If you had to describe the Houston climate in one word, that word would probably be humid. With an average relative humidity of 78% (during the summer, it can creep past 90%), Houston is one of the most humid cities in the entire country (source). The only proof you need is to step outside for just a few seconds during the summer. Instantly, you’ll feel sweaty and sticky. And in the winter, the high humidity can cause the air to feel colder. Thankfully, you can retreat indoors to get a break from the humidity. Or can you?
Excessive indoor humidity is a serious problem that can damage both your home and your health any season of the year. The key word here? Excessive.
What is considered excessive humidity? According to the EPA, “the ideal levels of humidity for your living space will be less than 60% in the summer and between 25-40% in the winter.” (source) If the humidity levels in your home exceed these recommended amounts, the consequences could be:
- An uncomfortable indoor environment—When your indoor space is too humid and there’s too much water in the air, your home will feel too warm. That’s because humid air actually has more heat than dry air at the exact same temperature. Not only that, you’ll feel sticky because humid air prevents the sweat on your skin from evaporating. Who wants to be hot and sticky in their own home?
- Higher energy bills—Because humid air is warmer, that means you’ll have to crank your air conditioner up to try to keep your home cool and comfortable. And you know what that means, right? Exorbitant energy bills. Not only that, when your air conditioner is forced to work harder, it could shorten its lifetime and lead to costly repairs. In other words, excessive indoor humidity costs you money.
- Mold growth—Mold grows in places with excessive moisture. So, high humidity levels in your home provide the perfect conditions for mold growth. Mold can grow just about anywhere in your home: in the walls, windows, pipes, carpet, fabric, ceiling tiles, and anywhere else where there’s a lot of moisture. (source)
- Dust mites—Dust mites thrive in warm, humid conditions. If your home has humidity levels exceeding 70%, you could find yourself dealing with a serious dust mite problem. Keeping your home’s humidity level at 60% or less can help prevent the growth of a mite population. (source)
- Allergies and other breathing problems—Mold and dust mites can both lead to all sorts of allergic reactions and respiratory issues, including itchiness, watery eyes, sneezing, asthma, coughing, wheezing, and more. (source, source)
Signs of High Humidity Levels
Wondering if your home has too much humidity? Here are some signs you can look for:
- Condensation on windows and mirrors
- Water stains on ceilings and walls
- Musty, moldy conditions
- Increased allergic reactions and respiratory problems
If you want a more precise reading of your home’s humidity level, you can purchase a hygrometer. Electrical and mechanical hygrometers can be purchased at most home improvement stores, and they provide accurate readings of humidity levels in the home.
Excessive Indoor Humidity: The Causes and Fixes
Now that you understand the dangers of high humidity levels in your home, let’s take a look at what you can do to remedy the situation. It all starts with understanding the causes of excessive moisture in the air so you can address them head on.
Some of the most common causes of high indoor humidity include:
- Poor ventilation—If your home isn’t ventilated properly, heat and moisture will get trapped inside, creating a more humid environment. You should use ventilation fans in your bathrooms and kitchen whenever those rooms are being used. Additionally, cracking open a window when the room is damp or steamy can help draw some of that moisture outside.
- Leaky windows—One way excess moisture can get into your home is through cheap, leaky windows. That’s why mold growth often occurs on and around windows. The best fix for this is to invest in high quality, double-pane replacement windows. Not only could this help prevent mold growth from a leaky window, but it can also offers other benefits, such as reduced energy costs, improved sound protection, increased safety, and more.
- Excessive water use—Moisture is introduced into the air in a number of ways, such as while cooking, bathing, and running the dishwasher. It’s important to pay attention when you’re using water. For example, when you shower, run the ventilation fans in your bathroom. When you’re cooking, cover your pots and pans and use your stove’s ventilation hood if you have one.
If none of these things helps get the humidity levels in your home in check, you may want to try using a dehumidifier. Just be careful that your home doesn’t get too dry as low humidity levels could cause breathing difficulties, skin irritation, nose bleeds, damage to wood floors, static electricity, and other complications.