Humidity, or the amount of ambient moisture in the air, isn't something you can avoid — especially if you live in places like Florida or Louisiana, where it feels like the atmosphere is more water than air. But in addition to making the air feel sticky and uncomfortable, humidity can damage your home and your investments. Whether you’ve recently remodeled or you want your hardwood floors to stand the test of time, it’s important to learn how your home’s climate might cost you down the road.
Here are four solid reasons to start managing indoor humidity.
Bathrooms Grow Mold and Mildew
Your bathroom is likely one of the most humid rooms in your house. Every time you take a hot shower or use warm water to wash your hands, you're releasing more moisture into the air. Moist air provides a perfect environment for mold and mildew growth. There can be serious effects to this, too — both microscopic organisms can be detrimental to your health.
Unfortunately, there's no real way to keep mold spores out of your house. Even if you kill all of them, the first time you open a door or a window, more will be carried in on the breeze. The only way to prevent mold and mildew from thriving in your home is to regulate the interior humidity.
In addition to being dangerous for your health, mold and mildew can damage walls, floors and anywhere else they grow. Some materials, like concrete and glass, are nonporous and can be cleaned, but porous surfaces like fabric, carpet and drywall will likely have to be removed and replaced, which can get expensive.
Hardwood Flooring Warps
Hardwood floors look beautiful and can add value to your home, but only if they are level. Solid hardwood floors are highly susceptible to humidity. If the air is too damp, the wood panels on the floor can warp, expand or separate. Most experts recommend keeping your home between 40 and 60 percent humidity to maintain your hardwood over time.
You can overcome this problem in humid areas by opting for engineered hardwood, which is more resistant to humidity. Engineered wood flooring works by pressing layers of wood together with resins and glues, creating a durable floor that won't expand or contract with the seasons and doesn't need to be nailed to the subfloor.
But if you’re not looking to remodel, no worries. You can keep humidity under control and protect your nice flooring with a few simple steps, like investing in a dehumidifier and using your kitchen or bathroom fan whenever you’re releasing moisture.
HVAC Systems Struggle
Even your home's HVAC system can be affected by ambient humidity. Every home HVAC system has either a condensate drain or vacuum pump designed to remove the condensation that collects on the air handler pipes. The more humidity you have in your home, the more condensation you're going to collect. It could potentially leak into the area surrounding the air handler, providing a perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew.
High humidity in your home can also put undue strain on your HVAC system, making it work harder. The interior of your home might even feel warmer than it is due to the extra moisture in the air. During the summer, when humidity is a problem, experts recommend keeping the indo or humidity below 50 percent. In the winter, humidity usually drops, which can be just as uncomfortable. When it's cold out, try to keep your interior moisture level between 30-40 percent to prevent dry noses and chapped lips.
Keeping It Comfortable
Humidity isn't something we can avoid, but that doesn't mean you have to deal with overly dry air in the winter or hot sticky air in the summer, at least in the comfort of your own home. Keeping up with the humidity in your home is essential for more than just comfort, though — letting it get too damp inside can damage your home.
Keep a dehumidifier handy for the summer months, and a humidifier for the winter months so you can protect your investments and stay comfortable at the same time. And if you need some help keeping track, a humidity monitor will help you figure out your home climate.