As a resident of Florida, you have to deal with humidity the majority of the year. For about 9 months of the year, spending time outdoors can feel like being in a terrarium. But there’s more to humidity than merely feeling uncomfortable. Humidity can make it very difficult to breathe for people who already have aggravated breathing conditions. That’s why understanding humidity and how it affects your home and health is important here in the Sunshine State.
The relative humidity reading is the amount of water vapor the air holds at any given time. If the relative humidity is 67%, that means the air is 67% saturated with water vapor. You can then see how it could be difficult to breathe when humidity is high; after all, the air is much heavier.
But what percentage of relative humidity is considered “high”? Typically, readings above 50% are labeled as high humidity.
In the Tampa area, our average daily humidity is 74%—88% in the morning and 57% in the afternoon—which means that it’s the 5th-most humid city in the nation (based on the daily average). That gives our geographic region heavy air on a consistent basis, making your lungs work pretty hard to get the oxygen you need.
While a high percentage of water molecules in the air makes it difficult to breathe, it also prevents sweat from evaporating, making it more difficult for your body to cool itself. Humid air also affects how your body senses temperature.
Higher humidity = increased heat in your body. But why does humidity make it feel hotter? Because it’s difficult for your body to cool off, you feel hotter at lower temperatures with higher humidity than you do at higher temps with lower humidity.
As when you’re outside, it’s not healthy to have a high level of humidity in your home. It tends to cause musty odors, warp wood floors, increase the chance of pest infestation, cause condensation and water stains, and/or peeling or warping of wallpaper.
In addition, bacteria and viruses thrive in humid environments and stay airborne longer. The same can be said for fungi and dust mites, which affect allergy sufferers and those with respiratory issues. Finally, airborne chemicals, such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, become more prevalent due to higher water vapor levels.
So, with all of these potential health concerns, it’s in your best interest to make sure that the humidity levels in your home are properly maintained.What should the humidity be in your home? It is recommended to have a relative humidity inside your house to fall between 40-50%.
While many AC professionals will tell you that stagnant air has higher humidity levels, for most of the year in the Tampa Bay area opening your windows will only make your home more humid. Instead, you need to cool the air and regulate the temps and airflow throughout your home.
There are many reasons that can contribute to high humidity in your home. Water leaks can occur under kitchen or bathroom sinks, unfinished areas of your house, or other pipes. Improper ventilation of your clothes dryer can also increase humidity. Other reasons can be that you don’t have enough air circulation in your home or proper venting in your kitchen or bathroom.
Also, issues outside of your house can cause problems. If your gutters or downspouts are clogged, water may be pooling around or in your basement or other areas in your home if there are any structural compromises.
As mentioned above, the ideal relative humidity in your home is between 40-50%, but the humidity can vary greatly in each room due to temperature fluctuations. There are several actions that can be done to safeguard your home against humidity.
First, you need to find out what the humidity is in each room. One way to measure the humidity in each room is by using a small, handheld instrument called a hygrometer, which you can purchase at your local hardware store. It’s a helpful tool for determining which rooms have higher humidity readings. There are a number of types of devices available that can detect humidity and are readily available at retail stores. Many even include temperature readings. This can give you additional important information regarding the comfort levels throughout the home.
By controlling the humidity by running your air conditioner, you will feel cooler at a higher temp, which also means that you will save money on energy costs. (Remember, high levels of humidity make it harder for your body to cool itself, which makes you “feel” warmer than you really are.) Warmer air holds more humidity than cooler air.
Some people like to use an in-room dehumidifier, which removes moisture from the air and collects it in a tank. You can then use that water for your garden. Another option is to install a whole-house dehumidifier. However, the downside is that dehumidifiers will constantly work here in the Sunshine State. You’re better off maintaining a temperate indoor climate by using your air conditioner at a higher temperature.
That said, it’s important to set your AC unit’s fan to “automatic” because if you set it to the “on” position, the air in your home will be re-humidified. Why? Because when the condenser cycles off, air will be blown over the wet coil. In addition, you may also want to consider purchasing a unit with a variable-speed air handler, which helps purify the air in your home.
But the bottom line is that you can keep the air in your home comfortable and healthier by reducing the humidity by running your air conditioner. By doing so, and reducing the humidity, you’ll feel cooler at a higher temperature, and your unit won’t be overworked.
It’s important to note that air conditioners can only deal with the moisture they’ve been designed to remove, whether it’s recirculating the interior air or conditioning air from the outside (or both). In addition to using your air conditioner, you can reduce the humidity and moisture in your home by:
Outside of your home, ensuring that gutters and downspouts are clear, increasing the length of your downspouts so that they are farther from your home, watering outdoor plants only when necessary, and inclining soil away from your home so that water doesn’t pool.
Related reading: Why is my house so humid with the AC on?
Regular maintenance of your AC unit can go a long way in helping to dehumidify your home’s air. A unit that’s not working properly can compound many of the issues mentioned above. So make sure your unit is ready for the humid Florida summer by calling the experienced AC technicians at Cool Today!