How to Set House Humidity in Winter

You should aim to have 30 to 50 percent house humidity in winter. Here’s why the right humidity is important for your comfort and health.
Written by Matt Terzi
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
You should aim to have 30 to 50 percent house humidity in winter. Humidity that’s too high or low not only exacerbates allergies and makes the air feel muggy, but it can also damage your belongings and expose you to health risks like bacterial infections. 
Learning how to manage house humidity in winter can save you from a lot more than itchy skin. There are a number of cost-effective solutions that can help you manage house humidity in winter and summer with minimal effort.
Let’s learn more about humidity and how to control it in this quick guide brought to you by the
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What is humidity?

Humidity measures the amount of water vapor present in the air. If the air is dry (less water vapor), humidity is lower; if the air is “wet” (more water vapor), the humidity is higher.
Environmental humidity is lower in winter because cold air doesn’t hold onto moisture as easily as warm or hot air does. For that reason, you’ll need to set your house to different humidity levels in January versus July. 

What are ideal humidity levels?

Ideal humidity for people and objects is around 45 percent. Of course, we can’t always target that number specifically, so generally speaking, you should aim for 30 to 50 percent humidity in winter, and 40 to 60 percent humidity in summer.
When humidity is too low (anything below 30 percent), possible negative effects include:
  • Health impacts, including dry, itchy skin, cold and flu symptoms, allergies, and nosebleeds
  • Bacteria and viruses, which thrive in lower humidity
  • Static electricity buildup, which can increase your likelihood of getting shocked
  • Furniture damage, which can happen when wood dries out
Similarly, there are negative consequences of too high humidity, including: 
  • Health impacts, like muscle cramps, dehydration, fatigue, and (in extreme circumstances) heat exhaustion or heat stroke
  • Mold and mildew, which thrive in higher humidity
  • Muggy air, which feels draining
  • Warped wood, which causes even more damage than dried-out wood
Musical instruments, like pianos and guitars, can take a lot of damage from low and high humidity extremes. So can your electronic devices. 

How do you manage house humidity in winter?

The best way to manage house humidity in winter is to invest in a furnace humidifier with a dehumidifier feature. However, purchasing and installing one can be expensive, often costing around $800 to $1,200 in total. 
If this isn’t a realistic option for you, there are still ways to keep your humidity levels controlled. Let’s review them here.

How to increase house humidity

Furnace humidifiers without dehumidifier features are usually cheaper to buy and install, costing as little as $200 to $400 for a smaller one. There are many ways to increase humidity in your home without spending lots of money.
  • Invest in some house plants and take good care of them. House plants release a lot of moisture into the air and help increase humidity levels
  • Take hot showers, and if privacy allows for it, keep the bathroom door open. All of that steam will significantly increase household humidity
  • Put vases of water in dry rooms and let the water evaporate naturally
  • Use a room humidifier, like you might use when you’re sick. These are fairly cheap ($10 to $50, or up to $100 for the really fancy ones) and can be purchased at most pharmacies, grocery stores, or online
  • Improve insulation, especially around doors and windows. When heat is escaping your home, it’s bringing moisture with it. This is an expensive fix, but it pays for itself over time by reducing your energy costs

How to lower household humidity

Here are a few methods to reduce humidity without breaking the bank.
  • Use exhaust fans when cooking
  • Avoid steaming-hot showers and always run the exhaust fan when you do
  • Move your plants outdoors or into a well-ventilated room
  • Use your air conditioner, which removes warm air while pumping out colder air
  • Fill a bucket with charcoal. This might sound unreal, but it works! Simply pour some charcoal briquettes (like you’d use during a barbecue) into a bucket and set it out in the room. The charcoal absorbs moisture in the air and lasts around three months
  • Buy a room dehumidifier, which is often far cheaper than a whole-house one. You can find these in stores and through online retailers for under $100, or $200 to $300 for bigger ones

Does home insurance cover humidity damage?

Humidity damage to your home and your belongings isn’t traditionally covered by most home insurance policies. Home insurance only covers damage resulting from a set of
perils named
in the policy.
Since humidity damage is considered avoidable, you’ll have a hard time filing a claim for the
mold growth
resulting from an over-humid bathroom—unless the damage can be directly traced to something like a
burst pipe

How to save money on home insurance

While home insurance doesn’t cover humidity damage, it does protect you financially from a long list of other threats. You simply shouldn’t own a home without having good coverage in place.
Home insurance can be expensive, costing most people around $1,400 per year. But you don’t have to keep on overpaying, thanks to
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Absolute humidity measures the grams of moisture in the air for each cubic meter of air (g/m3). This equation doesn’t take air temperature into the equation.
Relative humidity measures how much moisture is in the air relative to air temperature. It shows you how much water could be in the air given the current temperature of that air as a percentage.
When humidity gets too low, the air is dryer and can lead to coughing and a scratchy throat. You can get headaches from humidity that’s too low or too high.
Humidity increases as temperatures rise, especially in coastal areas where more water is evaporating due to the heat. The warmer and moister the air is, the higher the humidity level is.
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