With cooler weather on the way, many of us aren’t looking forward to the dry air that often comes with a forced air heating system. Sure, it’s great to be cozy warm, but dry air can cause personal discomfort, not to mention some health issues in people with allergies or breathing problems.
For smaller homes, it can be easier to raise humidity levels using the natural moisture created from showers, cooking, or even just simmering a pot of water on the stove. But for mid- to large-sized homes, it’s not that easy. That is where humidifiers come in – available in whole home and smaller sizes, they can really help to keep your home comfortable during winter months.
Why Invest in A Humidifier?
A More Comfortable Environment: A quality humidifier that efficiently raises the moisture levels in your home can actually benefit your energy bill. Unlike very dry air, humidity helps to hold heat, which means your home will likely stay warmer longer.
Prevent Dry Winter Skin: No one likes dealing with dry, itchy skin that often goes hand-in-hand with the winter months. A humidifier can add much needed moisture to the air, which helps to keep skin feeling healthy. An added bonus? It also helps the skin of your pets, which means less dander contributing to poor air quality.
No More Dry Nose & Throat: Some of us have a very hard time in winter dealing with nose, sinus, and throat dryness. The more moisture available in the air, the less likely this will be an issue.
Shorten That Cold: A dry nose and throat can also make it difficult to recover from seasonal colds. A little humidity helps your system recover faster and allows you to be a little less miserable in the process of recovery.
Happy Houseplants: Those plants you take care of all year to keep your home air quality high? They don’t like dry air either (well…unless you have a cactus hanging around). Humidity will help them survive the winter a little happier and healthier than may otherwise be the case.
Banish Static Shock: This alone could be a reason to invest in a humidifier! Air with moisture is less prone to carry the charge of a static shock, which means less zapping when touching metal door knobs.
Whole Home Humidifiers vs. Smaller Humidifiers
If your home has forced air heating, then a whole home, central humidifier may be right for you. These humidifiers add moisture to the air using the existing ductwork of your home. Cost tends to be the major issue when it comes to investing in a whole home system, but it is likely worth it if your home experiences very low humidity during the winter months and/or you have a large home that will not work with smaller humidifiers.
When it comes to central options, homeowners have a few choices:
Bypass Humidifier: A bypass humidifier adds moisture to warm air produced by the furnace. The air passes through a water panel, collecting moisture and carrying it through ducts into your home.
Fan-Powered Humidifier: A fan-powered humidifier works in the same way as a bypass humidifier but add a fan to the water panel component, leading to more efficient absorption of water through the air.
Steam Humidifier: A steam humidifier creates moisture by heating water and producing steam, which is then released through your home’s ductwork. This system humidifies a home very quickly, and produces moisture whether or not your HVAC system is currently running. Steam humidifiers tend to be more expensive than other options, but the investment is worth it if your home is routinely dropping to very low humidity levels (under 30%).
Smaller humidifiers are also available for homeowners who only want to humidify certain spaces, or who have smaller houses that don’t necessarily require a whole home system. Most of these options will have an estimate of the square footage that it will humidify on the box, so you won’t have to guess whether or not it will work for you.
These humidifiers also come in a few different types:
Ultrasonic: This type of humidifier uses a metal disc vibrates at ultrasonic speeds, creating a fine water mist that is dispersed through the room. They can come in warm or cool mist options, both requiring regular maintenance and cleaning.
Evaporative Cool Mist: Here, a fan draws air into the unit, and the air is directed over a moisture-filled wick. Evaporation occurs, adding more moisture to the air that is then forced into the room. Due to this process, the air leaving the humidifier is cool. It is an affordable option, but does require more maintenance than some other choices.
Steam Vaporizer Warm Mist: Like the whole home steam option, this humidifier heats water to a high degree, turning it into a mist and releasing it into the room. It is very effective and helps to reduce bacteria and viruses thanks to the heating process, but can pose a safety hazard for children due to high temperatures and risk of burns.
Tips for Usage
Location, Location, Location: If you are opting for a central humidifier, then you won’t have to consider this issue too much – a professional will help you with installation and setup. But for smaller units, you will need to carefully select where you want to place the humidifier in the room. It should be in a location with good circulation, so that the moist air has a chance to move through the room, but be careful of condensation. If it is too close to a wall or treasured piece of furniture, it could experience some water damage.
Clean Regularly: Both central and smaller humidifiers will have their own cleaning requirements. Be sure to follow the recommendations! The downfall of humidifiers is that, if they are completely neglected, there is the risk of mildew and mold growth that can then end up in the air of your home.
Use Distilled Water: Distilled water is free of minerals that could cause deposits in smaller humidifiers, which can affect how well the humidifier works. Whenever possible, use distilled water to extend the life of your new purchase.
Watch Your Humidity Levels: As we have discussed before on the blog, too much humidity in your home can be as damaging as too little. It’s a good idea to invest in a humidistat, which will easily allow you to measure humidity levels – the recommendation is to keep levels somewhere between 40-50% during the winter months.