Laura vs. Humidity

Spoiler alert: Humidity is winning.

To say I don’t deal well with humidity would be a gross understatement. In fact, after three-plus years here on Kaua’i, the humidity here has become more of a problem than the cold and wet ever were in Portland. It’s really the one and only thing I truly dislike about living on Kaua’i.

We were expecting to deal with some humidity when we moved here, but all our pre-move sources told us that it wasn’t really that bad, and that the near-constant breeze from the trade winds erased most of the effects of humidity.

What we’ve experienced over the past three summers has been anything but comfortable though; in fact, it’s been downright miserable, mainly because each summer we’ve gone through long spells each day with no trade winds blowing  . . . at all. During the first and second summers here the breezes seemed to stop in the late afternoon, just when it was time to prepare dinner, but pick up again in the evening. This past summer, the breezes have been stopping in the early evening, around 8:00 p.m. The temperature does cool off a bit, but when there’s no air moving slightly cooler temperatures don’t mean all that much. The air still pretty much feels like a warm, moist towel has been laid on your back.

Part of my problem with the humidity here is physical: I am post-menopausal, and my body now operates at a higher temperature than it did when I was younger. Remember the old saying, “Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow”? Well, I sweat these days . . . a lot. I am perspiring constantly. Even though we have a powerful ceiling fan in our bathroom to mitigate the humidity, when I get out of the shower I start sweating. I haven’t taken a hot shower since we moved here – lukewarm to swimming pool cool is more my style these days. I can break out in a sweat just walking across the room, or washing the dishes, or sweeping the floor. I often feel like I’m drowning when I cook dinner on the stove, and I’m completely drenched after a five-mile ride on my exercise bike, even though I have two fans on high speed blowing directly on me, and I’m sitting right in front of the open garage door. It takes a long time to get my body cooled off as well, even with the help of cool towels or ice packs. I wish I could blame it all on something like my thyroid or some other hormonal issue, but I’ve been completely checked out by my doctor and everything is well within normal ranges. I drink more than enough including at least 64 ounces of water each day as well as other beverages, but I still retain a lot of liquid – during the summer I often feel like an over-wet sponge. I will admit my skin love the moisture – no lotion needed these days, unlike when we lived in Portland and I had to drench myself in it every day.

The high humidity here also affects us in other ways: glasses and bottles start sweating the instant you set them down. Our freezer cakes over with frost in less than a couple of weeks as warm, moist air rushes in every time we open it. Food can lose its crispness quickly, even in sealed jars or plastic bags. Clothes take longer to dry outside, even in the sun. We’ve discovered the humidity also has affected some man-made fabrics. We’ve had a couple of shopping bags disintegrate on us, same with the fabric on the bottom of our chair and sofa.

Yes, we could get an air-conditioner. But, electricity is expensive here – very expensive – and the cost of running even one air-conditioner would mean there would be much, much less left in our budget for other things. We want to travel, we want to be able to afford to bring our children home for the holidays, and so forth. On our income we can either pay to stay cool but stay on Kaua’i, or suffer a bit but go out and see the world and see our college-age children once in a while.

It’s also been suggested that we move to the north side of the island where it’s cooler by a few degrees, but YaYu is still in high school and none of us wants to deal with a daily 40 minute or more commute (each way) to school or her other activities. We like our little house and where we live now.

Most people in Hawai’i live without air-conditioning. And, I know that the humidity has been or could be far worse in other locations either in the U.S. or otherwise. Fall is coming, and then winter, and both will bring cooler temperatures and lower levels of humidity. The sun will continue to shine, and for a few months I will be able to forget my daily battles with humidity and its effects. Still, I know my nemesis will be returning next summer, and I’ve got to figure out ways of better dealing with it.

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16 thoughts on “Laura vs. Humidity

  1. Barbara Bomberger says:

    Laura, as someone who lived for 25 years in Washington DC and raised her kids there (even the projects have air conditioning in DC) my first thought is do you have ceiling fans in every room, and is it affordable for ou to do that. If not, I probabl dont have much help in me other than being an early riser (which I am normally not) and giving up hot cooking for 3 months.

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    • Laura says:

      We thankfully have big ceiling fans in every room and they help by keeping the air moving. One of the issues we deal with is that our house is not placed well to catch the breezes when the are around. The placement also causes the front of the house, where the living room and kitchen are, to heat up more than the back. That means though that the bedrooms stay cool and sleeping is comfortable. The fans are going all the time up in the front of the house.

      I’m not alone – lots of locals are complaining about the recent changes in the weather patterns and how miserable the summers have become.

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  2. tpol1 says:

    I am the same way. I could be walking out of the shower and then sweating like a horse 10 minutes after. My primary apartment has no A/C but, they way it is, you do not need one. However, the studio I am renting close to my job is dreadful. It gets very hot and humid during the summer. The stupid old A/C died late summer and I have no intention of having it fixed. Depending on the job situation, I may prefer to move into a different place before next summer.

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    • Laura says:

      The humidity is bad here really for only a few months out of the year, and is more annoying than anything else. We can head to the beach when it gets too unbearable, or to some other air-conditioned space. I really don’t mind the heat – I can manage that. But humidity – ugh!

