There’s nothing like summer’s heat to build up humidity in your home. Here in Wisconsin, we’re known for having quite humid periods throughout the latter half of the year.
When the dog days of summer kick in, you might notice extra condensation on your windows. Some folks are alarmed that it might indicate a ventilation problem, but usually, in times of high humidity, it’s a natural phenomenon that just happens. Here’s why it occurs and tips for controlling home humidity in summer weather.
Why Home Humidity Gets Uncomfortable
Most of us don’t think much about the indoor humidity levels in our homes. Instead, we focus on controlling the temperature. If it’s too hot, we turn on the air conditioner. In those chilly winters when winds blow across Lake Michigan and land in Southeastern Wisconsin, we turn on the furnace.
Unlike the Southern and Eastern parts of the United States, Wisconsin isn’t as well-known for its humidity. But in the summer, fall, and winter, humidity levels in Milwaukee can reach 76%, rivaling even places like Atlanta, GA, and parts of Florida. Believe it or not, the most humid month is actually December (thanks to our typical precipitation).
But during the hotter summer months—July, August, September, and even October, it’s common to FEEL the humidity more strongly. Here’s the deal, humidity works against our bodies’ natural heating and cooling systems.
When it’s hot and humid, we sweat. Sweat is a way of cooling down our skin, but sweat doesn’t properly evaporate and cool us down when the humidity is high. It sticks to us and feels oppressive. If you’ve ever felt sweaty when you just stepped out of the shower, humidity is why.
So, we would naturally think that humidity in the winter would make us feel warmer, right? No, in fact, “damp cold” (like the kind we feel here in the Greater Milwaukee area) keeps us feeling cooler as well. When our skin is moist from humidity in the air, we can get a chill that feels like it goes right into our bones. The cold air feels colder in the winter months, thanks to the humidity.
Not that humidity is all bad. Like many things in life, humidity is best in moderation. Dry air can irritate our skin and airways, exacerbating respiratory health issues. We may experience dry, itchy eyes, sore throats, and static electricity in our hair and clothes. Furniture and wood features in our homes can even crack if the air is too dry. If you find yourself itching dry skin or wearing a sweater becomes a “shocking” experience, your air is probably dry.
On the opposite end, high humidity levels are oppressive and stifling. Excess humidity causes condensation buildup on windows, furniture, and walls can lead to mildew, mold, and fungus growth. Dust mites and other allergen triggers can thrive in a moist environment. Bacteria love to grow in damp places from excess moisture. Moreover, high humidity makes us very uncomfortable, especially in the heat.
Even the most diligent thermostat watcher will need to constantly adjust the temperature if the humidity levels in your home aren’t right. We feel best when our home’s humidity levels hover between 30-50%. But there are a number of factors that roll into those numbers that make up the ideal indoor humidity level.
5 Tips for Controlling Home Humidity in the Summer
If your home feels hot and humid or you notice condensation on glass surfaces, you may need to make a few adjustments. It’s especially important to address the concerns if you see mildew forming in the bathroom, kitchen, or near your windows. Often, it’s because of a constant condensation issue, as opposed to sudden, isolated mildew or mold growth on a wall or ceiling, which could indicate a leak.
So, how can you control your home’s humidity? People, pets, plants, and household activities like showering and cooking can cause even more moisture in the air. Here’s how to fight it.
1. Use Your Exhaust Fan
Using your exhaust fan is the easiest way to cut the moisture level in your home and improve indoor air quality. Many people forget to turn on the exhaust fans in the bathroom when showering or running the water. If you want to control humid air in your house, your bathroom fan and kitchen ventilation are your best tools. In the bathroom, run the fan when you shower or run the sink.
When you cook, run the kitchen exhaust fan. Consider turning it on when you run the dishwasher or turn the water on in the sink too. Turn on the fan while you do laundry as well to lower the amount of water vapor dispersed in the air. The simple act of turning on the fan can help you reach optimal humidity levels.
2. Open Your Windows
Of course, you don’t want to open your window while running the air conditioning, but it can be a good idea during cooler times of day—early morning and evening—to open your windows and let in some airflow. The airflow from open windows will really help your indoor comfort.
Weather Tight windows are easy to open and close, without stress or strain. If your old windows stick, don’t stay open, or are drafty, it may be time to consider a replacement. You’ll love how simple it is to open the window and get fresh air when you have new replacement windows. Be sure to securely lock your window with the locking mechanism, which will ensure a water-tight seal when the windows are closed (in case of a sudden rainstorm).
3. Use Your Clothesline
While your dryer may seem like the most convenient way to dry clothes quickly, a good old-fashioned outdoor clothesline has many benefits, especially if you’re hoping to reduce the humidity in your home. It can also reduce energy costs (and make your clothes smell great)!
Laundry produces a surprising amount of humidity. By hanging clothes on the line, you’ll avoid releasing some of that moisture back into your home. Similarly, ensure that your dryer vent is regularly cleaned and that the hot air is going outside instead of returning to your home.
4. Consider a Dehumidifier
If your home has high humidity that you can’t seem to get around, you may want to invest in a portable dehumidifier. Your modern HVAC system may include humidifying and dehumidifying features, but you may need to purchase a separate unit if you have an older system.
Dehumidifiers take the moisture out of the warm air, collecting it in a tank. You can then remove the tank and dump the water. When you use a dehumidifier to keep the correct humidity levels, you may feel you have more control over the air temperature in your home.
5. Reduce Moisture Producing Items in Your Home
Now, of course, you don’t want to ditch your fish tank or stop filling up Fido’s water bowl, but all those little sources of water in the home add up and increase the amount of moisture in the air. If you have a water fountain in your home, turn it off if your house feels very humid. Look for houseplants that need less water, like cacti, and avoid watering trays.
Consider your hot water usage as well. Even reducing your hot showers by a few degrees (which can help cool off in the summertime) will benefit the entire home and reduce the negative effects of excess moisture. Avoid boiling water on the stove and cooking foods that give off moisture. Use lids when you’re cooking to help reduce stream.
If moisture and high humidity continue to be an issue in your home, you may want to have a specialist look at your insulation and ventilation system. Homes that don’t have proper ventilation can experience wood rot, roof damage, and many other issues. While some humidity is expected naturally, too much can wreak havoc over time.
Humidity is one of the factors that keeps Wisconsin lush and green, but when there’s too much moisture indoors in the summer, your house can feel like a tropical rainforest (or a sauna). Keep the air flowing and address indoor humidity so your home stays comfortable, no matter what Mother Nature throws your way!