How Humidity Affects Your Home

Heating and cooling your home may seem simple in theory. Your furnace heats when you need it to, and when the weather is hot, your air conditioner cools the air in your home. However, there are actually many factors that affect your overall comfort level in your house, and one of the major ones is humidity.

Humidity, or the level of moisture in the air, can make a warm house feel even warmer, a cold house feel cooler, or like your thermostat is off by a few degrees. Humidity control is an essential part of your heating and cooling system.

If you’ve been struggling to get your home to a comfortable level or simply want to reap the benefits that come from having a good level of relative humidity inside, here’s what you need to know about how humidity affects temperature control.

How Does Humidity Affect Heating?

In the winter time, people are constantly fighting the battle between feeling warm and comfortable in their homes and balancing the cost to run the furnace all winter long. Your comfort level, however, can actually be affected by the amount of moisture in your home.

Unfortunately, as the temperatures outside drop, the humidity in the air also decreases, which is why you don’t often feel a pressing cloud of moisture in the winter like you might on warm summer days. Cold air cannot hold as much moisture, so running the furnace only increases the dry feeling, as heating the cold air won’t add more water to it.

As a result, the air inside your home can often feel dry as you raise the temperature, but also, the air might not feel as warm. Water in the air increases how well and how long the air in your home can remain heated. Without moisture, you might feel chilly even though your thermostat reads a balmy 72 degrees, prompting you to crank up the heat even more, especially during a cold snap.

Another common side effect of Iowa winters is the fog that forms on the windows toward the beginning of the winter. When you first turn on your furnace, residual moisture (often absorbed during humid summers) in the house comes out to help balance the dry air. This moisture collects on the windows on very cold days. As your home dries out while you run your furnace, you see this fog less and less as the winter months progress.

How Does Humidity Affect Cooling?

Winter is not the only time when humidity problems can make a difference. Native Iowans know that the humid summers are nothing to scoff at, and when temperatures start to climb, you retreat indoors for respite from the sticky, clammy outdoor weather.

However, humid air can be challenging to properly cool. If your home has high humidity inside, your AC condenser will have to run longer and more often to reach your desired indoor temperature, and even when you reach the right temperature, you might still feel like it’s too warm for comfort inside your home because the indoor humidity automatically makes it feel warmer than it is.

High indoor humidity ultimately increases wear and tear on your AC system, costing you more down the road, but it also means higher bills as you try to cool to a level that is comfortable.

What Are Some Solutions?

You don’t have to struggle through dry skin, humid summers, and high bills. Indoor humidity control is possible for all budgets. If you are building or renovating a new home, consider adding a whole-house humidifier and dehumidifier that is attached to a smart thermostat system so that you can program the desired humidity for the time of year.

If a whole house system is not in the budget but you already have central air and heating installed, you can still give yourself some control. In the winter, run some humidifiers in the house. Don’t run them all the time, however, or condensation will start to build up on your windows. If a humidifier is even out of your budget, simply simmering a pot of water on the stove can help take the cold edge off.

In the summer, run a dehumidifier. In Iowa, running a dehumidifier is important even if you aren’t worried about electricity bills. Interior moisture can cause mold growth, swelling of building materials, and respiratory problems, especially in newer homes that are more air-tight; older, more historic homes were designed to breathe so that moisture would not cause warping or mold.

You can program your dehumidifier for a certain percentage: generally, 40% is best for comfort in both the winter and summer months. A target of 40% relative humidity will also prevent mold and damage to interior woodwork, windows, and walls.

For more information about adjusting your HVAC and controlling indoor humidity levels, contact us at Ragan Mechanical.

Leave a comment