Most homeowners think indoor humidity - the amount of moisture in your home’s air - isn’t a good thing.
Too much humidity is tied to stories of destruction - mold, paint blisters, musty smells, and wallpaper peeling. Too little humidity is tied to stories of poor health - dry skin, irritated sinuses and throat, and itchy eyes.
And it’s true, humidity can be bad, but only at either extreme.
So if moderate humidity is fine, what should the humidity be in my house?
In other words, what is the ideal indoor humidity?
A relative indoor humidity of 40 to 60 percent is most desirable, in general. Some advocate a tighter value of 45 percent relative indoor humidity.
As temperatures drop, though, the ideal indoor humidity in Michigan homes should too, experts say.
“Generally, 30-40 percent is the industry standard for colder climates during the winter months,” writes Mark Lesperance of GreenEdge of Michigan. “Keep in mind, whether you’re in a cold or warm climate, keeping the RH below 50 percent helps to prevent the growth of mold and mildew, and dust mite infestations.”
The first step to ideal indoor humidity is picking up a solid hygrometer, which is available at your local hardware store and home improvement store. This device will help you determine and then monitor your home’s humidity level.
Once you are aware of your levels, you can take a few steps to decrease or increase your humidity level.
Decreasing Humidity Levels
If you realize your home is a giant sauna causing you to lose weight by the second, consider turning down or turning off a humidifier to reach ideal indoor humidity. You may even turn on a dehumidifier, especially in basements during the summer.
“Use exhaust fans while cooking and bathing or open a window to exchange fresh, drier air,” Apartment Therapy writes. “Reduce the amount of water introduced into the home by cooking with covered pots; taking cooler, shorter showers; venting clothes dryers directly to the outside; and reduce the number of plants in the home.”
Also consider updating the insulation in your home to prevent unwanted moisture from easily entering and moving throughout your home, increasing the humidity in the process.
Increasing Humidity Levels
If your nose is running constantly and you can’t stop itching your eyes, consider adding humidity to your home. You can adjust the humidifier on your furnace during heating season until you reach your desired relative humidity, according to Lesperance.
Use a portable humidifier only when the heater is on and only in rooms with open doors so excess moisture buildup doesn't occur.
Some simple, low-tech options for increasing humidity include adding a bowl of water on a heating system and leaving wet towels or clothes out to dry.
Overall, examine humidity with a fresh set of eyes.
You don’t want structural issues in your home. Or health problems. But you do want a comfortable temperature in your house.