Industry Insight – Why is Humidity Important?
You’ve probably heard about humidity before. It doesn’t seem like someone who lives in the midwest (specifically, Omaha!) can get through life without at least hearing about humidity. Do the words “muggy,” “clammy,” or “sticky” ring any bells? I’m guessing they get you thinking about summer and sweat. Well, let’s take a closer look at what humidity does and how it affects many areas of our lives.
Firstly, what is humidity?
Travel back in time to your middle school science class…but we won’t make you take any exams! Humidity is simply the amount of water vapor in the air. This is usually referred to and measured in terms of relative humidity — a percentage of the maximum that could exist at a given temperature. The warmer the air, the more water vapor it can hold; hence the reason we rarely need to worry about the lack of humidity in summer!
Then why is humidity important?
Humidity (or the lack of humidity) can affect our hair, skin, and wellness. Going beyond the body, it can also affect woodwork, musical instruments and your energy bill. In dry environments, the amount of electrostatic discharge rises, creating sparks more easily. You might also notice static in your hair as well as dry, itchy skin and dry airways. Research shows that viruses, bacteria and respiratory infections rise significantly in dry conditions, where the relative humidity (rH) is below 40%. In the same dry environment, woodwork may crack and shrink, musical instruments may not stay in tune as long and your energy bill could be higher.
So is more humidity always better? Not necessarily! Most HVAC experts would recommend home and work environments to be kept above 30% relative humidity. But ASHRAE recommends a humidity level of 30-60%, with an ideal range of 45-55%. This is the exact range where viruses, bacteria, fungi, mites nand respiratory diseases/infections are the least active.
Humidity levels above 60% can also cause problems. Wood may swell, mold grows abundantly, mites and other pests thrive, viruses and bacteria spread and eventual structural damage may be caused.
So how can we get to an ideal humidity level in the workplace?
There are a few ways to make sure the humidity stays at a healthy, comfortable level in any building. One of the first things you should make sure you have access to is a device that measures rH, called a hygrometer. Many modern thermostats come with one of these already built in. Then check to make sure your heating and air system includes a humidifier. Another easy way to add a little extra humidity is to add potted plants to your space. An additional benefit of plants is a healthier oxygen level, not to mention some psychological plusses too!
As Heating and Air Conditioning specialists, the responsibility falls on us to help you ensure your climate comfort. With our expertise being in commercial and industrial environments, we’re happy to do what it takes to ensure healthy levels of humidity for your workplace, including specific environments like IT rooms, warehouses and more.
Do you have a special requirement? Need some renovation Our pleasure! Get in touch.