Humidity is one of those things that most people don’t give much thought to, yet it has an enormous impact on our comfort, health and daily lives. Perhaps you’re a gardener trying to protect your plants, a homeowner trying to avoid condensation damage, or you live in an area prone to wildfire. A temperature and humidity gauge measures and reports the amount of water vapor in the air, which can be helpful to know for these reasons and more. In scientific terms, a humidity gauge is referred to as a hygrometer.
Why You Need A Hygrometer
Weather instruments are diverse in nature and makeup, along with their uses. Rain gauges measure the average amount of precipitation in an area over a certain amount of time, outdoor thermometers measure the temperature in a certain area, and wind direction indicators observe where the wind is coming from. Nearly all home and business owners could use a hygrometer simply because of all of the things that humidity affects. A hygrometer allows users to observe and measure the humidity in a given area in order to prepare for potential impacts.
High humidity can cause:
- An increase in bacteria, mold, and allergens.
- Slight swelling of wooden structures in the home (furniture, books, floors, etc.)
- Health risks like excessive sweating, fainting, muscle cramps, and fatigue.
Low humidity can cause:
- Creates static electricity which can damage home electronics.
- Creates increased risk of wildfire in certain conditions.
- Slight shrinking of wooden structures in the home (furniture, books, floors, etc.)
When there is an excess of moisture in the air, it can present itself with condensation on other surfaces as well, making air stuffy and surfaces “sweaty.” Bacteria grow in this environment because the circulation of air is stiff which raises the temperature and is a breeding ground for allergens, mold, and bacteria. These grow best in stuffy, wet areas, making a highly humid house an easy target.
On the other hand, a lack of humidity can be risky as well. When there is no moisture in the air, the moisture in other places (i.e. wooden structures) may evaporate, shrinking those structures. If there is a constant inconsistency with humidity levels, it can leave lasting damage in these wooden items because as they swell and shrink, the strength of their wood decreases.
Similar to other weather devices, a humidity and temperature gauge can be used in a variety of industries, including meteorology, medical, automobile, HVAC, and manufacturing, as well as for home use.
Weather Stations and Hygrometers
A weather station is an instrument that gathers the data through a series of connected sensors and gauges. Hygrometers are only one of many sensors present in these stations which is why many weather stations that include a hygrometer also contain a thermometer, rain gauge, wind speed and direction indicator, and more.
These stations vary in complexity and utility. When watching the local weather channel, you are not receiving an accurate gauge of every aspect of the weather in your backyard environment, but when using a weather station, depending on its placement, you are getting real-time weather data that is affecting you, not someone an hour away or at the closest airport.
Because many modern home weather stations come equipped with a built-in humidity sensor, many find that the investment is more than worth it for the additional data, often including temperature, UVI and wind direction. In the Tempest Home Weather System, the humidity sensor is housed inside the weather station device, which also contains sensors to detect and measure rain, wind, pressure, light, temperature, and lightning.
Greenhouses, Gardens, and Hygrometers
If there’s one thing most people know about gardening, it’s that moisture is a critical component of the growing process. Humidity is the presence and amount of water vapor in the air, and it directly affects the success (or failure) of your plants. While moisture is often thought of as a positive condition for growing plants, when high humidity arrives, it can grow less desirable things as well, such as molds and mildews. A temperature and humidity gauge can help you recognize and manage these changes to protect your passion project.
As has been discussed, thermometer and humidity gauges are used for various activities and suited for different needs. If doing any type of gardening, these are crucial for the success of your plants. Monitoring the humidity in your greenhouse or garden is critical to properly regulate the water each plant is provided.
If condensation levels are too high in this environment and cause the plant to be overwatered, it can do just as much damage as if there was no humidity at all and you chose to never water it. Each plant has its own needs and in order to give it the healthiest life, you must replicate the environment it flourishes in, whether that be hot and humid or cold and dry, or anywhere in between. Soil water content is a measurement of the amount of water in a known amount of soil; it can be expressed as % water by weight or volume of soil, or inches of water per foot of soil. (1) This measurement is affected also by the amount of water in the air, making humidity gauges crucial.
It is important to know the environment these plants are accustomed to, the temperature they flourish in, and the humidity levels that will provide them the conditions they need. This can be achieved in any type of agricultural setting, whether inside a house, on several acres of land farming, or in a private garden. By using a hygrometer you are one step closer to gardening greatness.
Ensuring your plants receive the right amount of water can be difficult, especially if you’re new to gardening. Monitoring moisture levels at your home or community garden with a humidity gauge will enable you to mitigate and manage fluctuating moisture levels.
Art Museums and Humidity
Beyond your garden or daily life, humidity affects many different things and in a variety of ways, whether it be the health of certain individuals or the quality of products affected by it over time. One of the largest groups outside of meteorologists that regularly rely on hygrometers to measure and regulate humidity is art museums. When there is an excess of condensation in the air, the moisture can warp the paint or canvas itself, causing irreparable damage.
On the other hand, if there is a lack of moisture in the air, the paint will dry and chip, causing the destruction of the painting. In an art museum, they regulate the humidity to stay at a percentage of forty to sixty or sixty-five percent. This keeps enough moisture locked in so that nothing chips, but artifacts and canvases do not warp, either..
