It’s not uncommon to hear people complain about the humidity outside. In cold months, we blame low humidity for sinus problems and the spread of illness. In hot summer months, high humidity makes hot weather more miserable, so people end up taking solace indoors. However, high humidity indoors can also be problematic. Beyond personal discomfort, having too much indoor humidity can negatively impact your health, too. As the outdoor humidity increases, it’s important that you pay attention that your indoor humidity does not get too high so that you and your family can stay healthy.
How Much Indoor Humidity Is Too Much?
HVAC experts agree that the ideal indoor humidity level should be somewhere between 35 and 60 percent. A humidity level that falls within this range will be most comfortable and least problematic for your health. When humidity levels regularly rise above 60 percent, you are more likely to see some health issues arise. Too much indoor humidity can have both direct and indirect effects on your health.
The Direct Effects of High Humidity on Health
When there is high humidity combined with high temperatures, whether indoors or outdoors, your body can easily overheat. Humidity reduces your body’s ability to regulate its temperature. That’s why you feel more miserable in sticky, hot, humid air than hot, dry air. The moisture in the air doesn’t let your body cool itself down the way it is supposed to. This is because when your temperature rises, your body tries to cool itself with certain mechanisms, one of which is sweating. Sweating cools your body as the sweat evaporates from your skin. When the air is too humid, it contains too much water vapor already, so your sweat cannot evaporate. This is why you just feel sticky and hotter. As your body keeps sweating, you lose essential fluids, salts, and electrolytes, leading to overheating. If this continues, you can progress into heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can be dangerous.
The Indirect Effects of High Indoor Humidity
The direct effects of high humidity and heat are much more obvious than the indirect effects. With the direct effects, it’s easier to tell when you are in danger so that you can find a way to cool off. However, with the indirect effects, you may be unaware of the toll they are taking on your body for a while. High indoor humidity can change the indoor environment of your home or workplace, making it easy for you to become ill, especially with respiratory infections.
- Bacteria and viruses thrive in humid conditions. When your indoor humidity rises above 60 percent, it becomes much easier for illness-causing bacteria and viruses to grow. The high humidity also causes those pathogens to stay in the air for a longer time before floating down onto surfaces. When someone sneezes or coughs, the contagions stick around longer in humid air, making it more likely that you will breathe them in and become sick yourself.
- Allergens grow better in humid air. High indoor humidity is associated with higher levels of dust mites, mold, and fungi. These are some of the leading causes of indoor allergies, and they thrive when humidity levels are greater than 75 percent. If you suffer from indoor allergies, high indoor humidity will make them worse.
- High indoor humidity can worsen asthma symptoms. The mold and fungi that grow rampant when there is too much humidity are known to make respiratory conditions like asthma much worse. Even if you do not have asthma or allergies, you can still experience reactions to the fungi that grow in high humidity conditions. You may not even see these microorganisms growing, but they live in kitchens, bathrooms, furniture, carpets, office ceiling tiles, and even HVAC system ductwork.
- Airborne chemical contaminants can be more prominent with high indoor humidity. Building materials such as wood and carpet release noxious chemicals into the air during a process called “off gassing.” When the indoor humidity is high, these chemicals react with the water vapor in the air, increasing the concentration of chemicals in the air. These chemicals can cause respiratory problems and irritation of the eyes, skin, and throat when you are exposed to them.
Common Causes of High Indoor Humidity
There are a few different reasons why your indoor humidity levels may be too high. Knowing the cause of the problem will make it much easier to find a solution to bring your humidity levels down to where they should be so that your health will not be affected. Here are the three most common causes of too much humidity in your indoor space.
- Poor Ventilation – Ventilation is what brings fresh, clean air into your indoor space. Not having enough fresh air can cause your humidity levels to rise, as well as the levels of chemicals and illness-causing pathogens. To fix this problem, an HVAC professional can add or re-route ductwork or other ventilation to your current HVAC system.
- Oversized Air Conditioner – Sometimes, the wrong size of air conditioner is installed in new buildings. If the HVAC unit is too powerful for the space, it will constantly switch on and off without running long enough to effectively remove excess humidity from your indoor air. If this is the problem, you may need to have an HVAC professional replace your current HVAC unit with something smaller.
- Lack of HVAC Maintenance – When you go a long time without getting your HVAC system checked by an HVAC professional, your system will stop working the way it’s supposed to, which can include failing to take the humidity out of your indoor air. Getting an HVAC tune-up and/or cleaning can restore your HVAC so that it works correctly once again.
HVAC Maintenance and Repair in Knoxville, TN
If your indoor humidity levels are too high, you can start to experience negative effects on your health. The best way to fix your humidity problem is by getting help from an HVAC professional. City Heating and Air Conditioning is a trusted HVAC company in Knoxville, TN. We can diagnose any HVAC problems you may have and provide the solutions to fix them. We also provide routine HVAC maintenance of your system to make sure it stays in proper working order year-round. Reach out to City Heating and Air Conditioning today for HVAC maintenance, repair, or installation. Call us at 865-938-1005 or fill out our online form to receive a free quote or to schedule a consultation.