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Humidity and Home Comfort: Start Taking Control!
Chances are, you’ve heard this phrase or some version of it quite often: “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity!” Humidity levels in the air make us feel uncomfortably hot, clammy, or sticky. In some areas, dry air is the biggest problem, but humid air can often be much worse in the summertime, even as you run your central air conditioner.
What Is Relative Humidity?
Relative humidity is a term scientists use to describe the amount of water vapor the air is holding. This number is represented as a percentage. At 100%, the air contains all of the water vapor it can hold, and there’s a high chance of rain. The percentage is found by measuring the amount of water vapor in the air at a given temperature. In warmer temperatures, the air can hold more water vapor, which is why humidity levels tend to become a problem in the summertime.
Why Does Relative Humidity Affect Comfort?
Typically, people feel most comfortable at a humidity level of about 30-50%. When the relative humidity drops below 30%, especially in winter, your skin may feel dry and cracked, or you may experience problems with chapped lips. Dry mucus membranes become an issue, and this can make you become ill more easily, drying out your body’s natural method of fighting illness. In the summer, though, we’re more concerned about high humidity. Above 50% or 60%, you start to feel the effects of the excess vapor in the air because it interferes with your body’s natural methods of cooling off. Normally, sweat evaporating from your body keeps you cool, but all that water vapor in the air won’t allow for it.
Won’t My Air Conditioner Help?
Air conditioners are dehumidifiers. In fact, the very first air conditioners that resembled today’s refrigerant-based systems were designed to dehumidify a printing press. As the refrigerant absorbs heat, a coil at the inside unit cools down, and condensation naturally collects on this coil as the air loses its heat and water vapor condenses. However, using an air conditioner to dehumidify is a costly option. Your air conditioner can use up a whole lot of energy to cool and dehumidify your home, when you may just need dehumidification. Besides, you might end up cooling the home more than you need to dehumidify it, which can make you less comfortable than keeping the system at a reasonably efficient temperature.
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