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Olive the Science Hound on Why Humidity Makes You Feel Hot

graduate-oliveA good HVAC dog is also a dog who’s up on her science facts. Science is behind everything when it comes to heating and cooling a home. When I explain about how our expert team picks the right size of AC for your home, there’s some serious science behind it. When I talk you about the best temperatures to set your thermostat so you can save money, it backed up by the science of heat loss and heat gain.

Today I’m going to get into some serious science, because I’m putting the science upfront. I’m going to explain one of those mysteries of climate: why does humidity make a hot day feel hotter?

It actually doesn’t make the day hotter

Let me get this misconception out of the way right off. “The day is hotter when it’s humid.” That’s actually not true. If it’s 85°F outdoors on a summer day, then it’s 85°F. It doesn’t matter if the air is so dry that people’s lips are chapping instantly or so humid that it’s pouring rain. The temperature is still 85°F. What humidity does is make the air feel hotter. On an extremely humid day, that 85°F may feel like it’s almost 95°F. That’s why you’ll see weather reports that first list the temperature, followed by “Feels Like …” That’s telling you how the weather actually feels to your body because of other factors such as humidity and wind chill.

So why does humidity make “hot” feel “hotter”?

First, let’s define what humidity actually is. Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. When people talk about weather conditions, the measurement of humidity they use is relative humidity. This is a measure, written as a percentage, of how saturated the air is with water vapor. At 0% humidity, there’s no water vapor. At 100%, there’s so much water vapor that the air can’t hold anymore, and that usually means it’s raining.

For most people, a comfortable relative humidity is 45%. When humidity rises above 60% is when you get into trouble and the water vapor starts making a warm day feel pretty rotten.

And the reason for this is that the high amount of water vapor saturated into the air slows down the human body’s ability to perspire. Perspiration is an important way for the body to release heat. If this slows down, more heat is trapped in the body, making the temperature feel hotter.

Think of it like this: the moisture in the air is similar to a blanket you wrap around yourself. That blanket may feel great when the weather is cold and you want to trap heat, but wrapping yourself in a blanket on a hot day … ugh, that’s terrible.

(Please don’t worry about me and my thick fur coat. As a dog, I perspire differently—by panting!)

We can help you beat the humid days!

When the days are hot in Lenoir City, TN, air conditioning for a home helps out.  But when the inside of a home feels damp, there’s often more at play than the weather. If you have a humidity issue, call Russell & Abbott to help troubleshoot and fix the problem.

Find out more about dehumidifiers: Russell & Abbott provides air conditioning services throughout Maryville, Knoxville, Alcoa, Blount County, Knox County and Loudon County.

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