Our natural tendency is to think of high humidity as a problem that has an impact on both our health and our ability to enjoy our surroundings. In Houston, that is the case more often than not as our summers are rarely ever dry, and it’s not often that folks need air conditioner repair because it’s drying the air “too much”. However, dry air in the winter(caused by low indoor humidity) can be just as uncomfortable as humid air in terms of discomfort. In fact, according to recent research, prolonged exposure to excessively dry air can even lead to elevated stress levels for you and your family!
It is possible that dry air will exacerbate the effects of other indoor air quality issues. According to some research, dry air exacerbates the negative effects of high levels of particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Given the fact that most buildings are not monitored or controlled for excessively low relative humidity levels, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the relative humidity levels of the air you breathe. No consensus exists on what constitutes excessively dry air, but many experts agree that optimal humidity levels should be between 35 and 60 percent of relative humidity. This is quite common in most air conditioned buildings.
Dry Air Effects
The effects of dry air are often felt the most acutely by the respiratory system of the body. When fluids evaporate from your body, the mucus membranes in your nose, sinus passages, and bronchial passages become dehydrated. As a result, they are more vulnerable to irritation and infection.
Dry air also increases your risk of contracting respiratory infections such as colds, the flu, or even Covid-19, according to the CDC. According to experts, viruses can survive for longer periods of time in dry air, and dehydrated mucus membranes reduce your body’s ability to fight infection.
The dehydration that occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to low-humidity air affects more than your respiratory system. The effects are also felt by your eyes, skin, and throat:
Irritation of the eyes. Dehydration of the tear film that protects your eyes can result in irritation, dry eyes and itching. It can also cause contact lens issues and increase your risk of developing other eye conditions.
Irritation of the throat. Hoarseness and thickened mucus in the throat are all symptoms of dehydrated tissues in the throat, which can cause difficulty swallowing, throat pain and inflammation, as well as difficulty swallowing.
Irritation of the skin. Skin rashes and infections, such as eczema, can result from a lack of moisture in the skin, which can be extremely uncomfortable.
Additionally, with excessively dry air, stress response is heightened, and sleep quality is compromised.
According to a study conducted by the United States General Services Administration’s Wellbuilt for Wellbeing program, office workers exposed to dry air (with relative humidity levels below 30 percent) had 25 percent higher stress levels as measured by cardiac activity. Working in environments with excessive humidity increased stress levels as well, though the effects were less noticeable.) Other studies have discovered a link between exposure to dry air and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the bloodstreams of participants.
A second finding of the Wellbuilt for Wellbeing study was that there is an indirect relationship between dry air and sleep quality, as the workers who experienced more cardiac stress also had lower sleep quality.
In the winter, indoor air becomes dry as a result of heating systems that circulate warm, dry air throughout the space. It can be difficult to replenish the moisture that has been lost. If your heating system is capable of supporting it, you may benefit from the installation of a central humidification system, which monitors the amount of moisture in the air and maintains the optimal humidity level in your space at all times.
A humidifier adds moisture (in the form of water vapor) to the air that is circulated throughout your space by your HVAC system when the air is too dry to be comfortable. The central air or central heating humidifier, which is connected to your furnace and HVAC ductwork and is also connected to your plumbing system, produces humidity by using water and heat from your furnace to heat the air you are breathing in your home.
Using Your HVAC To Control Humidity
In the summer, avoid allowing your air conditioner to remove too much moisture.
When you use an air conditioner, it cools the air by removing humidity from it. The result should be moderate and comfortable humidity levels in your space, which is the ideal situation.
However, if your air conditioner is too large for your space or if it has problems that cause it to run constantly, you may find yourself with dry air in your home even during the summer.
If you have any reason to believe this is the case, have your air conditioning system inspected and maintained by qualified HVAC professionals from Air Check Mechanical Service immediately. They may be able to make adjustments or repairs that will allow you to have better control over humidity levels, improve your comfort, and possibly even improve your health.