**Background to why I purchased a Hygrometer**
We bought our house 5 years ago and it needed completely gutting from top to bottom. So we redid everything, including replacing all windows, fitting a new bathroom and kitchen, and re-plastering all the walls; but there was one thing we overlooked. We didn't realise that the wall underneath the bay window in our bedroom was only a single brick wall (not double as in most houses). This came to our attention when we experienced our first winter in the house, it was very cold around the bay, and black mould grew very rapidly all over this particular wall; the condensation was awful - pools of water gathered on the windowsill, which if left unchecked also turned to slimy mould.
So each subsequent winter was spent with me bleaching the mould off the wall every few weeks, mopping up condensation, and moaning to my husband that I wanted something doing about the wall - with no result! It was getting to the point where all of the upstairs windows, not just our bedroom window, were constantly drenched in condensation, and my sanity was slowly disappearing, and frustration growing.
So I decided to do some research about condensation, damp rooms, safe levels of moisture in the air, dehumidifiers, and hygrometers. Seeing as though we have two young children I thought it was best that I figured out if our house was in fact a healthy environment, I needed to find out if there were any measures I could take to reduce the seemingly high levels of damp upstairs. My first step was to buy a hygrometer.
I actually bought two, one for upstairs and one for downstairs to compare the levels. I bought two different types so I could compare their readings, and also check if they were giving me accurate data.
**What Is The Point?**
This particular hygrometer (the NScessity Digital Thermometer & Hygrometer) also reads the temperature of the room, as well as the relative humidity (percentage of moisture in the air). It's a very small unit, about the size of a matchbox, with two numbers on the display - the RH and temperature. And that is all I need it to do, so it is perfectly adequate for my needs. It also has a blue back light, which is activated when you touch a metal sensor on the side; this is so you can read the display in the dark. One other feature is the memory function. This records the maximum and minimum levels recorded every 24 hours. So this is interesting to see how high and low the levels can get in one 24 hour period - I have found the levels tend to increase over night, and decrease during the day.
I initially thought the unit seemed a bit cheap and plasticky, but it serves its purpose very well and I cannot complain about its function, and the fact that it is small means it is very discreet.
This hygrometer is actually marketed at the parents of newborns as a child safety item, to give them peace of mind that their baby's room is at a safe temperature and relative humidity. It actually says that it could save your child the misery of a cold or even something more severe! My kids always have colds and other ailments during winter but I thought that was just normal, I was not aware anything like this existed when my first child was born so was blissfully unaware that I could do anything to improve the conditions in her bedroom and maybe even her health!
**What Is Relative Humidity?**
Upon reading lots of articles on the internet I came to understand that the safe level of relative humidity is between 45 and 55%. My hygrometer was averaging at 66% during the day, and would sometimes reach 70% during the night, so this set alarm bells ringing in my head but also gave me lots of ammo to fire at my husband to spur him onto doing something about our mouldy wall.
Relative humidity levels above 55% are a great breeding ground for viruses, fungi and dust mites (hence the reason why this is marketed as a child safety item), so our bedroom was probably providing the perfect environment for a whole host of bugs and other critters which did not please me in the slightest! I was worried for the health of my children, but also for my husband and me - my husband often wakes up in the morning completely bunged up and with headache - something which I have since found out that high humidity levels can cause, another reason I could use against him, and more ammo that we needed to get this sorted.
I used the hygrometer in every room upstairs and all the levels were reading the same - around 66%, so something obviously needed to be done. Perhaps our wall was not the main reason for the dampness upstairs, but it was certainly adding to it.
My initial reaction was to look at purchasing a dehumidifier in the short term, but the prices were approximately £100 and this is something we could not afford. So we had to go back to basics...and that was to keep the windows open as much as possible, something which is quite difficult to keep up during the winter months, especially with two young children, but I was determined to sort this problem out once and for all.
So I bleached the wall for what I'd hoped would be the last time and started to keep the windows open as much as possible. Every morning I would open our two windows and the bathroom one as wide as I could, and then usually mid morning/lunch time I would close them slightly. The children's windows I would just have on the vent all day, just a crack, but they were still open so it had to be helping towards the cause.
During the night, most windows would be closed, but I insisted to my husband that ours must remain open - I really am fighting a battle with my husband, he hates having windows open and thinks the heating should be on all the time!!! He's such a sensitive soul.
To my surprise, this method has actually gone a long way to helping our humidity problem. I never thought simple steps such as this would work, but they have. Slowly over the course of about 3 months, our levels have dropped dramatically. We are now averaging about 45-50% most days, unless the weather is particularly damp in which case it goes back into the 60s, but still, this is a great result.
The wall is still mould-free; and this to me is a minor miracle because usually the mould will start to grow back within a couple of days of me cleaning it! Condensation has almost been eradicated, some mornings there will be a small amount gathering at the bottom of the windows, but this I can handle, I can actually see out of the windows in a morning when I open the curtains, something which wasn't possible last winter!
**So What Did The Hygrometer Actually Do?**
I know that having a hygrometer in the house doesn't miraculously fix humidity problems, but having some hard data to look at and by monitoring the levels on a day to day basis has really helped me (and my husband) to address an ongoing problem without having to take drastic action.
Whenever I walk into our bedroom now the first thing I look at is our hygrometer and if the RH levels are looking a bit high, then I will immediately open the window a fraction more and the levels will reduce over the next hour or so.
If I had not purchased this item, then my husband would have carried on burying his head in the sand ignoring the fact that we had a problem, and I would probably have moved back into my mother's house!!!
I understand that our problematic wall has still not been fixed, but at least for now I can control the humidity levels upstairs until we do actually have the money to address the problem of our bedroom wall needing a further layer of insulation. By having the hygrometer I always know what is going on upstairs with regard to the humidity levels, and I can monitor it and thus ensure that we are living and sleeping in a healthy environment.
Something which I recently pointed out to my husband is that he has not been waking up with a headache or blocked sinuses since the start of my mission to reduce relative humidity in our house. That's 1 point to me!
Despite me not knowing anything about these types of gadgets 3 months ago, I would not be without mine now and would recommend them to anyone, even if you don't think you have a humidity problem, it is still interesting to see how the levels in your house can change during the course of a day, or even a week. I am interested to see how ours changes when summer approaches.
This particular Hygrometer is very basic in its design and function, but it does everything I need it to do and it is very simple to use. As soon as I put the batteries in the temperature was displayed almost immediately and the RH was shown a couple of minutes afterwards. And I know that it is accurate because I have two other thermometers and another hygrometer (don't ask) and when all in the same place show the same readings - so they must all be right!
I think this is an essential item for you to have in your house, especially if you have young children. It could help you improve your health, the health of your children, and the environment inside your home.
The unit requires 2 x LR44 batteries, which are included.
RRP is £12.99 but currently available on Amazon for £12.40 (February 2011).