Home Maintenance: Humidity Control During Warm Weather Season

When it comes to home maintenance, humidity control is probably one of the most important factors for your home’s well-being and the air quality you experience in it.  Have too little humidity, and you’ll stress your home by over-drying.  You’ll see it manifested in the separation of drywall & trim joints, flooring, tile joints, fastener “pops,” and even in your furniture.  Adding to that, you’ll personally experience dry skin and hair, static electricity, and increased susceptibility to respiratory illness.  Too much humidity, and you’re dealing with the effects of expansion of these same construction components, condensation on your windows and surrounding woodwork, a ripe environment for dust mites (they absorb moisture from the air to survive) and bacteria, virus, and fungi growth.  Put all that together, and humidity control is a pretty big deal.

The Right Mentality

A common misconception is that humidity management is a “set it and forget it” event, or that it can be fully automated.  The bottom line is that you will have to manage your humidity based upon some key home design & environmental factors like, the quality & type of windows you have, type of HVAC system(s) and the level of engineering that went into it, your window treatments and how they’re hung, where your furniture and home décor is placed, what the temperature outside and inside are, whether or not you live next to water, whether or not you have a fireplace and how often you use it, etc.

The Goal

During the warm summer months, we recommend keeping the indoor humidity level below 60%.

The Science

Two things are important to understand about humidity:

  • Humidity moves fast – really fast.  It will also naturally race to where humidity levels are the lowest (including outdoors in the wintertime as you open doors or draw in fresh air for your fireplace).
  • Condensation is primarily dependent upon the temperature of air, while evaporation is dependent upon the temperature of water.

Resetting Misconceptions

  • Your humidistat device probably is not accurate (even new ones).  We’ve found them to range between 2% – 20% off.
  • Perhaps counterintuitively, the humidity % or # on your humidistat is NOT how you set your home’s humidity level.

Achieving the Goal | Warm-Weather Season

Most of us in Michigan don’t think too much about the effect of humidity on our homes in the summertime.  Instead, we usually monitor our personal comfort when we feel “sticky,” or aren’t sleeping well because of it.  Yet, in the warm-weather season, you will probably need a dehumidifier to mitigate the negative effects of humidity on your home and to gain simple health benefits.

Typically, your AC system will be your dehumidifier and the tool which provides that critical air circulation.  In addition, using ventilation fans during & after bathing, and when running the dishwasher and/or cooking, will prove helpful.  If you find your indoor humidity levels are consistently above 65%, either a whole-house dehumidifier or the strategic placement of “right-sized” portable dehumidifier(s) may be necessary (especially in basements), as levels at or above this may prove problematic.

System Maintenance

  • All humidifier pads & water filters will need to be changed at least 2x’s per season.
  • Some humidifiers will benefit from RO filtered water (helps reduce mineral build-up).
  • We recommend air handler filters be changed at least every 3 months.

Special Circumstance | Long-Term Cold Weather Absences

If you have a seasonal home or will be taking a winter hiatus to warmer climates, we encourage that you consider leaving your thermostat temps at the low end of the range we suggest, and that you leave your humidifier (and its water supply) functional.