It’s still winter. You know this because of all the snow piled up around you, and the very air outside hurts your face. Your knuckles are cracked, you get the occasional nosebleed and the family dog is walking around with a wayward sock stuck on his back—and you might just get a shock if you try and remove it from his fur. So, what is this dry phenomenon that’s happening inside your home? It’s all about the relative humidity.
Air almost always contains some level of water moisture. Think of air like a sponge—it gets bigger in warmer weather mopping up moisture (called water vapour), and smaller in colder weather as it lets moisture out. How much water vapour a given volume of air can hold before it spills out—as rain, fog, dew, condensation, snow or frost—is referred to as the relative humidity. 100% relative humidity means the air can’t hold any more water and it’s going to start dumping out some form of moisture deposit.
Cold air is unable to hold much water vapour, so the colder the air is, the drier it is. Winter air making its way into your house is going to be dry. And that’s where your whole-home humidifier begins to earn its keep.
Maintaining indoor humidity at the right balance is extremely important. If you have too low of humidity then your nose can get dry, your throat may feel sore, and dry air can exacerbate asthma and breathing problems. If your humidity is set too high, then you may have moisture issues on walls and ceilings or condensation on windows—which can lead to the growth of mould and bacteria. (That’s nasty business.)
The following chart outlines what the expected humidity level should be according to the outside temperature:
Remember that humidity is relative to the outside temperature. This means that it can be very difficult to achieve the proper levels during our cold Canadian winters.
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