Why Do Indoor Spaces Need Proper Humidity Control?

Why Do Indoor Spaces Need Proper Humidity Control?
Published On:December 23, 2022 Revised On:December 28, 2023

In simple terms, humidity refers to the amount of water vapour in the air. While often discussed in the context of outdoor weather and climate, indoor humidity is equally crucial, if not more so, given the significant time we spend inside buildings, homes, and other enclosed spaces.

Just as ambient temperature determines our comfort indoors, humidity plays a pivotal role in our physical well-being and the preservation of our living spaces. From the health of our respiratory systems to our wooden furniture’s longevity, the air’s moisture level impacts numerous aspects of our daily lives.

Hence, understanding and adeptly managing indoor humidity isn’t just a matter of comfort—it’s about health, preservation, and overall quality of living.  Controlling the humidity level in an enclosed environment such as a warehouse or office is vital to maintaining healthy indoor air quality.

Too much or too little humidity in the environment may degrade air quality, causing damage to both goods and health. Controlling humidity in an enclosed environment with a humidifier or dehumidifier helps to regulate humidity levels for better indoor air quality. This article lets us share the effects and reasons indoor spaces need proper humidity control.

Understanding Humidity

Water exists in various states: solid (ice), liquid (water), and gas (water vapour). Humidity specifically concerns itself with the gaseous state. The atmosphere always contains water vapour, which can vary greatly, from almost dry conditions to fully saturated scenarios where the air cannot hold any more moisture.

This capacity to hold moisture is primarily influenced by temperature; warmer air can hold more water vapour than cooler air. Hence, the relationship between temperature and humidity is dynamic. For instance, on a hot day, the air might feel ‘sticky’ because it’s holding a large amount of water vapour.

How Humidity is Measured

Individuals can gauge indoor environments’ comfort and health levels by monitoring these measurements, especially relative humidity. It’s generally agreed that an RH of 30-50% is most comfortable for indoor settings, although this can vary based on individual preferences and specific scenarios.

  • Relative Humidity (RH): This is the most commonly cited measure. It expresses the air’s moisture as a percentage of the maximum amount it could hold at that particular temperature. So, a relative humidity of 50% means the air holds half the moisture it could contain at that temperature. Instruments called hygrometers or psychrometers are used to measure RH.
  • Dew Point: Another important concept, the dew point, refers to the temperature at which air becomes saturated and water vapour condenses into liquid. A higher dew point indicates more moisture in the air. It’s beneficial for understanding how comfortable or clammy the air might feel.
  • Absolute Humidity: Less commonly used in daily discussions, this metric quantifies the amount of water vapour in the air, typically expressed as grams of vapour per cubic meter of air.

How does humidity affect indoor comfort?

Compared to cold air, warm air may hold more moisture. Therefore, the relative humidity level will fluctuate if the temperature changes, but the air’s moisture remains constant.

So, what does this mean for indoor spaces? A high Relative Humidity Level (RHL) can generally intensify warm temperatures. Could you assume, however, that the humidity level is good? In that case, feeling colder and more at ease inside may be possible without adjusting the thermostat on the air conditioner.

Airborne Infection Control: Indoor air contains micro-sized aerosols, and in drier air conditions, these aerosols can transport dangerous bacterial and viral infections from one location to another when combined with salt and water. When the humidity is managed correctly, between 40 and 60% RH, aerosols travel less and settle more quickly.

This is a critical step in preventing the spread of airborne illnesses. To prevent viral and infectious epidemics, hospitals, long-term care homes, and other healthcare use data loggers to monitor temperature and humidity levels and maintain ideal indoor air quality, which is vital for enhancing patient, employee, and visitor health and safety.

Irritant Prevention: Extremely dry conditions may cause a variety of irritants that might harm the eyes, skin, nasal passages, respiratory tract, and immune system. When there is insufficient humidity, dry air absorbs moisture from nearby sources. Water evaporating from the eyes, skin, and nasal passages can cause eye dryness, skin itchiness, itchy skin, and sinus headaches.

Dehydration has a more significant impact on our respiratory and immune systems. When the mucous membranes in our nose and respiratory tract begin to dry, our immune system’s built-in protection mechanism against airborne contaminants is hampered, making us more susceptible to illnesses and germs like the flu and the common cold. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how to maintain humidity in a room to prevent these issues.

Cleaner Spaces: Maintaining ideal relative humidity levels prevents dust accumulation and spread over time. In dry conditions, dust formation is more likely.

