Why Home Humidity Control Matters
Is It A Winter Cold Or Allergies?
This is a tough question to answer in a few sentences and without taking a good look at your symptoms and their frequency. However, there could be more to your winter sniffles than simple cough and cold season. I have a friend who seems to have chronic colds that last for months. She went to her parent's home in the mountains for the holidays and felt much better. It could be that home cooking and time with family improved her symptoms, or that she is allergic to something that is in her own home. Two common home allergens that are year-round problems are dust mite and mold spore, both of which can be controlled in a variety of ways.If you suspect that your sniffles and congestion have lasted too long to be a simple cold or your mucus is running clear, you might consider visiting an allergist to see if mold, dust mites or other allergens may be causing your symptoms.
Dust Mite Control
Americans spend many more hours indoors during the chillier, often wet, winter months than during other seasons. The more time we spend in areas like our bedroom or living room, the more food we are providing for dust mites - remember, they feed on our dead skin cells and other organic matter. And, the reason most of us enjoy being inside so much in the winter is that it is nice and warm. Sounds like a recipe for indoor allergens.One way to control the mite population is by lowering relative humidity. Countless studies have shown the link between humidity and the prevalence of dust mite populations. The reason is simple: 70-75% of the weight of a house dust mite is water. They maintain this needed water level through the absorption of water vapor in the air. So high relative humidity is crucial to their survival. Some of the leading experts in the field of dust mites and their allergen wrote the following:
Read more from our learning library on controlling house dust mites.
Moisture in your home's air not only makes the environment more hospitable to dust mites, but to mold growth as well. Molds thrive in humidity at or above 50-55%. A musty smell in your basement or bathroom is likely a mold or mildew problem as a result of excess moisture - from leaks or spills or from consistently high relative humidity. Even in wintertime, when outside air does not hold as much moisture, the home is not immune from condensation (like sweaty windows) and leaks. Extra care should be taken to monitor your home's relative humidity throughout the year, especially if your region is prone to heat and moisture.
To battle the dry conditions of winter, some people use humidifiers as a way to bring moisture into the air. For many who suffer from colds or have asthma induced by dry conditions, a humidifier can mean a better night's sleep. However, humidifiers can present a mold hazard if improperly used or cared for. First, invest in a germ-free humidifier that discourages the growth of mold and bacteria. Also, be sure to regularly clean your machine, keep surrounding areas from gathering moisture, and monitor the humidity level where the humidifier is being used with anaccurate gauge.
To read more about mold allergen, see our learning library feature onmold and indoor air quality.
What Is Relative Humidity?
We know that relative humidity in our home should be between 45-50%, but what exactly is relative humidity? It is the measure of the amount of water in the air compared with the amount of water the air can hold at a specific temperature. For example, a 77ø F room with 60% relative humidity means that the air is holding 60% of the total amount of water vapor it could possibly hold at that temperature. The higher the temperature, the more moisture the air can hold. So a reading of 60% humidity at 77ø F is more severe than that same reading at 50ø F. Outdoor relative humidity levels can soar during the summer months, but even in winter, when outdoor humidity levels are lower, home humidity levels are not always in the "humidity safe zone" so it is important to monitor all year round. An instrument called a hygrometer (or humidity gauge) is used to measure relative humidity in the home and is an important tool for keeping tabs on your home's humidity levels. We offer the Acu-Rite Humidity Gauge, which gives relative indoor humidity readings as well as indoor/outdoor temperature readings and time of day - all at the same time!
How Can I Control Home Humidity?
Air conditioning and electric dehumidifiers are the most effective ways to keep indoor humidity at a healthy level. Air conditioning works because cool air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air. Most dehumidifiers use this principle by using a fan or a blower to pull air in, where it then passes through a cooling coil and is chilled to its dew point. This process results in condensation on the coils, which then flows into a bucket. Some dehumidifiers allow for the collected water to be pumped through a hose and into a sink, bathtub or out a window. After passing through the coils, the moisture-reduced air is then heated back to room temperature and released into the room.It is important to note that even dehumidifiers can harbor mold in the coils and tank if not properly cleaned. I recommend usingGoodmorning Purifying Spray on coils as part of a regular maintenance routine for your dehumidifier.
Questions To Ask When Looking For A Dehumidifier
For basements and small rooms, we like the Whirlpool Gold Dehumidifier. We stock it in two sizes that can operate in temperatures as low as 44ø F without icing up. To experience maximum moisture-removal capability, you may be interested in a whole-house dehumidification system. Santa Fe dehumidifiers are some of the most powerful residential dehumidifiers available today. The Santa Fe is ideal for basements, and can lower the humidity in an entire home. The cabinet design on the Santa Fe Rx helps it to blend in to your home's decor while offering high-volume dehumidification. Plus, the Rx model can be equipped with an optional HEPA filter that can be operated independent of dehumidification.
Other Mold and Humidity Control Tips
I hope you and your family are in good health during this winter's cough and cold season. And remember, if your symptoms are lingering for more than a few weeks, you may be having allergic reactions and should see an allergist. For those of who know you have dust mite or mold sensitivities, try to keep indoor allergen levels under control, and make monitoring your home's humidity a habit in the coming year. Dust mites may not thank you but your family will!