacteria and viruses all thrive in high humidity, so you want to solve this problem quickly.
- If you see moisture within your house condensing on windows or staining walls, causing rust on pipes or wood to rot, or growing mold, then you definitely have too much moisture in the air and need to dehumidify it. Look for dark mold stains in corners and closets, as well as near furnaces and in musty basements.
- Recommended levels for humidity in very cold conditions are lower than during more moderate temperatures. If the air outside is below 0, your indoor humidity can be allowed to dip below 35%. If you are in sub-zero temperatures, it can get as low as 15% and still be at a healthy level. This will prevent condensation and frost on your windows.
- Conversely, if your furnace is working overtime, the air inside can get extremely dry. That is when many homeowners use a humidifier to moisten the air. If you see warping on your wood floor or peeling paint, the air inside is too dry. If you have an easily irritated throat, that is another tip-off of too-dry air, as is excessive colds and flu among your family.
- In summer months, humidity can become a problem if you live in a humid climate. Your interior can sweat like that soda can you leave out on the counter in August. Try to keep your indoor humidity level below 55% during these months.
- Again, if you live in an extremely dry climate, summer can become the absolute driest time of year. Monitor your humidity level to determine if you need a humidifier.
- Maintaining a reasonable humidity level is key to your skin staying moist. It can begin to crack either during winter months as heat pumps in and air dries out, or in summer if your area has a lot of dry heat outdoors.
If you feel any discomfort from interior air that is either too dry or too moist, measure your air and make the appropriate adjustments. It’s not simply a matter of feeling comfortable—your health could be on the line if the air is irritating your lungs or allowing mold spores with allergens to grow unchecked. The right humidity level in your home will help to keep you and yours healthy year-round.