Is it fall, already? It may not feel like it yet. Hopefully, the cooler season is just around the corner. But as family schedules change for the new school year (and traffic patterns), it’s a good time to make adjustments to your programmable thermostat. It may be necessary to adjust the temperature schedule and optimal humidity settings for your home.

With an average high temperature of over 81 degrees Fahrenheit in Chattanooga, and an average humidity is 76 percent, it feels like an endless summer. But fall is a great time for annual maintenance, as well as rethinking your HVAC settings.

How Optimal Humidity Settings Affect Your Home

Along with providing extra cooling comfort, ensuring you’re using the optimal humidity settings for your home can extend the life of your property.

Excess moisture in the air can increase the growth of mold and mildew. This can ruin your furniture. Mold feeds on organic matter as it grows and spreads. That means it can destroy wood fixtures and trim. Mold can even eat away at drywall, which eventually leads to collapse and the need for replacement.

High humidity levels can also cause or exacerbate health conditions. Moist air provides a perfect environment for the growth of bacteria and the replication of viruses. Exposure to the mold and other toxins caused by water damage can lead to illness and asthma.

Combine that with an HVAC system that distributes air throughout your home, and Pumpkin Spice Season becomes Flu Season.

Too little moisture is just as bad. Dry air can also suck moisture from wood furniture and finishes, which ages it before its time.

Worst of all, it can cause that painful itchy skin and raw-sinus feeling that many suffer once the furnace kicks on in the winter.

How Humidity Levels Affect Your HVAC’s Performance

High humidity in your home can stress your air conditioning. However, probably more relevant is how humidity can affect how you perceive its effectiveness.

Recent summer heat waves have made us all too familiar with the term “heat index.” Another name for this is “apparent temperature.”

Apparent temperature is what it “feels like” when the actual temperature is affected by high (or low) relative humidity. The higher the humidity, the hotter it feels. And this seems to be true whether it’s hot or cold.

At high humidity levels, we’re less able to cool ourselves naturally. Humans sweat to cool off, but sweat doesn’t evaporate when the air is already saturated with moisture.

The result is that when humidity levels are too high in your home, it will feel hot and muggy indoors. You may even think there’s something wrong with your HVAC system.

It may even cause you to turn down the thermostat lower and lower, burning out your AC and raising your electric bill.

Experts Outline the Perfect Balance

The optimal humidity settings for your home, or any building, are not exact. Sometimes, the best humidity level will depend on your priorities. And other times, they’ll depend on what makes you and your family feel most comfortable.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends a pretty broad range for public buildings — anywhere between 30 and 50 percent — for schools. They suggest a maximum of 60 percent relative humidity.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) sets the maximum indoor humidity setting for residential homes at 65 percent. You’ll find this recommendation in Standard 55-2020, Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy (ANSI Approved). ASHRAE doesn’t provide a minimum, stating that individual preferences are the main factor.

Managing Humidity Levels in Your Home

With hot weather still a factor, you may need to keep your air conditioner set for summer temperatures. With proper maintenance, your AC should be able to remove any excess moisture in the air.

If high humidity levels seem to be a year-round problem for your home, do some further investigation. Water infiltration through unsealed basements and cracked foundations can increase moisture levels in your home. Check your windows and doors and look for condensation, which may indicate that moisture is coming in through the cracks. Plumbing leaks also increase indoor humidity levels.

If none of these seem to be a factor, consider installing a whole-house dehumidifier. These remove excess moisture without placing extra demand on your air conditioning.

That said, when winter does arrive, you’ll want to make sure that the air remains moist enough despite the furnace setting. A home humidifier can help ensure that forced-air heat doesn’t dry leave your family with breathing or skin problems.

Not sure what’s best for ensuring a stable, reliable humidity level in your home? Make an appointment today with One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning in Chattanooga today. Our expert technicians can help you achieve the optimal humidity settings for your home.