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How RH and Temperature affect cigars

Occasionally someone will ask what type of temperature controlled humidor they should buy. It sounds like a simple question, and an easy solution, however RH and temperature go hand in hand. Changing one will impact the other.

First, there are a few things to think about:

  1. Where you live. If you live in the desert, you’re going to have lower humidity, thus you’ll need to think about what type of humidifier you’ll want to buy. If you live where there is high humidity, you’ll want to consider setting up RH beads inside your humidor, to help reduce the humidity. Some people have the opposite problem which most of us have; they need to reduce the RH down to 65%RH, vs people who live in less humid climates who have to increase RH.
  2. Temperature of where you live. Living in Hawaii means you’re going to maintain a relatively constant, tropical temperature with less fluctuations. Living on the east coast means you’ll experience hot summers and freezing winters.
  3. Are you able to maintain the temperature of your home to a steady 68F (or so) in the winter, and a steady 80F (or less) in the summer? If yes, then you shouldn’t even consider buying a temperature controlled humidor.

Once you analyze your current situation, you’ll have a better idea of how to humidify your cigars. One solution does not fit all.

The temperature of air has a direct impact on how much moisture (or water vapor) it can hold. Hotter air will hold more vapor (moisture), while colder air will hold less. Here are some analogies:

50F at 50%RH means that the air (at 50F) is currently holding half of the amount of water it’s able to hold.

100F at 50%RH means that the air (at 100F) is currently holding half of the amount of water it’s able to hold.

Which temperature holds more moisture? 100F.

Which temperature is providing a higher RH? Neither, they’re exactly the same at 50%.

The humidity (percent of water in the air) is exactly the same. However, at 100F, there is far more moisture being held within the air, but that doesn’t necessarily make it more humid. Think of it as the size of a gas tank. A 100F day has a bigger gas tank, so the moisture takes longer to dissipate. On a 50F day, the RH may still be 50%, but the gas tank is smaller. Therefore, on a cold day, higher humidity will be harder to maintain, as it will dissipate more quickly. On a hot day, humidity will be easier to maintain, as the hot air is able to hold a larger amount of water.

As you see, the temperature plays a direct role with respect to RH. If you were to place an AC unit inside of your humidor, you would be condensing the air, thus shrinking the size of the “gas tank”. This means that your humidifier will have to kick in more often. Think about when you turn your AC on during a hot summer day. You go outside, and you see that water line near the AC unit is dripping out water? That’s because you’re decreasing the temperature of the air within your home, and all of that moisture from the hot air has no where else to go at the colder temperature, therefore it’s naturally purged out of the air. The gas tank is full, and now overflowing. Cold air can’t hold the same amount of moisture warm air can hold. I know this sounds redundant, but I’m trying to provide as many analogies as possible to help explain how RH and temperature correlate with one another.

So, back to the idea of buying a humidor with temp control. It’s always best to maintain the temperature/environment in which your humidor resides, rather than trying to change the temperature inside of your humidor. Introducing AC inside of your humidor will have a direct impact on your humidifier. The humidifier will have to work harder to keep up with the AC. As the air cools, less vapor will be absorbed into the air. Every time your AC unit turns on, so will your humidifier. It’s also possible to create too much moisture in the air when cooling your humidor. Again, think about what happens when you cool down warm humid air; the moisture begins to escape out of the air.

If you are set on having a humidor with temp control, then you might consider buying a wine cooler, and converting it into a humidor. You can simply add cedar shelving and a good humidifier, and you’ll be set. It seems humidor manufacturers have struggled with creating an all in one unit that works as you’d expect it to work.

Using an AC unit inside of a humidor introduces too many potentially harmful variables. It’s possible to maintain a 70F + 70RH environment within a cabinet, however you will be faced with continuous challenges keeping both numbers within the desired range.

If you live in an area that gets warm, say 85F during the summer, then I would suggest dropping your RH down to 63% during the hot months, and raising it back up to 68% during the cold months. This will help prevent your cigars from getting too wet/dry, mold, beetles, etc. An AC unit is not always a solution, and rarely is it ever an easy one. Learn to manage your RH, and you’ll be fine. If you can afford to leave your AC in your home set to 80F or less, you’ll be in good shape. It’s always best to adjust the environment in which your humidor resides in when relating to temperature.

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