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Dry Air Problems: Taking Control of your Home Humidity

Dry Air Problems: Taking Control of your Home Humidity
Olivia Minnier
Content Writer

About This Article

In this article, we explore the issues caused by dry air in your home and ways to remedy the havoc it can cause on you and your house.

We all complain about the humidity levels in the summer months, but have you thought about the problems that might arise when the air in your home is too dry? Proper home humidification is one of the most ignored aspects that might be making your home uncomfortable.

Here are issues dry air can contribute to and solutions that can help remedy them:

Health problems caused by dry air

The mucous membranes inside your nose, however annoying they might become at times, are actually doing your body a massive service by preventing the spread of germs.  They catch dirt, dust, bacteria, and viruses before reaching your lungs. Or at least they do when they are genuinely moist. Dry winter air can cause the membranes to become ineffective. Dry air can also lead to serious illnesses such as bronchitis, aggravate sinusitis, and asthma.

Proper humidification can actually reduce your risk of illness. Additionally, many viruses tend to spread more easily and live longer in dry air.

Dry throats and nose

When the air dries out the membranes in your nose and throat,  it can be really uncomfortable. Your nasal passages get itchy and irritated and become very hard to deal with. In certain people, the result is frequent nose bleeds and painful sore throats that can be exceptionally bothersome at night when trying to sleep.

Dry Skin

When the humidity is too low, the air sucks the moisture out of your skin. This causes itching, flaking, painful cracking of the skin, and chapped lips. The dry air can also cause eczema and acne.

Static Electricity

No one enjoys these incredible experiences, including your pets. It's worse when the air is dry because the static electricity builds up instead of being dissipated by the moist air. When the buildup reaches a certain point, painful electric shocks occur when you touch doorknobs or other metal surfaces.

Humidity can cause Furniture and Structural Damage

All the wood in your home has some moisture in it. When the wood gets unusually dry during the winter, it will cause changes in the structure of your home. You might notice the floors will start to creak. The dry air also affects the frame of your home causing it to shrink slightly. Doors can become challenging to open and close. The dry air can also damage the things in your home. Wood furniture can bend and crack. Delicate musical instruments can go out of tune and be damaged. Hardwood floors and woodwork can warp and crack.

To help remedy these issues, we have a few solutions and tips we recommend.

Maintain Proper Home Humidity Levels

During the winter, your indoor humidity should be between 40% to 60% but can often drop to very low levels. The best way to fight back is with a whole-house humidifier. We feature the Aprilaire brand of humidifiers; we prefer Aprilaire because they’ve found ways to reduce the mineral deposits and build-up that can accumulate on your humidifier, causing it to work less effectively.

There are several types of humidifiers you might want to consider for your home:

Bypass Humidifiers

Bypass humidifiers use the airflow generated by your furnace - and more specifically, the blower fan in the air handler or furnace cabinet - to evaporate air.

A bypass humidifier sits on either the supply plenum or the return air drop area of your ductwork. Inside the humidifier, there is a panel. When there is a call for humidity from your system, the humidifier draws water and allows it to trickle down the panel.

The warm air from the furnace then blows over the panel, which causes the moisture droplets to evaporate. This evaporated air is then moved throughout your ductwork and home by the air supply coming from your system.

Bypass humidifiers get their name from the fact that they rely on the air from your system to pass through. As a result, it requires that your blower fan be on in order for the humidifier to do its job.

Power Humidifiers

Power humidifiers act similarly to bypass humidifiers, but they have their own fan inside of them. In this way, they facilitate the evaporation of air without needing air from the furnace or air handler to pass through.

Inside a power humidifier, you’ll find the same panel as you’d find inside a bypass humidifier, and water drips down this panel when there is a call for humidity.

The difference is that the internal fan in the power humidifier evaporates the water, and air channels on either side of the panel allow for a circular airflow within the unit. Once this evaporation takes place, the air travels through your ductwork system and into your home as usual.

For clarity, your air handler or furnace still needs to be running. The fan in the humidifier isn’t enough to get the moisture to travel through your entire home. But it does provide some extra power to facilitate airflow.

Home humidity control

Steam Humidifiers

Steam humidifiers have to boil water to create steam, as opposed to utilizing a fan or warm air from your furnace or air handler. A small pool of water in a steam humidifier will be heated to produce steam that travels through your ductwork and into your home.

There’s no panel like you’d find in a bypass or power humidifier. Still, there’s an additional electrical component in a steam humidifier that allows it to heat the water into steam.

Pros and Cons of Humidifier Styles

Aren’t all humidifiers the same since they accomplish essentially the same purpose? Well, not exactly. Each type doesn’t work for every kind of home either.

Yes, it is true that for certain homes, you could have any of the three types listed above, and each would work well. Sometimes, however, there is a valuable benefit to one that won’t be available with another.

It is all dependent on three factors: home size, hot water access, and maintenance.

Size of Your Home

Humidifiers have different sizes and power levels depending on the square footage of your home. You’d need more than one humidifier in larger homes since even the most potent whole-home units have limits.

If you have a large home (3,000+ square feet), you’ll almost certainly need a Power Humidifier or a Steam Humidifier. Their methods of creating moisture and transporting it are better equipped for larger homes. If you have a smaller space to keep comfortable, a Bypass Humidifier is generally the best option.

Access to Hot Water

As you might suspect, warm or hot water evaporates more quickly than cooler water. This means the humidifier needs access to a water supply such as a hot water tank.

If this water isn’t warm, you’d be better off with a bypass unit or a steam unit since these rely on other methods of heating the water. A Power unit will still produce humidity without hot water, but not at the same efficiency.

Maintenance Troubles

Technology has come a long way in recent years, so there isn’t a massive gap in reliability between the different types of humidifiers. However, steam humidifiers have had issues with mineral buildup in their water supply.

You’ve probably seen or heard about this with portable humidifiers, many of which use similar steam technology. However, if you’re not careful with cleaning, mildew and mineral deposits can build up.

In addition to installing a whole-home humidifier, there are other steps you can take to mitigate problems.

Yearly Maintenance of HVAC System

As with any HVAC product or issue, getting yearly, regularly scheduled maintenance on your system can keep it working properly and help avoid some of these issues. We can always check or answer questions about your indoor humidity levels and point you in the right direction towards any humidifier products should you need one.

At Fire and Ice, we offer maintenance plans that help you make sure your system is being taken care of on a regular schedule. Think of it like a doctor’s appointment, only for your HVAC system.

Duct Cleaning Services

Dry air can also cause a significant amount of dust and debris to accumulate inside your home, leading its way into the air ducts and vents of your HVAC system. At Fire and Ice, we recommend cleaning your air ducts every three years for the average home. If you have small children or pets, just purchased a home, or had any type of additions or construction done on your home, these are all excellent reasons to get one completed sooner.

Duct cleaning also kills the germs that get trapped when the air becomes drier, making you or your family sick. To learn more about our duct cleaning services, visit our article for information.

Don't put up with Dry Air

There are many ways to mitigate the dry air issues you may be facing inside your home, especially during the colder months. Call us if you're ready to make your home healthier, more comfortable, and protect it from damage and live in the Columbus, Ohio area. Check if you are in our service area using the zip code map below.

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