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What is a Hygrometer? - Definition & Uses

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  • 0:00 Definition of a Hygrometer
  • 1:05 Types of Hygrometers
  • 1:45 Uses for Hygrometers
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

The amount of moisture in the air makes a huge difference in how comfortable people are and when storing certain valuable possessions. In this lesson, we will explore the definition and uses of a tool called a hygrometer.

Definition of a Hygrometer

Imagine traveling to Paris to see what is arguably the world's most famous painting: the Mona Lisa. You spend thousands of dollars on your flight and hotel, stand in line to get into the Louvre, and then enter the room containing the Mona Lisa, only to find that it has been removed due to damage done by high humidity!

Paintings and other artwork are highly reactive to moisture in the air and can become severely damaged if it is too high. Thankfully, this hasn't happened in the history of the painting, and this can be credited to one device: the hygrometer.

A hygrometer is a tool used to measure the moisture content of the air. It can be used either indoors or outdoors, but devices are usually specifically for one or the other. The hygrometer is very specialized and only gathers data about moisture content. If someone wanted to report a full humidity reading, such as relative humidity or dew point (two measurements used commonly in weather reports), they would more than likely also have to collect other data, like temperature or atmospheric pressure.

Types of Hygrometers

Several types of hygrometers have existed throughout history. The earliest and most basic were the metal-paper coil type. These hygrometers used physical moving parts to measure moisture content and were, therefore, quite inaccurate. Other types of hygrometers have used human or animal hair, wet and dry thermometers, and even mirrored surfaces to measure the dew point. All of these varieties are mostly out of date and no longer used, except in the cheapest applications.

Modern hygrometers use electronic sensors. These sensors allow for a much more accurate device that is easier to maintain. Unlike some of the early types of hygrometers, modern varieties can be placed anywhere because they tend to be much smaller.

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