The old saying “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” has a lot of truth to it.
Fortunately, humidity is not entirely out of your control. The most comfortable home is one that’s balanced in a variety of elements. Humidity can upset that delicate balance by being too low or too high. A humidity level of about 45% is ideal. You don’t want it higher than 50% or lower than 30%.
Problems caused by humidity
High humidity tends to be a big problem in newer homes. More recently built homes have a tightly sealed interior envelope, which tends to keep the humidity inside. If it causes condensation, you’ll get moisture buildup around the house, including behind walls and ceilings. Too much humidity promotes the growth of fungus and mold.
Low humidity, meanwhile, can cause cracks in wood floors and damage electrical equipment. You can develop dry skin and susceptibility to cold and flu germs.
A quick way to check your humidity level is with a hygrometer. You can purchase a basic model for less than $20 at many hardware and big-box stores. Make sure you take readings in different rooms; the humidity will vary around your house.
How to control humidity
If your humidity level is below 25%, consider purchasing a humidifier. Most options cost less than $75 and can effectively boost the humidity in a room.
Fortunately, increasing humidity is a fairly simple process. All you need to do is introduce more moisture into the air, and humidifiers simply evaporate water and pump it into the air. Indeed, the most low-tech method to increase humidity is placing shallow dishes of water around the house, near vents and sunny windows. As water evaporates, it adds moisture to the air.
Regrettably, dehumidifying a house is a more complex operation, since you must mechanically remove moisture from the air and direct it elsewhere.
You do have a number of DIY options to minimize humidity before you bring machines into the equation, though. For instance, opening windows, leaving doors open throughout the house, increasing ventilation, and using exhaust fans will all bring down humidity levels. (Pro tip: Make sure your dryer vent directs air outside and has no leaks. Accidental heat loss from dryer vents is a big cause of humidity!)
If you want to acquire a technological solution, you can install small room-sized dehumidifiers. A unit for a very small room might cost about $50; systems for larger rooms start at around $175. This is a relatively efficient approach, though you’ll have to regularly dump water out of the collection chambers.
For a broad-based permanent solution to excess humidity, consider installing a whole-house dehumidifier. This attaches to your home’s HVAC system and removes moisture from air as it cycles through the returns. These don’t come cheap; expect to pay between $3,000 and $5,000 for a unit. Make sure you hire a licensed HVAC installer who is experienced with these kinds of systems.
10 items in your garage you can toss right now
Broken or duplicate tools
You probably don’t need five hammers, and that broken drill is just collecting dust on a shelf. Take stock of your tool collection, and consolidate so you don’t have an overflowing toolbox (or too many bulky bins filled with tools).
Chances are you have no use for that old clunky computer printer and fax machine from the early ’90s. “If it’s in the garage, there’s a 90% chance that your old CPU is not worth the time it would take you to bring it back up to speed for day-to-day use,” says organizing and storing expert Emma Gordon of Clutter.com. “It’s better to find a recycling program that can take it off your hands.”
Old newspapers, magazines and catalogs
“You’re not going to read these again,” says Gordon. “If they’ve been banished from the house to the garage, they need to go.” If you can’t part with all of them, allow yourself to keep a few special editions or issues. Donate or recycle the rest.
Plastic planter trays
“It’s tempting to keep the trays after popping our spring blooms,” says Gordon. “Unless you’re a regular gardener, there’s no reason to keep these trays after transplanting. Clear them out so you don’t have to deal with spiders or other garage critters that will make a home in them.”
Old paint cans
Face it: You’re not going to use that hideous color of paint anywhere in your house. If you think you might need to touch up any of the rooms in your house, figure out which can of paint goes with which room, and label it with the room (dining room) and color (linen white). Remember that you can’t throw away full (or partially full) paint cans, so you’ll either need to find a hazardous-waste collection site or pour clean kitty litter in the can to dry up any remaining paint before disposing of the kitty litter and paint, and recycling the can.
Unused DIY project materials
While you’re clearing cans from old home-improvement projects, toss out old materials from DIY projects. “Almost every garage in America has a flimsy aluminum paint tray coated in house paint, with a matching roller in a crumpled grocery bag,” Gordon says. “As homeowners, we like to think we’re going to get more than one use out of our paint brushes, trays and other DIY tools, but it’s more likely we’ll forget and buy these items again anyway. The only reason to save otherwise disposable DIY tools would be if you have a project in mind that you plan to tackle soon.”
Old sports equipment
“Toss out balls if they don’t hold air anymore,” says Gordon. Same goes for broken tennis rackets, skis, helmets and more. If one of your kids no longer plays a sport, donate the used gear to a thrift store that accepts sports equipment.
Old shoes and clothes
“I promise you won’t miss the clothes and shoes you’re storing in the garage,” says Gordon. “These are the items that you don’t even have in your weekly outfit rotation, and if they haven’t been kept in an airtight container, they will require a lot of laundering to nix the garage fumes and dust.”
Sadly, your beloved tape collection is now obsolete. “Remember the static or flipping over to the ‘B-side’? Compared to streaming services, these outdated forms of entertainment require a lot of fussing,” says Gordon. “Make a quick list of the albums and movies you consider staples for your household, and plan to purchase in digital format.”
Bring that old chair you’ve been meaning to reupholster for years, or those old and outdated holiday decorations, to the thrift store or a donation center. If you can’t imagine placing them back inside your house anytime soon, you should say goodbye to those pieces.