This article was contributed by Cates Heating and Cooling in Lenexa, Kansas.
Many events signify the arrival of winter. Frosty mornings, cozy sweaters, and hot chocolate are the good ones. Static electricity, itchy skin, and dry throats are not so good. In fact, the three latter items can cause discomfort throughout the day, especially while sleeping.
A Lack of Humidity
The reason for these issues is a lack of humidity around the home. Not only does the moisture content of the atmosphere decrease during this time but the air in the home does as well once the heater is powered up for the season. If there are no mechanisms within the home to control humidity levels, the interior environment will remain arid even when it’s snowing outside.
What can Cause this Shift in Moisture?
Performance of the heating unit (HVAC) is one factor in this shift. Without a built-in humidifier, the air pushed out of the vents is dry. Mixed with the heat from cooking appliances, portions of your home can be as hot and parched as Death Valley.
The weather is also a factor. Though it might be 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the percentage of water vapor that is the total moisture contained in the air, known as the relative humidity, may be non-existent.
Ventilation is another consideration. Should ducts and filters be dirty, needed moisture may not be able to be pushed through the house. If the heat is pushed back toward the HVAC unit it can cause quicker wear to its parts.
Finding the Right Humidity Levels – Too Low
The solution is finding a comfortable relative humidity for the inside of your home. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends keeping the relative humidity at around 40 percent or under during the winter months.
However, if you go too low, this is when you end up with conditions connected to dry air. In addition to an increase in static electricity, your wood furniture can start to crack and you may see an increase of dust mites.
The biggest effects will be seen and felt on your body. Your skin and eyes may become dry and itchy while your lips start to chap. You could experience above average nose bleeds and throat issues. And, since cold & flu viruses operate better in dry environments, you or your family members might show symptoms of these ailments.
Finding the Right Humidity Levels – Too High
There are cases where there’s too much moisture inside your home. When this happens, it may feel somewhat muggy, even if it’s dry as a bone outside. You may start to see areas of mold in the unventilated areas of your home or notice a musty odor. Furthermore, if the mold isn’t taken care of immediately, it can lead to allergic reactions or illness.
High humidity levels may also start damaging your home’s interior. In addition to condensation on the inside of your windows, there may be areas where wallpaper begins to peel or paint blisters. Water stains can form in various areas due to excess condensation. If the accumulate on wood floors it can result in cupping.
Getting it Right
To set the proper humidity levels for an easy-going winter season, consider these factors.
- Make sure your gutters are clear for proper drainage flow. Clogged lines and downspouts can lead to moisture build up in all areas of the home.
- Have your heater serviced and your vents cleaned before colder weather arrives.
- Consider the installation of a furnace humidifier. This moistens the heated air before it gets distributed through your duct system.
- If you decide against installation of the furnace humidifier, place portable versions around your home, particularly in bedrooms. Read all safety instructions prior to the installation.
- Try to keep your thermostat below 70 degrees. Higher temperatures will dry the environment much quicker.
Overall, don’t wait until the first series of brutally cold nights to get things ready. The sooner you prepare, the better you’ll feel over the next few months.