What is the ideal humidity for your house?

No matter if it’s summer or winter, it’s recommended that you maintain a relative humidity level of 40-60% in your house. However, the exact percentage within that range can vary depending on individual preferences. If the relative humidity drops below 30%, experts suggest using a humidifier to add moisture to the air, while if it goes above 60%, a dehumidifier is recommended to reduce excess moisture.




How to Measure the Relative Humidity in your House

One convenient option is to use a smart thermostat that includes a built-in humidity sensor known as a hygrometer. Many modern thermostats offer this feature, allowing you to monitor the humidity levels in your home and make adjustments as needed. If you don’t have a smart thermostat, another option is to use a stand-alone hygrometer, or you can have a local HVAC professional come to your home to take the measurement for you. The latter is the best option for ensuring the accuracy of the reading or if you suspect that there may be larger issues with your home’s ventilation or air quality. 




Humidity in the Winter 

Typically in the winter, the air in our homes has lower relative humidity meaning it’s very dry. If not kept in check, low humidity can cause a range of issues for both your health and the health of your home, including:

  • Dry skin, hair, and eyes: Low humidity can cause skin to become flaky, hair to become brittle, and eyes to become dry and irritated.
  • Respiratory issues: When the air is too dry, it can irritate the respiratory system, leading to coughing, wheezing, and exacerbated asthma symptoms.
  • Static electricity: Low humidity can cause static electricity to build up, leading to unpleasant shocks.
  • Building damage: Dry air can cause building materials to crack and degrade. This is often most obvious with hardwood floors, baseboards, case mouldings and cove mouldings. 

If you notice any of the above issues any time of year it’s a strong sign that a humidifier is a necessary addition to your home. 


Window Condensation in the Winter

Although less common, if your home has high humidity in the winter you can run into condensation problems. In the winter the air outside your home is colder than the air inside your home, this causes condensation to form on the inside of your windows if there is an abundance of moisture in the air. This water will drip off your windows and can cause damage to the window itself and the surrounding trim. To resolve this issue you’ll either need to turn your humidifier down or explore dehumidifier options.  


Window Condensation


Humidity in the Summer

In the summer many homes deal with high humidity which over time can cause both structural and health issues, such as: 

  • Respiratory issues: Including congestion, allergies, and asthma flair-ups.
  • Mold: Excess moisture encourages the growth of mold. An early warning sign of this is musty smells. 
  • Pests: Many pests, such as cockroaches and silverfish thrive in humid environments.
  • Building damage: The moisture can cause the warping or buckling of floors or walls.

If you notice any of the above issues it’s a strong indicator that your home needs a dehumidifier. However, it’s important to note that in many homes the air conditioner acts as the dehumidifier. So before investing in a separate dehumidifier system ensure that your air conditioner is functioning properly. If you do not own an AC unit, a central dehumidifier is likely the best option for your household.


Installed Whole-Home Humidifier


What is a Whole-Home Humidifier?

Whole-home humidifiers must be professionally installed directly into the HVAC system allowing them to circulate moisture throughout the entire home. They are low maintenance and can be controlled through an independent thermostat. Portable humidifiers, on the other hand, are small units designed for use in individual rooms. They only store a small tank of water and require regular cleaning to avoid bacteria buildup. They can also often over-humidify one area without evenly dispersing the moisture through the home. Whole-home humidifiers are more expensive than portable humidifiers however are a better investment for many homes, as they can efficiently regulate humidity levels throughout the entire home, improve indoor air quality consistently, and can prevent damage to furniture, floors and other building materials. 

There are two types of whole-home humidifiers: 

  • Steam Humidifiers 
  • Bypass Humidifiers


Steam vs Bypass Whole-Home Humidifiers  

Wondering what whole-home humidifier is the best fit for your house? Here’s what you need to know: 

  • Steam humidifiers are the more effective and more expensive option.
  • Bypass humidifiers are the less versatile but more affordable option.

The main difference is that a bypass humidifier is attached to your furnace and can only operate when your furnace is running. A steam humidifier runs independently of the furnace, providing moisture whenever needed. A steam humidifier also uses integrated indoor and outdoor sensors which allow it to independently and accurately make adjustments to your home’s humidity keeping outdoor humidity in mind. 

This is an oversimplification and there are many more factors that an HVAC professional will consider before making a recommendation tailored to your home, such as the size and location of your ductwork, your furnace’s motor capacity, the climate you live in, etc. 


Air Conditioner


What is a Whole-Home Dehumidifier? 

In the majority of homes, especially here in Ottawa, the air conditioner functions as a whole-home dehumidifier. As part of their normal function air conditioners remove moisture from the air as they cool your home. As discussed above, if you have an AC unit and you’re still facing humidity issues while it’s running it’s best to get it checked by HVAC professionals to ensure it’s functioning properly before considering other dehumidifier options. However, if you’re facing humidity issues in the colder months when the AC is off or you don’t have an AC unit a whole-home dehumidifier is a great option for your home. 

Just like whole-home humidifiers, whole-home dehumidifiers are installed directly into your HVAC system and use the existing duct work to circulate the treated air throughout your entire home. There are also portable dehumidifiers which are standalone units that treat the air in a small area but these are only recommended for small apartments or homes without ductwork. Conversely, whole-home dehumidifiers can easily tackle major humidity issues in homes of any size. 


Do you have more questions about humidity in your home? Set up a free in-home consultation with the experts at Francis Plumbing Heating & Cooling. We’re happy to answer all your questions and provide advice tailored to your home!

For more than 80 years we have been providing expert plumbing and HVAC services to the Ottawa area including Nepean, Kanata, Stittsville, Carp, Barrhaven, Manotick, Vanier, Gloucester and more.