The Importance of Humidity in the Home

How the Air Affects Us & Our Lives

Our health is simply a reflection of our environment. Our homes, being the place we spend the majority of our time, are thereby the source of our livelihood. The more we care for our homes, the better our homes can take care of us. The first step is to take a look at that which we cannot see: the air we breathe.

Lush green plants in humid air

Many experts in the health and medical fields agree that air quality is majorly impacted by humidity levels. The problems with dry air are endless, as we are almost entirely made of water. We are able to notice a difference in our skin, eyes, and hair when we’re dehydrated, and that’s just what’s on the outside. Dr. Stepthanie Taylor, an infection control consultant at Harvard Medical, openly discusses her own personal experience and research on this impact. For a health web-conference on the importance of humidity, she reflects on her training in Papua New Guinea where rates of infection were much lower than in North America, despite less stringent sanitary conditions.

Humidity, Infection & Immunity

Dr. Taylor's training there sparked a curiosity that led her to a study done in a Chicago hospital, one that was conducted to correlate the relationship between a building’s atmosphere and operation to its occupants’ wellbeing. When focused on the factor of humidity, a relationship between humidity and infection rate was found; rooms that had “relatively low” humidity had a higher infection rate and vice versa. A similar study done by the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota found that when humidifiers are placed in a section of a preschool during winter (flu season and particularly dryer months), the presence of infectious particles was significantly less in the humidified half of the school, demonstrating that the infectious particles were able to travel faster and easier in drier air.

Not only does dry air allow infectious particles to travel easier, but it also makes it easier for us to be infected. Low humidity affects all aspects of our body, seeing as such a high percentage of our matter is water. Simply sitting in too dry of a room is capable of causing dehydration, and dehydration greatly impacts brain function, the skin, and the immune system. Several doctors at Yale Medical found in their research that multiple “natural protective systems” of the immune system are compromised in dry air. The sandy, scratching feeling that goes down our throat when we are dehydrated is an example of one of our protective systems (the layer of saliva that coats our air pathways) drying out and becoming less effective. When these protective systems are not functioning as they should, our immune system is threatened. There’s no doubt that humidity helps our health immensely, but is there such a thing as too high of indoor humidity?

The main concern that follows high humidity, is the threat of mold or fungus. Although moisture is a direct cause of these hazards, Dr. Taylor once again vouches for higher humidity in a separate journal she published in 2016. In this article, she discusses how mold and fungus “cannot extract moisture from the atmosphere” and are only able to grow where water is condensed, such as from a leak or spill. Of course, condensed water is able to form from air humidity, but only without proper insulation and ventilation. Throughout her findings, Dr. Taylor found one specific connection between her studies. Each one had its most profound results at the same humidity level, being between 40% and 60% relative humidity. This is why it is so important to be able to monitor and control the humidity levels in our own homes.

Achieving Humidity

There are only two methods that can help us achieving humidity: isothermal, which is actively boiling water by applying heat, or adiabatic, meaning any natural, passive evaporation of present water sources. Using these methods there are many ways to practically increase home humidity, besides purchase purchasing a humidifier. Simple actions such as lowering the temperature can slow the process of evaporation down, allowing the moisture in the air to last longer. Air-drying clothes and dishes, rather than in the drying cycles, acts as a double-action, as it reduces heat in the home, as well as promoting passive evaporation. Even something as easy as misting the air directly with a gentle spray bottle, or boiling a pot of water on the stove can affect the air quality of a room.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Lush indoors gardens with misty humid air.

Although these methods of adding humidity are effective, they can be hard to remember and time-consuming like the rest of the chores around your house. Our company realized that humidity was of high value within the home but was also not always top of mind for homeowners. Our hydroponic living wall actually adds 20% additional humidity to any space with transpiration of the plants. This process takes place as the plant absorbs water in its roots and then spreads that moisture to the stem and leaves. “We’re excited to be sharing something with the world that takes multiple appliances in your home to improve air quality and integrates them into a single unit for anywhere in your home,” says founder Dylan Robertson. Not only does it save space and function as a 3/1 product, but the clean contemporary design adds an aesthetic benefit as well.

When considering our health and our homes, the first concern should be air quality, and air quality begins with humidity.