Texas Living

Home Humidity 101

By Staci Parks 5.6.24

Achieving — and maintaining — the right home humidity level is good for you and your home. Many Texans are used to humidity, but it can be harmful to your health and home if left unchecked.

We’ve outlined how to recognize increased home humidity levels and humidity-related risk factors, as well as what proper humidity levels are and how to achieve them.

What Should Home Humidity Levels Be?

Ideally, indoor humidity levels should be between 30-50%, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Depending on the climate and season, humidity can fluctuate based on the outside temperature.

Humidity-Related Risk Factors

An off-balance indoor humidity level can have an adverse impact on your home. Here are some of the main concerns:

  • Home wear and tear. High humidity creates a damp environment, which can invite mold and mildew infestations. However, low indoor humidity levels can dry out wood furniture, floors, and building materials, leading to cracking and warping.
  • Health and wellbeing. The right indoor humidity level can help prevent dry, itchy skin while keeping your nasal passages and throat moist. You may also notice eased allergies.
  • High energy bills. When dealing with high humidity levels, your home may feel as hot and humid as Galveston in August, prompting you to crank the AC.

Telltale Signs of High Indoor Humidity

Chances are you’ll know if there’s a humidity problem in your home. Be on the lookout for:

  • Musty smells. A stale or earthy stench is an indicator of a humid home. You might be nose blind to your home’s smell. So, if you suspect a musty odor but can’t sniff it out, leave your home for a few hours and pay close attention to the smell when you return.
  • Damp surfaces. Visible condensation appears on surfaces throughout your home, ranging from windows and mirrors to countertops and furniture.
  • Discolored ceilings. Often, water stains and moisture appear as yellowed discoloration on ceilings.
  • Peeling paint. High humidity can lead to peeling paint in areas such as bathrooms, the kitchen, and the laundry room — areas already susceptible to moisture.

What Causes High Indoor Humidity

Climate can impact your home’s indoor humidity levels. If it’s humid outside, it’ll be muggy inside without taking proper measures. (Sorry, South Texans!) Everyday activities — like washing, cooking, and showering — can affect humidity levels, too. But you may find more nefarious issues with:

  • Leaks.
  • Poor insulation.
  • Poor ventilation.
  • An AC unit that’s too large for your home.

How to Measure Home Humidity Levels

There are two easy ways to measure indoor humidity levels.

  • Hygrometer. This device, which you can pick up at most hardware stores, measures the amount of water vapor in the air. For best results, place your hygrometer in the living room or bedroom — or a similar area that doesn’t see a lot of intentional moisture (e.g., bathroom or kitchen).
  • Ice cube test. Add a few ice cubes to a glass of water and let it sit on the counter for about five minutes. If you see visible condensation on the glass, your indoor humidity level is high. While simple, this is not a precise, surefire reading.

How to Achieve an Ideal Humidity Level in Your Home

Thankfully, there are several measures you can take to reach and maintain a proper home humidity level.

  • Invest in a good humidifier to remove moisture from the air. There are smaller, room-by-room options and whole-house humidifiers.
  • Look into natural humidifiers like placing baking soda, cat litter, or nondairy coffee creamer in a bowl and setting it on a counter (away from curious kids and pets!).
  • Invest in exhaust fans in high-humidity areas like the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Clean your gutters to release any trapped water.
  • Insulate your pipes and ducts to keep them from “sweating” condensation.
  • On super humid days, lay off some heat-generating devices such as dishwashers and dryers.

With home humidity levels under control, move on to your annual home maintenance checklist.

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