What Problems are Caused by Low Home Humidity Levels?

What should the humidity be in my house in the winter?

When homeowners head indoors to escape the cold of winter, they are often walking into an environment that, while warm, has its own type of discomfort. Dry winter air can lead to physical symptoms and damage to your home. In general, indoor relative humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent.

What problems are caused by low home humidity levels?

Low levels of indoor humidity can cause problems such as:
  • Dry, chapped skin and lips
  • A scratchy throat, nasal bleeding and irritation, and coughing
  • Breathing trouble
  • Buildup of static electricity
  • Trouble with electronic equipment
  • Damage to furniture and hardwood flooring 

How can I test the humidity levels in my home?

You can use a device called a hygrometer to test the humidity levels in your home. Available in both mechanical and electronic models, hygrometers detect humidity and give you a numerical readout that you can use when working to balance indoor humidity. Many thermostats now have a reading for humidity levels in the home.

When using a hygrometer, remember these points:

  • Place the hygrometer in the area where you are experiencing the most severe problems with low humidity
  • Give the hygrometer time to take an accurate reading. It may take a few hours or more for the device to produce results.

How can I increase the humidity level in my home?

Once you know your home's indoor humidity level, you can take steps to increase it. As noted above, the indoor relative humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent. You can increase humidity levels as needed by using a humidification system:

  1. Portable humidifiers: These smaller units produce steam or water vapor that increases indoor humidity. They have the advantage of being easily moved around, but they can only humidify about a room-size area at a time. Be sure to change the water and filters regularly to avoid spreading germs.
  2. Whole-house humidifiers: These larger-capacity devices work in tandem with your forced-air furnace. Air from your furnace is routed through the whole-house humidifier, where moisture is added to increase humidity. The humidified air then continues on its normal path through the heating system, distributing additional humidification throughout your home. If dry air is a problem in your home, whole-house units offer key advantages such as whole-house restoration of moisture, easy maintenance and sensors that adjust output.