Humidity: it’s all relative

Living Well

When it comes to our homes, air quality can have a huge effect on overall health, comfort and wellness as well as on the longevity and value of our actual residence. In our wet, West Coast climate, the relative humidity inside living space is particularly important. And yet many of us don’t pay much attention to it.

Even without precipitation outside or leaks inside, condensation can form inside our home and contribute to high moisture levels. This can be caused by everyday activities such as cooking and showering.

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Humidity is the measure of water vapour in the air. The vapour is invisible and not harmful in and of itself. However, an excess of water vapour indoors can contribute to the growth of moulds and allergens inside your home. A feeling or smell of dampness is often a sign of high humidity. Warmer air holds more moisture, making humidity levels naturally higher in summer than winter.

High humidity can also cause rot which is conducive to insect infestation. Interestingly, even very well built homes that are air tight, may also be susceptible to high humidity levels as water vapour has no way to escape the moisture barriers put in place to protect the exterior of the home.

Moulds can be invisible or visible, and grow indoors and outdoors, making them hard to detect. Sometimes a musty odour accompanies the formation of mould inside your home. Moulds release spores into the air, which can be very harmful when breathed into the body.

To reduce the growth of moulds, Health Canada advises to monitor ventilation and control humidity levels. If you have high humidity in your home, you can install a portable or permanent de-humidifier which will safely remove excess water vapour from the air.

It’s rare in coastal areas, but sometimes humidity in our homes can be too low. In this case, you may suffer from dry nose or skin or an itchy throat and your home may have more dust. Static electricity is also common and low humidity occurs more often during cold weather. If your home has low humidity you can install a portable or permanent humidifier.

Humidity levels may be checked with a thermal hygrometer, which is similar to a thermometer. An internal humidity level of approximately 30-50 is considered ideal for healthy air and to prevent rot and moulds inside our homes. Humidity above 60-70 can be problematic as the air and environment will be susceptible to the growth of moulds.

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