Humidity is the cause of much physical discomfort, especially in parts of the world where hot temperatures and water vapors run rampant. But humid conditions can lead to side effects more damaging than just having to change your shirt. What exactly does humidity do to the human body, and can an HVAC help to prevent it?
Decreased sweat evaporation
Excessive humidity is just plain uncomfortable. That’s because it affects how our bodies regulate temperature. One of the most obvious ways is perspiration. Sweat can’t evaporate in highly humid conditions, and the accumulation of sweat prevents the body from cooling down, making the body feel hot and sticky.
But discomfort isn’t the only side effect of decreased sweat evaporation. Your body tries to find other means to cool itself down, which means it works harder to get blood to the heart, diverting it from the brain and other internal organs. That can result in feelings of light-headedness, faintness, fatigue, or cramps. In worst-case scenarios, it can cause exhaustion or heat strokes.
Allergic reactions to mold growth
Mold, bacteria, and fungi seek moist conditions in which to grow. Any environment with more than 60% humidity makes a fine home for mold or fungal spores, which can result in troublesome human symptoms: severe allergic reactions, nasal congestion, eye irritation, respiratory difficulties, potentially even fever or skin blemishes.
Increased risk of asthma attacks
Overly humid conditions also cause problems in asthma sufferers. Taking in humid air constricts the air passages to the lungs. Humidity makes inert air trap dust, pollen, mold, and other substances that trigger asthma attacks: breathing problems, coughs, chest tightness, and other symptoms.
Impairment of children’s immune systems
Children and babies are especially vulnerable to extreme humidity. It can harm their metabolism and physical functionality, making it harder for their bodies to adjust to changes in the atmosphere. This makes them more likely than adults to experience dehydration and fatigue.
Controlling humidity with HVAC systems
- Your home’s HVAC system can be one of the best weapons you have against extreme humidity if you take certain important measures:
Keep a regular HVAC maintenance schedule. Poor upkeep is probably the most common cause of failure in air conditioning units. An HVAC professional like the experts at Rowland Air will keep air ducts clean, detect, and fix problems in ventilation and moisture accumulation.
- Increase ventilation. Keeping fresh air in circulation is a key factor in preserving the air quality of your home, especially its humidity levels. Consider having an HVAC professional install more vents, especially in high-moisture areas like the kitchen and bathroom. They may even be able to redirect the flow of air through ducts or produce “makeup air” to replace the air your HVAC system exhausts.
- Downsize AC units in smaller spaces. Some air conditioning systems work very little too cool the room, resulting in more moisture and fungal growth. Alternately, it can shut off when a room reaches a certain temperature, which won’t allow time to properly dehumidify a room. Consider replacing the old AC system with one with lower power that’s more appropriate for your room or house size.
- Double-check your thermostat settings. Setting your thermostat in a position in which the fan runs frequently—such as, obviously, the “fan on” setting—can be a humidity risk. Constantly operating fans make the room cooler and more comfortable, but that can also increase moisture. Keep an eye on your thermostat and make adjustments so it doesn’t run all the time, especially when nobody’s home.