It is getting to be the time of year where touching anything metal can result in a sudden static shock. You may feel the symptoms in your home – dry skin, chapped lips, and cracked hands. It seems like every year the heat is turned on and the humidity disappears, in a bad way. Sure, no one likes too much humidity, but arid air is just as uncomfortable. So what the heck is going on?!
Why Does the Air Dry Out?
In summer, the air outside is warmer, and warmer air holds on to more moisture. When the temperature drops, so does the humidity, sometimes to uncomfortable levels. But that should mean that the heat in your house means higher humidity levels, right?
Wrong. Well, unless you have a humidifier as well.
If you have a heat pump, the heated air in your home is being drawn in from outside. The heat pump heats the air but doesn’t add any humidity. This process leaves you with dry air which, besides making you uncomfortable, can damage your home.
If you have a furnace, you are likely to experience lower humidity levels, but probably not on the same level as those with a heat pump. Where is the dry air coming from? Usually small leaks throughout your house. The air outside is dry and makes its way in through any number of cracks and crevices, although doors, windows, and attics are the biggest offenders.
Why Is Dry Air Bad?
The ideal humidity level for a comfortable home is somewhere between 40%-50%. Indoor winter air can drop well below this, depending on the outdoor conditions. The major downfall of dry air is the discomfort level. Most of us are familiar with dry skin and chapped lips from a drop in humidity, but some people can experience nosebleeds, itchiness, and eye irritation as well.
Get ready for a gross-out fact: that dry skin leads to more dust, which means more cleaning. You know who likes dead skin cells? Dust mites, which mean more allergy symptoms for some people.
Another problem with dry air is that it causes wear and tear on your home. Wood, for example, tends to warp when in high or low humidity conditions. For the sake of keeping your house in good shape, it’s a good idea to maintain a healthy humidity level in your home.
What Can You Do to Increase Humidity?
The first thing you can do is double check your home for drafts. Checking for drafts is as easy as lighting an incense stick. Turn off all fans and heating, then run the incense stick around doors and windows – when the smoke moves suddenly, it is likely due to a draft. When you find a draft, it’s time for some repair work. For windows and doors, some caulk usually does the trick.
Next, check your attic to make sure it is properly insulated. Insulation (especially the pink kind) does have a lifespan. If any damage has occurred over the past few years, or the insulation is especially old, it means it is time for an update. Better insulation is also helpful at reducing your home energy bills overall, so it shouldn’t be ignored as part of home maintenance.
Once you address the problem areas, consider a humidifier for your home. If you only have a few spaces that seem to have humidity issues, a portable humidifier might do the trick. A nice benefit is that these humidifiers often allow you to add essential oils to make your home smell amazing without the VOCs of candles or aerosol sprays. If your entire home needs help to maintain humidity, it might be worthwhile to install a whole-home humidifier that is attached to your HVAC system.
Whatever the cause, an HVAC technician helps you accurately pinpoint the problem and provide solutions that can work within your budget. If you have a humidity problem in your home, don’t suffer! Give us a call at (205) 871-8111 to schedule a consultation.