Some important documents, however, are kept separately with an individual hygrometer to regulate the humidity at a precise level. These documents (like the Declaration of Independence, for example) are usually kept in glass cases with very specific water to helium and oxygen levels inside to preserve them.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best humidity gauge for a house?
To strictly collect humidity readings, a simple indoor or outdoor humidity gauge can be picked up at the hardware store for less than $10. However, for most home owners, the need for weather data goes beyond simply knowing the humidity levels on a given day. Home weather stations are gaining popularity as an all-in-one option for temperature, humidity, wind info, and rain measurements. These are especially helpful for gardeners, smart home owners, outdoor enthusiasts and homeowners who live in areas prone to severe weather or in microclimates.
What is the ideal temperature for humidity?
Many people mistakenly ask this question meaning something else entirely, because knowledge surrounding this subject is often misunderstood. When asking this, most are wondering what temperature will regulate humidity to the correct level. Even that, though, is flawed as the temperature does not determine humidity levels.
Inside the home, the safest percentage of condensation in the air is between thirty-five and forty-five percent so that too much moisture or lack thereof is prevented. If it rises above fifty-five percent condensation it is regarded as unsafe and can begin presenting health problems. Also, if it drops below thirty percent humidity, it is commonly regarded as dry air and can show the resulting low-humidity problems starting at that point.
The reason that we most commonly associate temperature and humidity is because in winter months with freezing temperatures, humidity levels are low because the weather itself is very dry. In the summer months when we view humidity as mostly high, temperatures are also that way making us believe that is the cause rather than one of many different possibilities. Often even when it is “cold” outside but high humidity is present, we feel much warmer because our bodies do not cool as effectively with that much humidity in the air. Therefore, it can be cold and humid and hot and dry, even if we commonly believe only the opposite is true.
In order to regulate the amount of condensation present, the circulation of the air must be consistent, similar to in a vehicle. This means that you should be able to regulate the humidity in your home regardless of if you keep it at sixty degrees or eighty as long as the air is being distributed.
How is a hygrometer used to measure humidity?
As with any product, there are varying degrees of complexities considering hygrometers depending on the needs. For instance, there are some which measure humidity levels using human or animal hair, some with simple measuring techniques like a psychrometer (1), and some that even measure the humidity based on the temperature of condensation levels. The term hygrometer is the name that encompasses all of these devices and is commonly known as a tool of measurement for humidity.
The process of measuring the humidity is completed in different ways depending on these specific devices. For a hair hygrometer, the humidity is defined by observing how human hair expands or contracts depending on the level of condensation in the air. The second simplest hygrometer is a psychrometer which uses two thermometers, one with a wet bulb and another with a dry bulb (2). As the wet-bulb dries, the temperature drops and you are able to observe the humidity based on the difference in temperature between the bulbs.
A dew point hygrometer, however, is a much more complicated device. This tool uses the temperature of the condensation levels in an area to determine the humidity. The concept of this device originated in the eighteenth century and works by cooling a metal mirror to a point of constant pressure and vapor content. When this has been established, you observe the point at which condensation occurs (the dew point) to measure the humidity levels from the temperature that this occurs.
Hygrometers are much like pencils in the sense that they are similar but different kinds serve different purposes. A standard no. 2 pencil is needed for benchmark testing, but a mechanical pencil can be used every day. Past both of these is a highly specific pencil with a detailed lead point, mechanical makeup, and purpose. The same holds true of hygrometers as we see that hair hygrometers and psychrometers could be used for everyday life and understandings of humidity whereas a dew point hygrometer is similar to the very nice mechanical pencil with a highly specific purpose.
More About Hygrometers
Hygrometers are now commonly distributed as inexpensive gadgets that observe the humidity levels in whatever environemnt they are placed in, whether that be inside a home, outdoors in a garden, in art or historical museums, or specific document preservation cases therein. They come in various shapes, sizes, or as one component in other weather instruments.
The first hygrometer was designed in the fourteen-hundreds by the inventor Leonardo da Vinci himself, but this tool was incredibly basic and did not read an accurate gauge of the humidity. Later, in the seventeen to eighteen-hundreds there were newer models of the hygrometer being produced and these were better able to provide a more precise measurement of the humidity. Several scientists were credited through history with its origin, but no one before da Vinci had produced any version of this device, mechanical with human hair or other.
Humidity gauges nowadays are able to provide much more information than da Vinci could have ever imagined. Then, they were attempting to get a general sense of how much condensation was in an environment. Now, we have the resources (using weather stations) to understand the temperature, humidity level, precipitation amount, wind direction and speed, and dew point outside of our backyard. This gives the most accurate look at how the weather is affecting you, by not only the precision at which the station functions, but the close proximity of it to your location. This is more precise as opposed to what a weather channel on the television or radio could relay as it most often is expressing information from weather stations further away, not presenting specific information to you.
Weather stations should be used outdoors for full-weather reports, but hygrometers can also be used inside when needed. Wherever there needs to be an understanding of the concentration of water in the air, a hygrometer can be used.