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Healthy Buildings: Maintaining Indoor Humidity Levels in the Office

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 By Niki Schillero

Maintaining indoor humidity levels in the office may seem unimportant, but maintaining these levels goes hand-in-hand with the productivity of your occupants. The occupants that reside in your building on a daily basis have fluctuating comfort levels and may be able to adapt to any environment, however, adapting your office to your occupants makes the most sense. In this blog, we’ll touch on how you can easily monitor indoor humidity levels and temperature that best suits your office.
Imagine sitting at your desk for 8+ hours a day and experiencing discomfort that prevents you from being able to focus. Or, maybe there’s too much moisture in the air, causing difficulty for you and other occupants in the building to breath abnormally. By maintaining your indoor humidity levels in the office, your occupants can work comfortably, increase their productivity and prevent their health from being compromised. In the event the indoor humidity levels in the office aren’t maintained, additional risks and other issues can occur that may diminish your occupant’s performance and safety.

Indoor Humidity Levels in the Office Promotes Occupant Health

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it’s recommended to maintain a comfort range, with the temperature being set to 68 to 78 degrees and a relative humidity of 30% to 60%. The humidity and dampness that may be present in the air has the potential to supply just enough moisture for mold to start growing. The indoor relative humidity (RH) should try to be kept below the 60% mark.
Occupant health and well-being is always a priority, but it has become more important due to current events. The global pandemic has led many employees to have increased expectations when returning to work. As we become more informed of the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ), the expectation to ensure office buildings are equipped to keep occupants healthy and safe will be extremely important.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that it’s important to control moisture and indoor humidity levels in occupied spaces. The presence of moisture and dirt can cause molds and other biological contaminants to thrive. Humidity levels that are too high can contribute to the growth and the spread of unhealthy biological pollutants. Humidity levels that are too low can contribute to irritated mucous membranes, dry eyes and sinus discomfort.
Indoor humidity levels in the office can fluctuate based on the activities taking place within a space, indoor ventilation, and the time of year, to name a few. The biggest challenge is pinpointing and maintaining the perfect balance that caters to the needs of your office space.

Indoor Humidity Levels in the Office Can Minimize Sick Days

Although you can’t just make COVID-19 disappear, you can take necessary measures to ensure the workplace will promote health, productivity, and good IAQ when occupants return to the office on a full-time basis.
Indoor humidity levels in the office can regularly be an issue due to the effects it can have on the occupant’s well-being, and also has the potential to increase the number of sick days that are taken. In a study that was conducted by Yale University, researchers found that low humidity hinders the immune response. Humidity levels are not the only factor in flu outbreaks, but it’s something that can be easily controlled and it’s important that indoor humidity levels in the office are considered, especially as we approach the winter season.
Researchers also found in a fairly recent study conducted by Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Arizona that the relationship between indoor humidity levels in the office and health can cost the employer in terms of productivity and sick leave. In conducting this study, they were able to categorize its participants into three groups based on the range in which the majority of their relative humidity measurements fell:

  1. Dry – less than 30% relative humidity

  2. Comfort – between 30% and 60% relative humidity

  3. Humid – more than 60% relative humidity 

This study found that participants in the dry and humid group experienced 25% and 19% higher stress responses compared to those in the comfort-humidity group. It also found an indirect relationship between relative humidity and independently measured the effects on sleep quality.

How to Maintain Indoor Humidity Levels in the Office

There are a few different ways that you can maintain indoor humidity levels in the office effectively. Some of these methods include:

  • Perform preventative maintenance on your HVAC system
    In the warmer months, your AC not only keeps the office space cool, it also keeps the humidity levels low by eliminating moisture within the air. Ensuring that your HVAC has its regular preventive maintenance from a professional to sustain its optimal function, efficiency, and its ability to remove unwanted moisture will help maintain humidity levels.

  • Fix broken pipes or leaks
    Broken pipes or leaks can be a reason for unwanted sources of moisture that can contribute to the humidity levels inside of your office space. Having this issue can also lead to the development of unwanted mold and mildew, in turn, causing adverse health issues. If you have any cracks or leaks that you notice, make sure that it’s repaired promptly.

  • Install a dehumidifier
    A dehumidifier is an appliance that takes moisture out of the air. It works by drawing warm air currents into its coils through a fan. The warm air contracts as its fed through the refrigerated coils of the machine, and the condensation is left inside the dehumidifier. The size of the dehumidifier depends on the size of the space that you’re looking to place the machine. You can use individual dehumidifiers in each space or install a whole-structure dehumidifier in your building. The dehumidifiers will need to be monitored to ensure that no mold growth transpires.

We’re Here to Help

The importance of maintaining indoor humidity levels in the office has many benefits when it comes to the structure of your building, the productivy and the health of your occupants on a day-to-day basis.
If you need help maintaining indoor humidity levels in your building, Illumetek has the HVAC expertise to implement preventive maintenance programs and integrate controls into your building management system. Contact us today with your HVAC project needs!


About Illumetek

Illumetek is a National Program Management company facilitating installs, updates, compliance and rebates for Lighting, Electrical, and associated Controls. If you have additional questions regarding LED lighting technology or design, please feel free to contact us anytime.

Reach out to Illumetek

Illumetek is a National Program Management company facilitating installs, updates, compliance and rebates for Lighting, Electrical, and associated Controls. Contact us today!