In your climate, or perhaps where you’ve traveled, you’ve likely experienced the effects of high humidity—a stickiness that permeates your clothes, envelops your skin, and changes your hair style. Alternatively, you may have been exposed to the other extreme: dry air that leaves your skin parched, eyes itching, and body feeling dehydrated.
While we can’t control outdoor humidity levels, we can monitor indoor levels to maintain a balance that is best for our bodies, homes, and work environments. For some settings, such as museums that display timeless artwork, appropriate humidity levels help preserve their investments.
What are some top reasons to check humidity levels?
- Humidity affects your home environment. You want to check humidity as part of your HVAC system to see if you have a balanced level of moisture in the air: not too dry and not too saturated. If your moisture level is too low, static electricity will be present, you may get cracks in your drywall, and your flooring may gap. If it is too high, paint may begin to peel, allergens may breed, and you may find yourself turning up the air conditioner to decrease the “heat.”
- Humidity can prematurely age wine in wine cellars. If the corks that plug the wine bottles dry out, it can age the wine inside. When opening a bottle with a too-dry cork, it can disintegrate and possibly into the wine itself.
- Humidity can deteriorate artwork and artifacts. As stated, museums must monitor both temperature and humidity to prevent damage to valuable pieces, but so do art galleries, libraries, and archives.
- Humidity can either promote or inhibit plant growth. Greenhouses monitor humidity to ward off plant diseases, limit overheating, and prevent nutritional deficiencies.
- Humidity can affect laboratory conditions. According to the Guidelines on Good Clinical Laboratory Practice, “laboratory room (ambient) temperature and humidity must be controlled so that equipment and testing is maintained within the tolerance limits set forth by the manufacturer.”
What is an optimal humidity level? The National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine, states the health effects of “relative humidity in indoor environments suggests that [it] can affect the incidence of respiratory infections and allergies. Experimental studies on airborne-transmitted infectious bacteria and viruses have shown that the survival or infectivity of these organisms is minimized by exposure to relative humidities between 40 and 70%”