COLLEGE STATION Do your sinuses feel slightly stuffy after a couple of hours at home? Anybody in the family had a mysterious nose bleed or some unexplained congestion?
Getting a physical examination might be a good idea but also consider checking indoor humidity.
“Excessive static electricity and/or persistent respiratory problems may be symptoms that the humidity levels in your home are out of balance,” said Janie L. Harris, Texas Cooperative Extension housing and environment specialist.
How do you know if your home’s humidity needs to be adjusted? Watch for symptoms in the house itself, she said.
Indoor air that’s too dry can cause too much static electricity in clothes and carpets. Too much indoor humidity will show up as water condensation, frost or ice on the insides of windows, damp spots and mold on walls or ceilings, and sweating water pipes.
People tend to be comfortable when the temperature is between 68 F and 72 F and the relative humidity is between 25 percent and 50 percent, Harris said. Normal indoor living activities such as cooking, bathing, doing laundry, washing dishes, breathing and perspiring generally add enough moisture to the air to keep relative humidity levels at the comfort zone.
But being comfortable is one thing knowing your home’s humidity level is another.
“You don’t really know if the relative humidity is high enough or too high unless you are monitoring it,” Harris said.
And that’s where a gauge comes in handy. “We recommend that you have a hygrometer to monitor both temperature and humidity,” she said. “A portable one can be taken from room to room to monitor.”
In humid areas during the winter, indoor humidity should be no more than 40 percent, Harris added, to reduce condensation on windows.
In very dry climates, keeping a vaporizer or humidifier going in the house can maintain indoor humidity at comfortable levels. “Once again, monitoring is the key,” she said.
The most practical way to control moisture problems in the home is controlling the source, Harris said. Make sure plumbing leaks both indoor and outdoor are fixed, water use is reduced and/or improved, and the home is weatherized as well as insulated.
Improving air circulation and ventilation inside the house can help too, but just opening windows might not be enough. “That depends on moisture in the outdoor air, pollutants in outdoor air and other factors,” Harris said.
Opening windows to improve air circulation may work best in dry climates, she said. However in wetter climates the air conditioning or heating system may also be used to help dehumidify indoor air.
For more information on this topic, Harris recommends a publication called “Moisture Control in Homes,” by Dale Dorman from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia. This publication is available on the Web at http://www.fcs.uga.edu/pubs/current/B924.html
For more information on this and other issues, visit Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences Web site at http://fcs.tamu.edu/ and click on the link to Housing and Environment.