Humidity, when it’s high, it can make hot days feel exponentially hotter. When it’s low, our skin can feel dry and irritated, eyes become itchy and more.
But while we hear a lot about absolute and relative humidity on the news, not much is said about how to gauge humidity at home.
Luckily, you can get a device to measure humidity – it’s called a hygrometer. It simply measures humidity in the air and gives you a reading. Most hygrometers are inexpensive, battery-powered devices that can be used indoors, outdoors or both.
Wondering what humidity is exactly? Well, it’s simply the amount of water vapor found in the air. (This is any water that’s turned from a liquid into a gas.)
The actual amount found in a specified volume of air is called “absolute humidity.” You’ve also likely heard the term “relative humidity” when watching or listening to weather news. This is the more common measurement as it presents an easy-to-understand ratio.
Relative humidity describes the amount of moisture found in the air compared to the maximum amount that the air can hold. This varies based on the temperature though – hotter air holds more moisture than cold.
Humidity also impacts how we perceive the temperature – for example, when it’s higher, we feel hotter. This is because it causes our perspiration to be less effective in keeping us cool. When the air is full of moisture, it’s more difficult for sweat to evaporate.
You may want a hygrometer to measure humidity indoors, as humidity can affect our health, comfort, and more.
If indoor humidity is too high, i.e. above 55%, a room can feel stuffy even when it shouldn’t. However, if humidity indoors drops below 25%, that can make it feel uncomfortably dry as well. Maintaining an optimal humidity range is also important to control viruses, bacteria, fungi (including mold) growth, allergies, and conditions like asthma.
When humidity is low, viruses like the flu can survive longer and spread more easily. Additionally, low humidity can cause dry, cracked, and itchy skin.
The humidity outdoors affects how hot or cold we actually feel. For example, when humidity is high, hot weather feels much more oppressive.
Though there’s not anything we can do about the humidity outdoors, it is good to know what it is. It can help us make decisions regarding outdoor activities, for one thing. For another, it can alert us to whether or not we may be in for rain.
As we mentioned, there is a device to measure humidity called a hygrometer. These can be found as analog or digital models and will typically be labeled for indoor or outdoor use.
You can find them online or at your local hardware store.
For the best accuracy, we suggest investing in a digital hygrometer. These are also often much easier to read as well.