Humidity Sensors: Why You Need One for Your Home
Every homeowner knows that excessive humidity is not something you want inside your home. Besides leading a "sticky" feeling that makes our homes feel uncomfortable, it can also quickly lead to mold and mildew growth. Mold is among the leading causes of unhealthy indoor air quality. They can exacerbate asthma and other potentially dangerous respiratory diseases and can damage wood floors, wall panels, and even structural elements of the house. Few people also realize that maintaining optimum humidity levels in your home is also a way to reduce the spread of bacteria and virus-related infections. According to one recent study published in Science Daily, "a relative humidity of 40 to 60 percent could reduce the spread of the viruses and their absorption through the nasal mucous membrane."
Deficient humidity levels of around 5 to 10 percent can also cause discomfort, both for our bodies and our homes. At relative humidity levels of about 5 percent, many people may experience uncomfortably dry skin and sinus issues. Persistent low humidity levels can also cause the wood in our homes to quickly dry out, leading to warping and cracking. This problem can compromise the home's building envelope's tightness, leading to air leaks that reduce thermal performance and energy efficiency.
So how exactly do you know if your home is maintaining an optimum humidity level? According to most home building experts and healthcare professionals, relative humidity levels of anywhere between 30 and 50 percent is ideal for interior environments. But is it necessary to wait until you have blue or green mold growing on your baseboards to find out that your humidity levels are too high? Humidity sensors offer a simple, pragmatic solution to help homeowners determine their homes' relative humidity and take practical steps to increase or lower the humidity levels accordingly. This short article explains how humidity sensors work, when you should consider using one, the types of humidity sensors you can find on the market, and the best brands to consider.
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What Is Humidity?
Humidity is the amount of water vapor present in the air. For example, when the relative humidity in exterior environments reaches 100 percent, the air is so saturated with water vapor that rainfall occurs. In general, relative humidity is affected by the temperature, with higher temperatures allowing the air to hold more water. Air's ability to hold water is why high humidity levels are a problem homeowners experience during the summer months, while low humidity levels tend to affect our homes during the drier and colder winter months.
How Does Humidity Affect Our Homes?
Inside the buildings we live in, several different building elements, appliances, and other aspects can affect the total amount of water vapor in the air. For example, a laundry dryer gives off moisture as it dries our clothes. Suppose the dryer or the laundry room is not adequately vented. In that case, this could lead to higher humidity levels in our home. Similarly, a long, hot shower, a busy kitchen, gas heaters, and improper home ventilation can all lead to high humidity levels, even during colder months of the year.
What Is a Humidity Sensor?
A humidity sensor, also known as a hygrometer in scientific terms, essentially measures the amount of water vapor in the air. Meteorologists rely on hygrometers for giving us our daily weather forecast, and today smaller, household humidity sensors are available for homeowners to purchase. Many of these products are marketed as "temperature and humidity sensors" and will measure both the home's temperature and relative humidity levels.
Most household temperature and humidity sensors are small, digital devices that resemble a smart home thermostat. (Check out this Rise guide for a complete review of what to look for in the best smart thermostats for your home.) In many cases, a home temperature and humidity sensor might be located next to your thermostat. However, you will need to ensure that you place it in a neutral area of your home where outside elements do not influence detected humidity levels. Wind, condensation from windows, and other factors can also throw off humidity sensors.
Home energy advisors can also detect high humidity levels arising from some regions of your home (such as a laundry room). So they might recommend placing a home humidity sensor in the laundry room to ensure that the room is adequately ventilated and not accumulating excessive amounts of moisture. Home humidity sensors can help homeowners identify areas of excessive humidity in the home and subsequently take actions to increase the ventilation or reduce the humidity through proper ventilation.
Why Would You Use a Humidity Sensor?
Home humidity sensors are useful in a wide variety of circumstances, including:
- Homes that have experienced visible problems with mold and mildew growth: In this case, a home humidity sensor will let you monitor any relative humidity level above 50 to 60 percent and make the necessary changes to lower that level.
