The Importance of Humidifiers During the Winter
by Frank Jovine
In most areas of the country winter is the season for turning on the furnace to heat your home. Whether you have a gas or electric furnace the process of heating the air removes much needed humidity and dries out the air inside your home. We all know the benefits of having our furnace in good working order; however, many home owners do not fully understand the need and benefits of installing a humidifier.
Benefits of Humidifiers:
A significant contributor to respiratory infections is inadequate humidification during cold weather. Winter weather is blamed for these problems; however, the actual cause may be a lack of humidity in your home which results in the membranes of the nose, throat and bronchial tubes drying out and becoming irritated. Humidifiers provide the following health and home benefits:
- Keep the mucus membranes of your throat and nasal passages moist allowing the tiny hairs (cilia) in both to work at expelling foreign objects such as mold, pet dander and bacteria.
- Reduce susceptibility and/or symptoms related to respiratory infection, asthma, hay fever, cold and flu
- Moisturizes the respiratory system allowing for easier breathing and more comfortable sleep – reduces likelihood of nose bleeds and snoring
- Helps soothe dry itchy skin, throats and coughs (avoid dehydration)
- Reduce static electricity which may cause problems with electronic equipment
- Hydrates wood floors, woodwork, furniture, musical instruments and house plants. Low humidity levels have an enormous impact on wood products. Lack of humidity can cause cracking/buckling in hardwood floors. Low humidity levels can also damage musical instruments such as pianos, violins, and the like.
- Reduced heating bills (savings yielded by turning down the thermostat are slightly offset by the cost of running/maintaining the humidifier). Dry air makes you feel colder than humidified air. If you have the temperature at 69 degrees Fahrenheit at 35% relative humidity, it feels just as warm as 72 degrees Fahrenheit at 19% relative humidity. You have the ability to turn your thermostat from 72 to 69, but you still feel just as warm. So ultimately, that calculates into energy savings.
There are two basic types of humidifiers on the market today: console/room (meant to humidify a single room) and whole-house units (humidify the entire house). Of the two, a whole-house humidifier is the best option if you are able to install one to your existing forced air central heating system (ServiceLive can help with the install). Console, or single room, humidifiers are available for those that do not have the option of going with a whole-house unit (these are best placed in bedrooms if you cannot afford to purchase one for every room).
Whole-house humidifiers are the most recommended for many reasons. The first being lower maintenance. Because of lower water requirements, a whole house humidifier can generally run for eight to twelve weeks depending on the hardness of your water before needing a thorough cleaning and filter replacement. Console/room humidifiers, on the other hand, need to be refilled daily and may need to be cleaned out weekly during the season to remove any mold and bacteria build up.
While many console/room humidifiers are sold stating they are full house, few live up to that expectation. The general rule of thumb is to look at the manufacturer’s statement of square footage served and cut that in half. This is another reason the whole-house humidifiers are a better bargain. Since they are attached to the existing heating system, they do indeed circulate moisture through the entire house using the existing furnace duct-work. Console/room humidifiers use a small fan to disperse the water into the air.
About the author: Frank Jovine