We’re all familiar with the weather extremes in Minnesota and other parts of the upper Midwest: hot and humid in summer, cold and dry in winter. Both of those extremes can make it a real challenge to keep your indoor humidity levels under control, but doing just that is an important part of maintaining optimal indoor air quality. Here are some of the reasons why controlling your home’s humidity is so important, and ways to keep it in check.
First of all, we all want to be as comfortable as possible, especially in the middle of weather extremes. In the high-humidity months of summer, an excess of indoor moisture will make us feel warmer, and stickier! That’s because high moisture content in the air causes the moisture on our skin to evaporate more slowly—or not at all—leaving us with that hot and sticky feeling. Yuck.
The opposite is true in the cold, dry days of winter. With too little moisture in the air, our skin can feel—and become—too dry, which can lead to uncomfortable itchy, scaly skin and a small fortune spent on moisturizers!
But even beyond personal levels of comfort, humidity levels in your home can actually affect your health. This is perhaps most obvious if your humidity is especially high. When indoor humidity hits 60%, it creates an environment that mold just loves to breed in. The spores are released into the air that you and your family breathe. Depending on individuals’ tolerance to mold, that can get to be a pretty serious issue. And it’s especially problematic for any family members who have allergies or other respiratory concerns. By contrast, especially dry air can lead to sore, scratchy throats and coughs, as well as dry nasal passages that can lead to nose bleeds.
Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers
To keep your indoor humidity levels at their best, it's a good idea to invest in both a humidifier and dehumidifier, which can come in portable and duct-mounted (part of your HVAC system) versions.
You’ll want to use a dehumidifier to keep your home cooler and healthier in the summer months. Because it’s integrated with your HVAC system and has a higher capacity, a duct-mounted model will dehumidify your home consistently throughout. It can also be centrally controlled, often by the same thermostat that controls your furnace. Portable models will work for a single room or smaller areas of your home. They require regular emptying (or tubing to a drain), but may be more cost effective for some homeowners.
As with a dehumidifier, a duct-mounted humidifier will keep your indoor humidity consistent throughout your home. It also will usually have a central control integrated with your thermostat. Duct-mounted models come in several types, all of which are generally easy to maintain. Portable models that work for smaller spaces are cost-effective, although they require more regular cleaning and maintenance.