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Relative Humidity: What You Need to Know


You might have come across the term relative humidity, experienced various symptoms, or noticed sings in your home or facility that could indicate a humidity problem. Because indoor moisture levels and temperature affect your comfort, understanding the concept of relative humidity can help you maintain the right humidity levels in your indoor spaces.

Here's a quick guide to relative humidity.

Relative Humidity Basics

Many people typically define relative humidity as the amount of water in the air relative to the amount of water air can hold, but this is not quite accurate. Water is already a component of air and the gases that constitute air do not literally hold water.

Thermal energy (i.e., temperature) regulates the amount of water present in the air. The higher the temperature, the high the amount of water present in the air. Lower temperatures lessen the amount of water in the air at any given time.

Relative humidity is the amount of water present in the air divided by the highest amount of water that can possibly be present in the air based on the prevailing temperatures.

Relative Humidity Effects

Experts recommend maintaining indoor relative humidity levels at 30-50%. Too low or too high humidity can have significant implications for your comfort and overall wellbeing.

Low Relative Humidity

Low humidity levels are especially common during winter because cold air contains a low amount of water vapor.

If your home has a forced-air heating system, low relative humidity can easily become a problem. A furnace removes plenty of water vapor from the air thereby lowering indoor humidity.

Common effects of low relative humidity include nasal congestion, eye irritation, skin dryness, increased vulnerability to respiratory illnesses, and excessive thirst and dehydration.

Low relative humidity may also increase electrostatic discharge from electronics, make the home or office feel cold even if the thermostat is set appropriately, and cause furniture to warp.

High Relative Humidity

High outdoor temperatures may increase indoor humidity levels. High humidity coupled with high temperature can impair the body's ability to regulate its own temperature, increasing the risk for heat stroke.

High relative humidity can trigger or exacerbate allergies, increase mold, and create a suitable environment for dust mites and pests. Other effects of high relative humidity include wood rot, paint blistering, and warping of wooden floors.

If you are worried about relative humidity problems in your home or building, ask a reputable indoor air quality testing firm to evaluate your indoor relative humidity levels.

Indoor air quality testing can help you find solutions to restore humidity to the recommended level.

Relative Humidity and HVAC

The prevailing temperatures affect humidity at any given time. As such, problems with your HVAC system can easily lead to less-than-ideal humidity levels in your office or home.

Fixed Speed HVAC

If your HVAC system only runs on a fixed speed (i.e., on or off), the system may be unable to control humidity efficiently. Consider installing a modulating HVAC, which can regulate airflow and maintain ideal temperatures in a room.

Excessively Powerful HVAC

An HVAC system that is too large for a given space will not run long enough to regulate humidity levels.

Lack of HVAC Maintenance

An HVAC system that is too old or defective may be unable to adequately remove humidity from the air.

Installing equipment such as a humidifier can help regulate indoor relative humidity levels. However, undertaking indoor air quality tests can help identify other potential environmental problems, in addition to humidity issues, that could be jeopardizing your health and property.

At Hygenix Inc., we use science-based approaches to test indoor air quality. In addition to environmental testing, our experienced team can also work with you to develop a remediation plan to resolve indoor air problems. Call us today for indoor air quality testing at your home or facility.

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    Hygenix Inc.
    49 Woodside St.
    Stamford, CT 06902


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