Home Comfort | November 6, 2019
When we think about indoor comfort, temperature usually comes to mind first. As seasons change, thermostats adjust accordingly to keep everyone comfortable and cozy all year long. But what about humidity? What role does the humidity in your house play in overall air quality and comfort? And what is the ideal indoor humidity level?
What Are The Average Home Humidity Levels in Alberta?
The Alberta climate is known for its extremes — from the bitter cold in winter to hot, dry air in the summer — but one thing you won’t find is a lot of humidity! Most parts of Alberta could be classified as semi-arid, but there is a wide variation in temperature and precipitation across the province, with generally warmer and drier conditions in the south compared to the north.
Did you know that, on average, January has the highest relative humidity in Edmonton? This may come as a surprise, especially since most people associate high humidity with warm temperatures. The key is understanding the difference between absolute humidity and relative humidity.
What is absolute humidity?
Absolute humidity describes the amount of water vapour in a mass of air, usually in grams per kilogram.
What is relative humidity?
Relative humidity is the percentage of water vapour present in the air compared to the maximum it could hold under the same temperature.
When we see a relative humidity of 100%, this means that the air is completely saturated with water vapour at that temperature. In Edmonton, a relative humidity of 60% in January, where the average low temperature dips to -16 degrees Celsius, won’t feel the same as 60% relative humidity in July, where the average high temperature is around 23 degrees Celsius.
So, where does Alberta fit on the humidity map?
Well, compared to our neighbours along the Pacific coast or even those living near the Great Lakes in Ontario and Quebec, Albertans deal with dry conditions most of the year— relatively and absolutely! This is why it’s helpful to boost indoor humidity levels, particularly since long winters keep people inside for many months of the year.
What Is the Optimal Humidity Level For Homes In Alberta?
Health Canada recommends you keep your home’s indoor relative humidity levels between 30 and 55%. It may be easier to maintain humidity within the ideal range during the summer months, but it’s difficult to achieve proper indoor humidity in the winter.
While it might be tempting to blast the warm, humid air and create your own tropical paradise at home, wintertime home humidity levels should be maintained around 25-35% to help prevent condensation on windows.
How Can I Help Maintain These Ideal Humidity Levels In My Home?
Any moist indoor air you may have is often cycled out of your home by the increased air exchange from your furnace or heat recovery system as it heats your home — a whole-home humidifier can help.
Compared to a portable unit that only humidifies one room at a time and needs regular refilling, a whole-home humidifier works with your furnace and delivers humidity throughout your home using the air handler or furnace fan. Most modern thermostats, such as the Honeywell VisionPRO IAQ or the Nest Smart Thermostat, control both temperature and humidity levels, making it easy to maintain an ideal humidity level in your house.
When used appropriately, a whole-home humidifier is an important component of your home’s HVAC system, which may also include your furnace, air conditioner, and air cleaner/purifier.
Two Types of Whole-Home Humidifiers
There are two main types of whole-house humidifiers:
- Bypass Humidifier — A bypass humidifier is an inexpensive humidifier unit that connects to your return ductwork, a water line, and a bypass duct that draws warm air from your HVAC unit to heat the water and produces moisture which is circulated through your home. It may be more difficult to achieve consistent and precise indoor humidity levels since it only runs when the furnace is on.
- Steam Humidifier — A steam humidifier is more expensive, but heats water within the unit itself, producing sterile steam which is then delivered throughout your home via the air handler or furnace fan. It delivers humidity more effectively and efficiently, and works as needed—not just when the furnace is running through a heat cycle.
Benefits of Maintaining Ideal Home Humidity Levels In Alberta
Sometimes humidity gets a bad rap. Excess moisture from high humidity is associated with wild hair (think Monica from Friends when they go to Barbados), damp towels that never dry, or more serious problems such as mold and mildew.
However, when the proper humidity level in your home is achieved, you’ll enjoy some great benefits, these include:
- More effective and efficient heating—a lack of moisture can make the air in your home feel cooler, whereas humidified air lets you turn down the thermostat and still feel comfortable
- Improved skin quality with less dryness, cracking, and irritation.
- Reduction in the spread of viruses and other infections throughout your home’s air.
- Symptom improvement for family members suffering from respiratory conditions such as allergies or asthma.
- Improved moisture levels keep nasal membranes healthy and help to reduce snoring and nosebleeds.
- Increased lifespan and protection of wood furniture, artwork, musical instruments and hardwood flooring.
Regular Maintenance For Optimal Indoor Humidity & Air Quality
Maintaining home humidity levels is an important aspect of a comfortable, healthy living environment. And for families who are relying on the humidity in their house to help with respiratory conditions like asthma or allergies, regular maintenance and cleaning are essential. If you add a whole-home humidifier to your HVAC system, make sure your regular maintenance routine includes your furnace, air conditioner, ducts, and humidifier.