Your home humidity is a measurement of the amount of vaporized water in the air. Humidity levels are naturally higher in warmer climates and lower in cooler climates. The type of home you live in can also affect your humidity measurement. Older and less energy efficient homes are prone to have lower indoor humidity levels, while more modern homes with higher energy efficiency tend to have higher humidity levels.
Both high and low home humidity levels can cause problems. Humidity levels that are too high can lead to peeling paint, mold, and wet insulation. Humidity levels that are too low can cause cracks in your drywall, shrink wood floors, and loosen the joints in wood furniture.
Generally, people are most comfortable when home humidity is between 20 and 60 percent. It is recommended, however, that you keep your home's humidity level between 30 and 40 percent. This is the ideal humidity level because it balances your need for comfort with the conditions that are least likely to cause structural damage to your house.
There are several different strategies you can use for determining home humidity, none of which require the purchase of expensive equipment. Drop three ice cubes into a glass, add water, stir and wait for three minutes; if moisture does not form on the outside of the glass, you may need a humidifier. On the other hand, if you notice frequent fogging of your windows or moisture buildup on closet walls and room ceilings, you may have too much humidity in your home.
Daily activities such as showering, bathing, doing laundry, and cooking all add water to the air in your home. If the humidity level in your home is too high, you should start cooking with pans covered and open a window for a few minutes to bring in cool air after the meal is complete. Taking shorter showers with cooler water may also be helpful for humidity control. If these basic changes don't help correct the problem, using a dehumidifier is recommended.
If your home humidity levels are too low, your skin and hair may feel dry and itchy. The mucous membranes in your mouth and throat may dry out as well, which increases your susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. Purchasing a humidifier for your home is the best way to remedy this problem. Portable humidifiers work by circulating air through a wet pad or a discharging a fine mist into the room. You must add water on a regular basis, but the unit can be moved from room to room as needed.