What is the Proper Level of Home Humidity?

Too much, too little humidity in your home

home humidity levels

Home Humidity Levels

Let’s face it, it’s hard to manage humidity levels in the home during the cold winter months. It seems like one day your throat is dry and scratchy and then the next your windows are icing over.  What is the proper level of home humidity for those of us who live in Minnesota and how can we keep things comfortable for our family and pets?

For some families, moisture generated by our normal day-to-day activities can lead to high humidity levels in the house.  Showers, cooking and dishwashers naturally add moisture to the air.  High humidity levels within the house can cause moisture to condense on windows, water to show on walls, and rust and mold within your house, which can contribute to health problems.

In the winter, we can also have too little moisture in the house.  Because the cold winter air is so dry, it affects the indoor relative humidity when it enters our homes.  Some issues related to having too little humidity in the home include annoying static electricity, damage to wood floors and furniture, and health problems, such as sneezing, dry noses (nose bleeds) and an increase in respiratory illness.

Humidistats are an easy solution.  Humidistats are used to control dampers, valves and other switches in an HVAC system to control the flow of air and thereby control the humidity levels in specific areas.  A good rule of thumb for controlling relative humidity in the winter:  If frost or condensation forms on your windows, the humidity is too high and you should turn down the humidistat.  If your hardwood floors start to separate, the humidity is too dry and you should turn up your humidistat.  Setting the humidistat may not be a one-time fix, you may need to occasionally adjust the humidistat, depending on your needs.

But sometimes a humidistat isn’t quite enough.  You may have to resort to additional measures to reduce the moisture in the air, such as running your bathroom exhaust fan during baths and showers, and for an additional 30 minutes or longer after bathing or showering to remove moisture from the room.  Also, operate the kitchen exhaust fan when you are cooking.

Adding humidity to a dry house is fairly straightforward. Run a humidifier if you lack a humidistat or if the humidity still seems too low. Use stand-alone, cool mist humidifiers or whole house humidifiers. Clean cool mist humidifiers regularly and don’t allow water to stand in the bottom of them, because the humidifiers can put harmful microorganisms or bacteria into the air when not properly maintained.

The University of Minnesota has developed guidelines for the minimum recommended humidity levels for houses. Based on a 70ºF interior room temperature, engineering studies established the following guidelines:

Outside Temperature                   Inside Humidity

20º to 40ºF                                          Not over 40%

10º to 20ºF                                          Not over 35%

0º to 10ºF                                            Not over 30%

-10º to   0ºF                                         Not over 25%

-20º to –10ºF                                      Not over 20%

-20ºF or below                                   Not over 15%

These guidelines do not guarantee that condensation will not appear on mirrors or windows.

Establishing proper humidity levels in a home are not always a one-time fix.  Just as the outdoor temps vary greatly from week to week, so may the humidity levels in your home. Just follow the rules of thumb discussed and make adjustments with exhaust fans or humidifiers to create a healthy and comfortable environment for you and your family.

Minnesota furnace repair

For home maintenance and comfort tips, visit StayComfyMinnesota.com! Stay Comfy, Minnesota is your Minnesota resource for air conditioning repair, furnace repair and HVAC tips and advice.

About Ed Heil

Owner of StoryTeller Media & Communications an inbound marketing and digital PR agency in Bloomington, MN.
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