If the humidity drop in your home, air quality suffers. Your skin turns dry, pets are uncomfortable. Read Air in Home Asking for Humidity.
The iconic moldy stench, wall sweat beads, and clammy skin send a signal that all homeowners hear loud and clear:
The indoor humidity is far too high.
In the name of comfort and restful sleep, you pull out all the stops.
A pricy dehumidifier.
Even kneecapping hot showers for the time being.
But as the summer heat fades and autumn’s briskness takes over, detecting the opposite problem — low humidity — becomes your mortal enemy.
Does the air in your home need a humidity boost mid-winter?
Here’s how you can tell.
Your Humidity Reading Drops Below 30%
Whether it’s 80% on a Cancun beach retreat or 15% while skiing the slopes in Colorado, our bodies can tolerate humidity remarkably well.
Yet, both extremes can feel insufferable when it’s your 24/7 air source!
Don’t wait for the sleepless nights, cracked hands, or dandruff-y puppy.
Instead, invest in a $10 digital temperature/humidity gauge to get a precise humidity level. Or fiddle with your central air thermostat until you find the humidity reading.
The magic number is 30-50%.
But as a rule of thumb, compare your humidity reading to the outdoor temperature:
- If it’s 50˚F or hotter outside: <50%
- If it’s between 20˚F and 50˚F outside: <40%
- If it’s cooler than 20˚F outside: <30%
Static Electricity Seems to be the Norm
As the indoor humidity plummets and moisture escapes, your home’s air becomes a hotbed for electrostatic conduction.
Here’s what that means.
A low humidity level allows electrons to jump more freely between surfaces. Without moisture to readily absorb this static, the electrons anxiously await a chance to arc.
Rub those comfy wool socks against the high-pile carpet. And then reach for a metal doorknob, radio dial, or even a fellow human.
Besides the light jolt and distinct zap, you’ll notice a blue arc neutralize the charge. Static electricity becomes a daily menace when indoor humidity is too low!
Your Skin Is Unusually Dry, Itchy, or Flaky
There’s nothing touchable or envious about that stereotypical “winter skin.”
Even with a moisturizing routine and shunning scalding baths, for now, your skin becomes:
- Dry and flaky
- Painfully tight
- Cracked (and in severe cases — bloody)
Low indoor humidity can be disastrous if your skin is naturally sensitive.
Rather than absorbing airborne water vapor, this drier air robs the skin’s top layer of its moisturizing oils. The result is tight, itchy, and unusually flaky skin mid-winter.
A Glass of Ice Doesn’t Form Condensation
Do science experiments ever truly lose their allure?
Nope! Decoding your home’s current humidity level requires nothing more than a glass, cold water, and three ice cubes.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Fill a glass with cold water.
- Drop three ice cubes into the glass.
- Leave the room, and wait five minutes.
- Observe — are there any water beads (condensation) on the glass’s exterior?).
A “normal” humidity will attract warmer water molecules to the cool glass, forming beads. If no condensation forms whatsoever, a humidity boost is necessary.
You Develop More Nosebleeds & Congestion
Dryness is a seemingly unavoidable consequence of low indoor humidity. But the painfully-cracked skin is only scratching the surface in the dryness category.
A dried-out throat and nasal passages could trigger a winter-long nightmare!
The internal irritation can cause:
- An itchy or scratchy throat
- Dry eyes
- Respiratory congestion (or a stuffy nose)
- More frequent bloody noses
- Irritated sinuses (thanks to the cooling effect)
If any (or all) these symptoms persist for a week or longer, low humidity — not the common cold — is likely to blame.
Your Pets Begin Reacting
Dogs, cats, reptiles, and rodents make for excellent companions. And just as some critters can predict thunderstorms, your pets can also clue you into humidity woes.
Our four-legged pals reap dry air side effects too!
The telltale sign is a snowfall of dander (and dead hair follicles) as that dried-out skin terrorizes your pet.
The constant vacuuming and brushing are already brutal enough. But your puppy’s unrelenting itchiness, patchy coat, and forming scabs can be borderline painful.
You may not detect the low humidity, but Fido certainly will!
Don’t forget to schedule a vet visit to rule out other possible explanations (like allergies or an unbalanced diet).
You Can No Longer Evade the Flu or Cold
Cold and flu season arrives mid-October to the dismay of literally everybody. But it’s not the blustery cold air or tenacious blizzards that amplify the annual flu risk.
The latest research shifts the blame onto low humidity alone.
This lack of airborne moisture hamstrings both the respiratory and immune systems. The two systems primarily responsible for fending off invading pathogens.
Those germs sneak in, fester for 2-3 days, and then the dreaded symptoms appear. Tissues, NyQuil, and Advil become staples on your weekly shopping lists.
Now, occasional flu or cold isn’t always a result of low humidity.
A poor diet, lack of exercise, too little sleep, and cramped spaces can also create a “perfect storm” where viral spread thrives.
Now that you’ve identified the culprit behind flaky skin and relentless nosebleeds, it’s time to break out that oh-so-trusty humidifier.
To return to the ideal 30-50% range:
- Track your indoor humidity levels year-round with a digital gauge.
- Reserve the humidifier for the drier autumn and winter months.
- Add a gallon of distilled water each day to flush out any bacteria.
- Avoid cranking the heat too high; this pulls more moisture from the air.
- Adjust the humidity to 30% at first, increasing it until symptoms subside.
Don’t let your pets, kids, or yourself suffer this winter! Splurge on mini humidifiers for each bedroom or a $100+ luxury unit for the entire floor.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Arch Troy to help them with their online marketing.