Humidity control remains one of the most misunderstood concepts by most people. This is because humidity levels change all year round depending on the seasons. While in most places the lowest humidity levels are experienced during the winter months(with relative humidity levels remaining below 35%). The highest relative humidity levels during the summer remain above 65%.
Your geographical location can dictate the level of humidity your experience. People living in any water mass like the ocean, rivers, and lakes, will experience relatively higher humidity levels. The indoor humidity levels are highly affected by the outdoor high levels.
What is humidity?
Humidity is simply explained by the amount of water vapor in the air.
For a more in-depth explanation: humidity is explained in terms of how it's measured. Humidity is measured as either absolute or relative.
absolute humidity – refers to the mass of water vapor divided by the dry mass within a volume of air at a specified temperature. As the temperature rises the potential of air to absorb more water vapor increases. This is why most summer is more humid.
relative humidity – refers to the highest possible absolute humidity. Total saturation refers to 100% relative humidity, the point at which the air cannot absorb more water vapor at that temperature, hence leads to the formation of water droplets.
The most comfortable relative humidity for any space is between 45% to 55%. Any higher or lower relative humidity level will make your home or office feel colder for lower humidity and warmer for higher humidity, thus making it uncomfortable.
What are the signs of humidity in your home or in any space?
To determine the humidity levels using a hygrometer(easily available in almost all retail stores in the country.) A hygrometer will give you precise humidity levels reading. However, there are some easy signs to look out for, so as to know if you have high humidity levels in the house.
These signs include :
- condensation on windows and glass doors, especially in the morning.
- The growth of black mold on items, walls, or the ceiling.
- Water stains on the ceiling and walls.
- Musty smell or odor in a room with extremely high humidity.
- Puddle of condensed water on the floors in extremely humid rooms.
- Increased Wood Rot.
- Peeling of paint and wallpaper form the walls.
- Warping of wood – wooden floors will feel uneven, while wooden doors and windows will fail to close properly.
- Increased respiratory disease and allergies including asthma attacks.
Why is an air conditioner not enough to control humidity.
Most A.C. systems will effectively lower the indoor temperature and might also extract some water from the air, however cooling the air will also increase the relative humidity indoors. This will make your home or workspace feel usually cold and the air will feel stuffy.
This will also create the perfect environment for mold and mildew growth, especially in the air duct. This may create poor indoor air quality.
What are the sources of indoor humidity :
The source of indoor humidity can be categorized into :
1.an external source of humidity – Humidity can easily get into your home through the crack on the walls, leaking window frames, air vents, and another opening on the house structure.
An external source of moisture include:
- broken gutters allow rainwater to get into the house walls.
- Broken downpipes, will deposit all the rainwater on the walls or just next to the home’s foundation.
- Leaks on the roof will allow rainwater to get into the house.
- Lack of weatherboards on doors allow outside humid air to get into the house.
- Poor drainage around the home foundation – if too much of the rainwater is deposited close to the house foundation, the excess water will eventually get in the basement walls and floors. This moisture will eventually be spread to the rest of the house via the stack effect.
Some of the indoor sources of humidity include :
a.plumbing problems – they include :
- leaking pipes.
- Leaking taps and sinks.
- Un-insulated cold pipes, provide the perfect condensation surface.
- Blocked or cracked drains.
- Leaks from dishwashers, water tanks, or radiator valves.
c.Houseplants – it is important to avoid having too many houseplants because houseplants produce lots of moisture.
d.House cleaning and dishwashing.
e.Preparing meals especially boiling and steam cooking.
f.Drying laundry in the house.
g.Gas appliance – a gas refrigerator can release over a liter of moisture a day.
h.Saunas and hot tubs – the addition of saunas and hot tubs or whirlpool baths have become very popular. They can greatly increase the humidity levels in the house.
i.Construction moisture – concrete is made for a mixture of a variety of building materials mixed with lots of water. this water is trapped in the concrete and as the concrete dries up with the time the water is added to the indoor humidity.
Some rooms in the house are more humid than others – basements and crawlspaces. Most homeowners will encounter moisture problems in the basements or the crawlspace first. The fact that the basement or the crawlspace is completely or partially underground, allows moisture to enter :
- Water drainage problems.
- by the capillary action of water.
- by air leaks through the walls.
- by diffusion from the soil into the walls.
- Through cracks on the joints between concrete floor and walls.
how harmful is humidity?
To maintain proper levels of comfort and quality air it is important to ensure the room temperature and relative humidity levels are controlled effectively. High humidity causes:
- Increased energy consumption – a home with high humidity will feel warmer hence, most people will crank up their air conditioner which will consume more power while not get the desired result.
- High humidity will cause wood to warp, which will damage wooden doors, windows, and musical instruments.
- High humidity will increase the rate of paint and wallpaper peeling off the walls
- Wood will decay faster hence constant wood replacement will be required occasionally.
So, how do you control high humidity?
It is important to first identify your biggest cause of increased humidity.
Try the following control measures :
- Ventilate properly – install fans in the bathroom and clean the vent to allow air circulation. This allows the excess moisture to be removed from the house.
- Air seals – seal all the cracks and spaces in the house that allow outside humidity to get into your house.
- Insulate the cold open plumbing.
- Frequent roof maintenance, add gutter extensions, make a slope for ware runoff using pavers.
- Invest a dehumidifier - the only sure way of ensuring your home’s humidity levels are controlled and maintained at below 50% relative humidity. A dehumidifier is an electric appliance that extracts the excess moisture from the air.