Dust can clog ventilation systems and equipment exhausts, irritate eyes, noses, and throats, and cause allergic reactions. With proper humidity control, allergies like dander and airborne particulates distributed by machines like paint flakes and particles can be reduced, making cleanup easier.

Longer Lasting Equipment: Keeping suitable interior conditions with effective humidity control can help reduce maintenance costs and extend the equipment’s lifespan.

Dust suppression and proper relative humidity allow components to function as intended, maintenance requirements to be reduced, and systems to operate at peak performance for extended periods. It may also help avoid problems like computer thermal throttling and overheating the equipment on the assembly line by having appropriate indoor conditions.

Energy Efficiency: Understanding how to regulate humidity will allow a business to use lesser heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in a specific room or throughout the facility. Companies will need to adjust the thermostat less frequently, resulting in lower energy costs in the long run. Furthermore,  adiabatic cooling can be used in some situations, which can save costs in the future.

Minimised Electrostatic Discharge (ESD): In excessively dry conditions, electrostatic energy can build up on conductive surfaces and transfer to other comparable materials.

Electrostatic shocks may also cause unpleasant and minor effects. The risk of ESD also extends to equipment, and potential hazards include electrical short-outs, data corruption, component and device damage, and even fires. The pent-up energy on these conductive surfaces will stay within the permissible limits if the relative humidity stays between 40 and 60% RH.

Solutions for Humidity Control

Indoor humidity plays a vital role in our comfort, health, and even the preservation of home items. In environments where the humidity level is either too high or too low, the right tools and devices can make all the difference in creating a balanced atmosphere.

The suggested range is 30 to 50%, which can be monitored with a hygrometer or thermometer. Not only is it essential for comfort, but keeping the humidity within the specified range also benefits health. Too-dry air can aggravate allergies, asthma, and other medical conditions, while too-humid air can promote mildew and mould growth.

Humidifiers: They add moisture to dry indoor air. Central humidifiers integrate with a home’s HVAC system to serve entire houses. Ultrasonic humidifiers use ultrasonic vibrations to produce and release a fine water mist. Evaporative humidifiers utilise a wick filter and fan; as the fan blows air through the moistened filter, water evaporates, increasing room humidity. Their evaporation rate adjusts based on the room’s current humidity.

Dehumidifiers: Reducing excessive indoor moisture; they work by pulling in humid air, extracting the moisture, and then releasing drier air into the room. Essential for damp areas like basements or in humid seasons, they prevent mould growth, protect belongings, and improve air quality.

Windows: Opening a window is a simple and economical method to help maintain a comfortable humidity level without increasing energy use. Automated windows with air quality sensors can help regulate humidity and fresh air in indoor spaces. They will open and close depending on the natural conditions to help maintain the interior space’s humidity, temperature, and carbon dioxide levels.

Monitoring Systems: Modern HVAC systems often have built-in humidity management, capable of humidifying and dehumidifying as needed. Smart home devices offer advanced humidity control. Smart humidifiers and dehumidifiers can be remotely operated. Smart thermostats also monitor and adjust humidity. Paired with monitoring apps and sensors, these devices give real-time humidity data and control.

Tips for Maintaining Proper Indoor Humidity

Following these tips makes maintaining a balanced indoor humidity level manageable, promoting both comfort and health in indoor environments.

  • Check Humidity Levels: Invest in a reliable hygrometer, a tool that measures the amount of moisture in the air. Monitor readings regularly to ensure levels stay within the recommended 30-50% range.
  • Proper Ventilation: Ensure rooms, especially bathrooms and kitchens, have proper ventilation. Using exhaust fans can effectively expel moist air, preventing excess humidity. Regularly open windows and doors when weather permits to allow fresh air circulation.
  • Use Plants Wisely: Some plants, like Boston ferns and peace lilies, can absorb excess moisture from the air, naturally acting as dehumidifiers. Conversely, plants release moisture through transpiration, so it’s essential to strike a balance and choose plants that fit your indoor humidity needs.
  • Maintain Humidity Devices: Whether using humidifiers, dehumidifiers, or integrated HVAC systems, regular maintenance is crucial. Clean and inspect devices routinely to ensure they operate efficiently. This includes changing filters, checking for mould or mildew, and ensuring all parts function correctly.

Balanced indoor humidity is crucial for health, comfort, and preserving possessions. Excessively dry or humid conditions can negatively impact both health and belongings. Assessing and managing the moisture levels in indoor spaces is essential.