If you ask the average Floridian what the advantages are of living in Florida, you will hear things like “the beach”, “perfect driving weather all year long”, “no state income tax”, “beautiful trees, flowers and vegetation”, “endless recreational activities” and so forth. Florida comes by it’s official moniker, “The Sunshine State,” honestly because few places can rival our ideal climate. Nevertheless, it isn’t Camelot. And when it comes to our climate, one of the biggest trade-offs is the heat and famous Florida humidity.
Relative humidity (RH) indicates the quantity of moisture in the air relative to the greatest amount the air can hold at a given temperature. Interestingly, much of the humid climate in Florida is blamed on the fact that no place in the state is further than 60 miles from salt water, while being less than 345 feet above sea level.
Jacksonville, Florida ranks as the second most humid area in the US, with an average humidity of 75.8, and levels are similarly high throughout much of the state. Four out of the top ten most humid cities in America are located in Florida. As people who’ve sweltered in our hot, wet summers can tell you, high humidity makes heat worse, making it harder for sweat to cool you down and rendering evaporation air conditioners nearly useless. The ideal humidity for indoors, depending on who you ask, appears to be somewhere between 35% and 50%, so getting to a comfortable level can be a challenge.
Effects of Humidity on Health and Home
The higher the humidity, the greater amount of allergens present in the air, especially indoors. Mold colonies and dust mite populations flourish in a highly humid environment. One of the biggest challenges living in a highly humid climate is that damp air provides a great breeding ground for mildew, mold and fungus.
All of this microbe growth can take its toll on materials in your home, resulting in warped doors and hardwood floors, wallpaper and paint peeling off and all of the other problems associated with excessive mold and mildew. Allergies aren’t the only issue here; mold and mildew can results in health problems, including serious respiratory infections and diseases.
More Respiratory Infections
Studies indicate that higher humidity levels result in a higher number of respiratory infections and employee absenteeism. Even those who do not suffer from allergic reactions often find high humidity levels every uncomfortable, partly because humidity seems to magnify the heat. Ninety degrees feels much hotter in Florida than it does in Arizona or another state with lower humidity levels.
Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion
Not only does humidity make it feel hotter, it actually does push your body temperature up. When this happens, the body compensates by working harder to cool itself down. This can result in dehydration and loss of important electrolytes. When the body overheats, dehydration and heat exhaustion are usually close behind.
The people that are most vulnerable to high humidity are those that suffer from high blood pressure, lung disease, heart disease and kidney disease, particularly those that are over 50 years of age. If you do have high humidity in your home, stay hydrated and don’t forget to eat periodically.
Humidity Reduces the Effectiveness of Swamp Coolers
Air conditioning in Tampa Florida can be a challenge if a person is using a swamp cooler. Swamp coolers use evaporation to cool air, and humid air simply can’t absorb as much of that water to create a cooling effect. Regular air conditioners are better at cooling the air, even in high humidity, and they won’t add even more moisture to the air, causing condensation or contributing to mold growth.
Since excessive humidity can be detrimental to your health and your home, it is important to learn how to reduce it. The first thing to do is to pay attention and watch for signs of humidity such as windows fogging up and moisture on ceilings. You can also purchase a hygrometer, which measures moisture in the air, at most home improvement stores.
Once you know how humid it is, you can take measures to reduce it, and watch the results. Perhaps the most single effective option is to run the air conditioner, since the evaporator coil in the conditioner acts as a dehumidifier. Just make sure your A/C unit is well maintained and energy efficient. Another method is to reduce the number of plants (which expire water vapor into the surrounding air) in the house, or at least confine them to one designated room.
You can also reduce humidity by taking shorter and colder showers, ventilating the bathroom after taking a shower or bath, and placing fans in different rooms to ensure air keeps moving. And, of course, you can also buy a dehumidifier which pulls moisture out of the air.
By paying close attention to humidity levels in the house and employing some of the suggested ways of controlling and lower the moisture content of the home, one can greatly reduce the inconvenience, health risks and damage to the home.
Author bio: Amanda Peters writes on home improvement, DIY projects and appliance maintenance for One Hour Air Tampa. You can read more of her tips at the One Hour Air Blog, with specific recommendations on how to save energy and perform DIY maintenance on your own home’s climate control system.