- Homeowners with health problems that arise due to high or low humidity levels: If you suffer from severe sinus issues, a home humidity sensor can let you know when relative humidity levels drop below a triggering threshold (say 10 to 20 percent). Similarly, for people with asthma or extreme sensitivities to mold, a humidity sensor can also let you know when your home humidity levels are likely to cause these types of health problems. The Harvard Annual Review of Public Health reported that 21 percent of asthma cases are attributable to residential dampness and mold.
- Homeowners who want to test the effectiveness of different ventilation and humidity control strategies: A home humidity sensor can help homeowners quickly determine if a humidity control strategy works. For example, suppose you recently installed a heat pump clothes dryer. In that case, a humidity sensor placed in your laundry room should tell you whether this ventless clothes dryer option effectively reduces the humidity levels in your home.
What Types of Humidity Sensors Exist?
You can find a simple home temperature and humidity sensor at almost every home improvement store or on Amazon for under $20. Though these simple home hygrometers can deliver a reliable reading of the relative humidity levels inside your home, other home humidity sensors offer expanded functions and more consistent interior relative humidity readings. Among the different types of home humidity sensors, you can find Whole-Home Humidity Systems, Point Source Humidity Sensors, and Smart Home Humidity Sensor Systems.
What Is a Whole-Home Humidity System?
These types of humidity measurement systems come with several individual humidity sensors placed strategically throughout the home. The individual sensors connect via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or another mechanism to record the house's relative humidity levels. These systems are best for homeowners who want a thorough and comprehensive measurement of humidity throughout the home.
What Is a Point Source Humidity Sensor?
These individual humidity sensors are designed for placement in certain areas, where humidity levels tend to be highest. For example, suppose your master bathroom tends to accumulate high levels of humidity due to water evaporation. In that case, a humidity sensor can help you measure whether a new exhaust fan is effectively removing sufficient levels of water vapor from that part of your home.
What Is a Smart Home Humidity Sensor System?
Smart home technology is expanding into virtually every aspect of our home. Today, homeowners can find humidity sensor systems that come with smart technology. The top smart home humidity sensors can connect to your home Wi-Fi system and allow you to view live data from your smartphone or personal computer. Some of these systems will also record logs of fluctuations in-home humidity levels over time. They can send alert emails or text messages if your home humidity levels pass certain thresholds.
What Can Humidity Sensors Control?
The top home humidity sensors can connect with your smart home hub to become a part of an integrated smart technology system. First, make sure that your smart home humidity sensor is compatible with the smart home hub you use. If that is the case, you can pair your humidity sensor with several different home appliances and interior temperature controls. For example, suppose your home humidity sensor system is detecting high humidity levels in the laundry room. In that case, it can automatically turn on the bathroom exhaust fan, even if no one is at home. Similarly, these smart sensors can be paired with smart dehumidifiers to have them turn on when humidity levels in the household pass a predetermined threshold.
Some of the best smart humidity sensors also allow homeowners to pair these devices with their home HVAC system. Because humidity levels tend to rise in correlation with indoor temperatures, you can have your smart thermostat lower your home temperature if indoor relative humidity raises past a certain point.
What Are The Best Brands of Humidity Sensors?
There are dozens of companies making and marketing different types of home humidity sensors. Below, we offer a quick suggestion for four of the best humidity sensors for your household needs.
Best for Expense
Pinmu's 4-Pack Mini Digital Humidity Meters: These simple sensors offer a reliable measurement for interior temperature and humidity. For under $20, you get four small, battery-powered sensors that can be placed throughout the home.
AirThings Wave Plus: This multi-functional indoor air quality sensor monitors radon levels, humidity, temperature, VOCs, CO2, and air pressure.
Best Smart Functionality
Proteus AMBIO: This smart home humidity sensor can be programmed to work with any device or appliance that you can plug into a smart home plug. The Wi-Fi connectivity allows for seamless connectivity to your home or office network.
Best Whole Home System
My Acurite: My Acurite offers a great whole-home humidity sensor system. The company offers a reasonably priced system that includes three humidity and temperature systems that you can place inside or outside. It allows you to view your sensors on any iPhone, Android smartphone, computer, or tablet with the complimentary My AcuRite App.