As winter hits, temperature isn’t the only thing that drops. If you deal with dry skin, scratchy throats or bloody noses, the humidity in your home may be too low.
Humidifiers can address these issues and more by increasing the amount of humidity in your home.
If you live in coastal regions, a humidifier may not be a good fit for your home. But if you live in dry climates or regions with moderate to severe winters, a humidifier could help tremendously.
In Central Ohio, a majority of my customers could benefit from a humidifier. My job as a Fire & Ice sales professional is to educate homeowners on how HVAC equipment like humidifiers can address their needs and preferences. After that, the decision is up to them.
In this article, we’ll discuss common issues dry winter air can create and how humidifiers can help. We’ll also go over the cost of different types of humidifiers.
What Is a Whole-Home Humidifier?
A whole-home humidifier, sometimes called a whole-house humidifier, is a system that adds moisture to the air in your home. This helps improve the relative humidity inside your home.
Relative humidity measures the percentage of moisture in the air compared to the amount of moisture it could hold at a specific temperature. As temperatures outside fall, relative humidity drops.
Because whole-home humidifiers connect to your existing HVAC system and ductwork, they can address issues caused by dry air throughout your home.
There are two reasons the air in your home gets drier in the winter:
- Cold weather - Cold weather means drier air. This can affect the humidity inside your home. During the winter, indoor relative humidity can drop below 30%, which increases virus transmission and other health hazards.
- Your furnace - That’s right. The equipment you rely on for warmth during the cold winter months also removes moisture from the air. This is why the most common way to install a humidifier is to connect it to your furnace. That way, when your furnace runs, your humidifier compensates for the moisture your furnace removes from the air.
Whole-home humidifiers can work with any HVAC system to add humidity to homes up to 4,200 square feet.
How Humidifiers Help During Winter
During the winter, humidifiers don’t just improve comfort. As the air in your home becomes drier, your health, home and possessions, and wallet can suffer.
Whole-home humidifiers can help prevent or decrease the effects of dry air, which can affect your health, comfort and home.
Prevent Health Issues
Humidifiers can prevent or soothe health-related issues that dry air causes. And bloody noses and scratchy throats are just the beginning.
Adding humidity to the air in your home cuts down on the transmission of viruses. In 2007, microbiologists from Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that transmission of the flu depended on two things: relative humidity and temperature.
Their research revealed that the flu virus was significantly less likely to transmit in 68 degrees or warmer with a relative humidity of 50% or more.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) found that the ideal range for indoor humidity is between 30-60%. This range covers both comfort and health concerns.
According to ASHRAE, keeping your home at 30-60% humidity can help with the following issues:
- Respiratory infections
- Allergic rhinitis and asthma
- Ozone production
Adding more humidity to your home in the winter can also help with dry skin and eyes, scratchy throats, and bloody noses.
Improve Comfort and Efficiency
I’m from Scottsdale, Arizona, where you can go outside in jeans and a hoodie in 70-degree weather. But when it’s 70 degrees in Florida, for example, you want as few layers as possible. The main difference: humidity.
Humidity makes a difference inside your home too.
Humid air holds more heat. This is especially valuable if you just can’t get warm, no matter how much you crank up the heat.
Sure, you can stay warm at home by putting on a few sweaters and piling on blankets. But when you add a humidifier to your system, you can hold onto more of the heat your furnace produces.
This helps your furnace out in a couple of ways:
- Your furnace doesn’t have to work as hard to heat your home. This reduces the wear and tear on your furnace, which can improve its life expectancy.
- Your system can do its job more efficiently. This means that your system won’t use as much fuel to heat your home, which can save you money on energy costs.
Protect Your Home and Possessions
You’ve invested a lot of time, money and effort in your home. Humidifiers can help protect those investments.
Dry air can damage the wood in your home. This includes hardwood floors, wooden furniture, woodwork, or musical instruments like guitars or violins.
In fact, your hardwood floors perform best in 30% - 50% relative humidity. And in some cases, hardwood floor manufacturers may require you to install a humidifier to validate your warranty.
Dry air can also increase static electricity. Although it may seem more annoying than anything, static electricity can damage electronic devices.
Choosing the Right Humidifier
While it’s possible to install a humidifier yourself, you may not be able to determine which humidifier is best for your home.
There are three types of whole-home humidifiers:
- Steam humidifiers
- Powered humidifiers
- Bypass humidifiers
The type of humidifier your home needs depends on how “tight” your home is.
When we talk about a home’s tightness in HVAC, we’re referring to the amount of air leakage and heat loss/gain your home has. To evaluate this, we typically look at the size and condition of your windows and doors.
If you have a “tight” home, you have minimal to no air leakage. If you have a “loose” home, you have excessive air leakage. An “average” home falls somewhere in between.
Bypass humidifiers work with your furnace’s blower fan to evaporate air.
Bypass humidifiers can work well in tight to average homes, depending on the size of your home.
Power humidifiers operate similarly to bypass humidifiers except they have their own fan, which allows them to create their own airflow. However, power humidifiers do still rely on your blower motor to distribute moisture throughout your home.
Power humidifiers can work well in homes that are average to loose, depending on their size.
Steam humidifiers boil water to create steam, which then travels throughout your home through your ductwork.
Steam humidifiers can work well in a variety of homes. But they’re generally used as an alternative when bypass and powered humidifiers are less practical. Steam humidifiers may make sense to use in attics, crawl spaces and closets.
How Much Does a Humidifier Cost?
Whole-home humidifiers start around $600 when installed by a trained HVAC professional. This includes labor and other fees.
There are cheaper ways to add humidity to your home, though.
Portable humidifiers can be a quick fix for humidity issues. Portable humidifiers can cost between $11 - $100, depending on the brand, size and type you choose. You can find them at many chain superstores and hardware stores.
Portable humidifiers can only address humidity issues in single rooms or small areas, though. This can be a great solution if you’re just looking to add a little more humidity here and there.
But if you have issues with dry air throughout your home, portable humidifiers probably aren’t the most efficient or cost-effective solution. Portable humidifiers typically aren’t as energy efficient as whole-home humidifiers, which could mean that you’re paying more to address the problem in a fraction of your home.
If you have issues with dryness in your home, your HVAC partner should be able to help you find a solution.
If you live in Central Ohio and you’d like to discuss solutions to dryness like a humidifier, we’d love to help!
At Fire & Ice, we focus on solving the comfort issues that matter the most to you. To learn more about our process, check out this article on what we call comfort concerns.
If you’re ready to talk with a comfort specialist, enter your zip code below to get started. We look forward to speaking with you!
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