Can Humidity Cause Electrical Problems Inside Homes?
Your Glendale, AZ, home’s electrical system is critical. Many issues can affect its performance, including dust, temperature and fluctuations in the power grid’s voltage. Another issue that can affect your home’s electrical system is relative humidity. Relative humidity is a measure of the concentration of water vapor in the indoor air. Learn about the ideal indoor humidity level, and consider these ways that humidity can cause electrical problems in your home.
The Ideal Indoor Humidity Level
The ideal indoor humidity level is 30% to 50%. If the humidity level drops below 30%, you’ll notice more static electricity buildup. You could get zapped by it when you touch a fixture, switch, appliance or anything else. Dry indoor air can also be harmful to your body. Your skin may get irritated, inflamed, itchy or flaky. It may even crack. Wood can also split and crack under extremely dry conditions. When the indoor humidity increases past 50%, this is also a problem. Excessive indoor humidity can be harmful to any electrical item in your home, including the wiring and panel. High humidity fuels the growth of biological materials, such as mold and mildew. This can lead to allergy, asthma or breathing problems. Mold will grow on any organic surface. Wood and items made of engineered wood products, such as drywall, laminate flooring and particleboard furniture, can also be damaged by high indoor humidity.
Rusted Circuit Breaker or Fuses
High humidity may cause your circuit breaker to rust. If any connections on the breaker rust, you may end up with a tripped circuit. That circuit will not work until it is repaired or replaced by a licensed electrician. Trying to operate a circuit that has rusted could result in a dangerous situation. High humidity could also cause rust in the connections in an older home’s fuse box. The rust may cause the fuses to blow.
Corrosion of Wires
Any wire can corrode if it is exposed to high humidity. The most likely areas for this to happen are the bathroom, laundry room and kitchen. In the bathroom, the high humidity from bathing could corrode wires in the exhaust fan and light fixtures. In the kitchen, humidity from cooking could lead to corrosion in the wiring of the oven’s hood fan or your kitchen appliances. In the laundry room, look for corroded wires in your washing machine and clothes dryer. Wires in your walls can also corrode. This is most common in perimeter walls that are poorly insulated and experience a lot of condensation from windows and doors. Corroded wiring in your walls could lead to an electrical fire.
Corrosion of Control Panels
The control panels of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system could corrode if they have too much humidity. The humidity could affect the delicate circuitry of their computerized control systems. If this happens, the heating or cooling system won’t turn on. Your thermostat could also have its control panel or sensor damaged by excessive indoor humidity.
Your home’s outlets could rust if they’re exposed to high humidity. Although most outlets have a plastic cover, humidity can still get in through the outlet openings. If the contacts rust, you could get shocked when you plug something in. Sparks could fly out of the outlet when you turn on the item plugged into it.
Switches can be affected by high humidity. Their contacts could rust or corrode. This affects the flow of current through the switch. It’s possible that the switch could get stuck if it rusts or corrodes. A stuck switch has current going through it all the time, which could result in overheating or a fire.
Excessive humidity could cause your home’s insulation to get soggy. Wet insulation facilitates mold growth. It will clump together, and this could reduce its ability to reduce unwanted air exchange. Wet insulation does a poor job of preventing heat from going where you don’t want it. In the case of the insulation around your wiring, moisture could degrade the insulation to the point it falls apart. Degraded insulation on your home’s wiring could result in an electrical fire.
Humidity levels that get too high could lead to crumbling drywall. If the drywall weakens, cracks or crumbles, this could affect your home’s electrical system. Outlets could get loose, and wiring may sag or even fray under the weight of the damaged drywall. Ceilings can also collapse if they get saturated with moisture. This could damage the wiring in your attic and the wiring that connects to ceiling fans and light fixtures.
High humidity may cause boards to warp. Floors that warp may put pressure on the wiring. Door frames that warp can also cause problems, especially if there is nearby wiring for a doorbell, camera or switch. If the high humidity level persists, your home’s support beams could also warp, and this puts your home in a precarious safety situation.
Moisture can directly damage anything electronic in your home. When there’s a lot of humidity in your home, and the temperature is warm, the humidity remains as a vapor. If your home’s temperature drops, such as when the air conditioner turns on, the moisture will condense. When moisture condenses on electronics, it can ruin them. Every electrical item in your home can be damaged if the condensation gets inside. The item doesn’t have to be plugged in or in use to be damaged by condensation.
Increased Risk of Pest Damage
Pests are drawn to moisture. If your home’s humidity level is too high, you could end up with an infestation of silverfish, centipedes, spiders, ants or other bugs. Another risk is an invasion of wood-destroying insects, such as termites. If termites get into your home, they will chew through the insulation, wood and other materials. Termites leave behind a hollowed-out, honeycomb-like material that isn’t able to support weight. This could affect the wiring in that area. Rats, mice and other vermin are also attracted to moisture, and they will chew through wiring to get to water or food.
When your home’s humidity level exceeds 50%, this creates conditions that facilitate the growth of mold and mildew. If mold and mildew grow on your electrical wiring, coils, control boards, circuit breaker panel or fuse box, it can interfere with the item’s safety and performance. Fungal growth can impede heat dissipation, which could cause the wiring or panel to overheat. An overheated wire or panel could start an electrical fire. The fungal growth can also ruin contact points and connections, causing them to fail.
At Christian Brothers Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical, we’re the trusted electricians for electrical repairs in Glendale. You can also count on us for air conditioning, heating, plumbing and electrical maintenance and installation services. Our duct repair, indoor air quality solutions, filter replacements, refrigerant leak repairs and insulation services are designed with your comfort, safety and budget in mind. For more information about the problems that humidity can cause with your home’s electrical system, get in touch with us at Christian Brothers Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical today.