Winter Indoor Comfort and Relative Humidity

Compared to summer when the moisture content of the air (relative humidity) is an important factor of body discomfort, air moisture has a lesser effect on the human body during outdoor winter activities. But it is a big factor for winter indoor comfort because it has a direct bearing on health and energy consumption.

The colder the outdoor temperature, the more heat must be added indoors for body comfort. However, the heat that is added will cause a drying effect and lower the indoor relative humidity, unless an indoor moisture source is present.

While a room temperature between 71° and 77° F may be comfortable for short periods of time under very dry conditions, prolonged exposure to dry air has varying effects on the human body and usually causes discomfort. The moisture content of the air is important, and by increasing the relative humidity to above 50% within the above temperature range, 80% or more of all average dressed persons would feel comfortable.

See the table Apparent Temperature for the apparent temperatures for various combinations of room temperature and relative humidity. As an example of how to read the table, a room temperature of 70° F combined with a relative humidity of 10% feels like 64° F, but at 80% it feels like 71° F.

Although degrees of comfort vary with age, health, activity, clothing, and body characteristics, the following table can be used as a general guideline when raising the apparent temperature and the level of comfort through an increase in room moisture, rather than by an addition of heat to the room. This method of changing the apparent temperature can give the direct benefit of reducing heating costs because comfort can be maintained with a lower thermostat setting if moisture is added.

Apparent Temperature for Values of Room Temperature and Relative Humidity

Relative Humidity (%)

Room
temperature (°F)
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
75 68 69 71 72 74 75 76 76 77 78 79
74 66 68 69 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78
73 65 67 68 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77
72 64 65 67 68 70 71 72 73 74 75 76
71 63 64 66 67 68 70 71 72 73 74 75
70 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73
69 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72
68 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71
67 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 68 69
66 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 67 68
65 59 60 61 61 62 63 64 65 65 66 67
64 58 59 60 60 61 62 63 64 64 65 66
63 57 58 59 59 60 61 62 62 63 64 64
62 56 57 58 58 59 60 61 61 62 63 63
61 56 57 57 58 59 59 60 60 61 61 62
60 55 56 56 57 58 58 59 59 60 60 61
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Data and Information Service and National Climatic Center.


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