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  3. Laurel says:

    Oh, I feel your pain. I was raised in a cool northern climate (the upper peninsula of Michigan) and have very little tolerance for humidity. Unfortunately, we get a fair amount in the Midwest and I always love the coming of fall. As much as I love visiting Hawaii, that’s one reason I could never live there. I feel like I’m soaking wet the entire time I’m there, even though I live in linen, shorts, skirts, etc. Thank goodness you have a fan to sleep under. I need one of those in the Midwest at my age! 🙂

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    • Laurel says:

      I will also say my favorites places to visit in Hawaii are in the high elevations. I loved seeing the volcano, but also going high enough to be COOL.

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      • Laura says:

        Higher elevation is good, except here, while it’s a bit cooler, elevation also means more rain and dampness. I’m just glad we’re not on the south or west sides of the island – beautiful but more hot and humid than where we are.

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    • Laura says:

      The humidity we lived with in Maryland was far worse than what we get here, and Japan was worse than that! Somehow I managed, but living in the Pacific Northwest for so many years spoiled me (it’s wet there, but not humid, if that makes sense). It’s lovely here right now as I write this – strong breeze, no humidity to speak of. The last two days though it was so thick you could have cut it with a knife!

      The bedrooms, in the back of the house, have big ceiling fans and are very comfortable at night. In a couple of months though we won’t even need the fans – it will cool down that much. But summers here are a bear!

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  4. Isabella says:

    Oh, I feel for you! We lived 11 feet above sea level close to the Texas coast for 8 years. (Before that, we lived in San Antonio for 5 years where it’s hot but not as humid.) I was always warm and perspiring when we lived close to the coast, even with air conditioning. It was so hot, muggy and humid all the time. When it rained, there were hardly enough places for rain run-off. For this Midwest girl, it was a trial. For years, we have been back in the Midwest (Minneapolis now), and physically I feel SO much better. I have a lot more energy for sure!

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    • Laura says:

      I’m pretty sure Texas humidity is worse than ours. Same for Florida – we lived in Key West for two years and the A/C ran 24/7 (but the navy was paying for it). I am just not acclimated to it here. I too sweat in air-conditioned spaces, so I know some of my uncomfortableness is due to my own body and not the humidity (the courtroom during jury duty was cold enough we had to wear sweaters all the time, but I still perspired). Brett and the girls says I “radiate” heat these days!

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  5. vivian says:

    Florida is terrible right now. Temperature yesterday was 93 and we are still getting lots of rain so high, high humidity. You just melt when you walk out the door. My only suggestion is to try Black Cohash. It doesn’t work for everyone but it really helped me with hot flashes and it might help with higher body temperatures. Be sure to get one with natural ingredients.

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    • Laura says:

      Thanks for the advice – I will give Black Cohash a try. There really is nothing you can do about the humidity because we have no control over the weather. Here it does get better when you get down on the beach, so that’s why Brett and I try to go (although we haven’t managed it this week) or walk on the path next to the ocean. The trouble with our house is that it’s not situated well on the lot to catch the breezes, and it’s not set up for a window air conditioner either. We’d have to buy one of the portable ones, but then cut holes in the screens for the condenser drain (which would mean a window would be open), and that wouldn’t work either. So, we live without A/C (which would be impossible in Florida!).

      When we rented the house, our landlord said we were welcome to install central air if we wanted, that the house is already wired for it – sure, Mister.

      We had high humidity and rain earlier today, but it’s blown off and right now it’s lovely. We’re getting a breeze and the humidity has disappeared. You just never know.

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  6. Barb says:

    Hi Laura! I’m bummed to hear it’s been so humid on the east side. Here in Kalaheo we’ve had very little humidity, it’s been a very pleasant summer. And the west side, where I work (Waimea) is hot and dry, as usual. The position of your house on the lot can really make a difference with the trades–we’re lucky that the trades flow right through our house! It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen you and Brett, maybe we can get together? We’d love to have you over for dinner! Love reading your blog!

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    • Laura says:

      Barb! So good to hear from you! We’d love to get together, but our schedules these days are pretty crazy with all of our daughter’s sports and volunteer activities so hopefully we can work something out. I will be in contact!

      I don’t know what’s been going on on this side of the island. I know the north shore has been cooler, and you say it’s cooler down your way, but it’s been a hot, humid mess here this summer (it’s already awful here today). The lot our house was built on is small, and has big hill slopes on two out of four sides (and our next door neighbor’s house fairly close on a third). The hillsides do a pretty good job of blocking the trades, which is why it gets so miserable. Plus, the west side of the house is exposed to that hot, hot afternoon sun and that heats us up as well. Thankfully the bedrooms in back stay cool. We love the house and the location is perfect for school and errands, but we are longing for cooler winter temps.

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  7. Libby says:

    Yuck! I think part of it is just the English/Scottish/Irish heritage. My grandmother used to “drip” (her word) during summers in New Hampshire. I have also inherited this sweat gene. It can be so embarrassing in a summer business situation when everyone else looks put together and I have a water mustache on my upper lip!

    So glad that going to the beach makes it better for you.

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    • Laura says:

      This may be it, because it nothing else I am all English/Scottish/Irish. Love your grandmother’s word “drip,’ although my head often feels more like a fountain than a faucet. I always continue to sweat even when I enter an air-conditioned space – I know it looks weird.

      We’ve had exceptionally humid weather the past two days with clouds being pushed up against the mountains and then hovering over us, but last night we had a big thunderstorm and it’s much nicer today. I’ll take any relief I can get.

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