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It’s all relative: what you NEED TO know about humidity

Humidity word written on wet window. High level of dampness in apartment.

Being hot can be miserable, but when it’s humid, too? Sticky, wet, muggy, heavy – however you describe it, high humidity essentially adds a whole new level of suck to hot summer days.

In the Front Range, residents and visitors are pretty lucky when it comes to summer heat; the high altitude helps keep things relatively cool and dry. The High Country is not usually at the same risk for things like excessive temperatures and heat stroke that you might find in the city. However, the climate is changing, and things are getting warmer just about everywhere. For instance, just this weekend, Seattle – also known for its temperate climate – reached a staggering 108Fahrenheit. And in places where precipitation is common, there is going to be humidity. So, regardless of where you live and what the “normal” climate is, it’s good to know what you might be up against and be prepared.

What’s Humidity and Why Does it Matter?

Ever notice how, in the summer, the air can feel cloying or heavy, and you tend to sweat more? That’s humidity. In the winter, when it’s easy to get shocked by walking across carpet in just socks, or by reaching for a doorknob? That’s also caused by humidity – or, rather, a lack of it.

Humidity is simply the water vapor floating in the air. Relative humidity refers to the amount of water vapor expressed as a percentage of the amount needed for saturation at the same temperature.

Relative Humidity Illustration
Huh? I quit math after high school.

Well, put simply, it’s about the capacity of the air to hold water as the temperature changes. As it gets warmer, the air holds more water, and the relative humidity rises. And that can affect comfort levels, especially in the absence of an air conditioning system.

But who needs air conditioning in the mountains?

You might be surprised. Not only can relative humidity affect the comfort levels in your home, it can also affect the proper functioning of your HVAC and other systems, as well as causing damage. Highly humid conditions can cause issues, like promoting the growth of bacteria and viruses, fungi, and mites – which no one wants. In addition, it can also cause respiratory infections, trigger allergies, cause chemical interactions, and increase ozone production. At the same time, low humidity levels cause dry and itchy skin, increased susceptibility to colds and infections, and damage to wood and floors. None of which is good, either.

Red dehumidifier works to eliminate the mold and mildew caused by excess moisture

So, it’s clearly very important to maintain the right level of humidity to ensure that all your systems are working properly, and the indoor air in your home is as healthy as possible.

What should household humidity levels be in the summer?

Digital thermostat shows a relative humidity level of 49 percent

During summer months, the goal is to keep your home’s humidity levels between 30-45% (ALWAYS under 50%!) In winter months, you’ll want lower relative humidity, right around 40%. (Hint: If there is condensation on the windows? The humidity levels are too high.)

In other words, the right humidity levels help keep things feeling cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Maintaining Relative Humidity Levels Without an Air Conditioning System

As noted earlier, many people in our neck of the woods don’t have A/C systems – for a variety of reasons. So, how do you manage relative humidity in the summer up here? Some steps are more obvious than others.

Woman opens the window in a steamy shower stall
Smiling gentleman moves two potted plants outdoors
  • For instance, if you use a humidifier in the winter, turn it off in the summer. Consider a DE-humidifier for the summer months.
  • Use exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen to send that water vapor outside. If you don’t have exhaust fans, crack a window when showering, cooking, or doing laundry to expel the moisture in the air.
  • Use a window fan, box fan, or ceiling fan to increase ventilation throughout the house. It’s also recommended to use induced draft, sealed-combustion, or power-vented boilers, furnaces, and water heaters. If you’re not sure if this covers your system, give us a call – we’ll be happy to take a look and make a recommendation for controlling humidity.
  • Temporarily relocate houseplants outside in the summer. Water plants minimally in a highly humid environment. Obviously don’t let them die, but don’t overwater if you’re trying to reduce humidity.
  • Firewood, also, can hold a great deal of moisture and should be stored outside – especially in the summer.
  • Keep gutters and downspouts clean. Point your downspouts to carry water well away from your home and foundation. Take steps to prevent water from pooling around your foundation.

And should you break down and decide to have an air conditioning system installed, All American Heating can help you find the right size and kind for your home and family. There are even solutions for homes without ductwork.

In the meantime, stay cool. And we’re here if you need help turning things down a few notches.

Man relaxes on sofa with french bulldog

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