Everything You Need to Know About Home Humidifiers
When our furnaces kick in for a long Minnesota winter, so do our humidifiers. Our homes are becoming drier as the air gets cooler and we’re using our furnaces more regularly. Are you awaking in the morning with a scratchy throat or dry sinuses? Have you experienced some static shock when hitting the light switch? This is a result of humidity levels being too low in your home.
What is the right level of humidity for your home and what is the best way to humidify a home so that it’s comfortable, but not so much that you end up with moisture issues on the windows and mirrors?
The University of Minnesota has developed guidelines for the minimum recommended humidity levels for houses. Based on a 70ºF interior room temperature, and single-pane windows, engineering studies established the following guidelines:
20º to 40º
10º to 20ºF
0º to 10ºF
-10º to 0ºF
-20º to –10ºF
-20ºF or below
Not over 40%
Not over 35%
Not over 30%
Not over 25%
Not over 20%
Not over 15%
You have a few options for getting to and maintaining comfortable humidity levels in your home:
This is a common system that has a separate setting to adjust as the seasons change and the temperatures change. Make sure your humidistat is set at the proper levels (from the guidelines listed above). Be aware that this isn’t an exact science (and that double-pane windows can withstand higher humidity without forming condensation).
With the outside temps changing, you may have to fiddle with the setting based on your personal comfort levels, and that manual adjustment can be a challenge for some homeowners. Even from daytime to night, the outdoor temperature may swing enough to cause problems, but it’s not always practical to adjust the humidistat that often. That’s why automatic controls that regulate the humidity based on outdoor temperature are the way to go. Smart humidistats like the Carrier HumidiTrac, with a central (furnace mounted) humidifier, can even be adjusted to match the window quality – for maximum comfort without damaging the windows.
Carrier offers a bypass type humidifier, which is quite popular, but the furnace needs to be heating at the time to make the water evaporate.
For homes that need a lot of humidity and/or critical applications due to antique furniture and expensive hardwood floors, Carrier also offers the steam humidifier option. This system uses electrical energy to make steam – so it can generate full moisture output without the furnace heating. The downside is the electrical energy needed to make the steam does make a noticeable impact on the energy bill.
Maintaining these systems requires similar attention as your furnace, regular maintenance! The easiest thing to do is schedule seasonal check-ups, where a certified HVAC service provider will clean and check your unit and ensure that your home humidification system is working properly and efficiently.
Even with good systems in place, sometimes there are rooms in our homes that still feel too dry. You can boost the humidity levels in those rooms with room humidifiers that can be purchased at many hardware or home retail stores.
When choosing a room humidifier, consider the following:
- Use stand-alone, cool mist humidifiers and clean the cool mist humidifiers regularly!
- Don’t allow water to stand in the bottom of the unit, because that can create unhealthy microorganisms or bacteria, which get pumped back into the air.
- Also, when selecting a unit, consider the filter needs of that particular product and stock up early! Often times finding filters in the proper size can be an issue, as the long winter season drags on.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and change your filters regularly.
Occasionally the humidity levels become too high in a home, even in the winter. In that case, run the fan in the bathroom when showering, the exhaust fan in the kitchen when cooking, and see if those simple changes make a difference. If not, adjust your humidification system’s setting. You don’t want frosty condensation on your windows all winter – that can create a mold/mildew issue that you want to avoid if at all possible.
Maintaining the proper humidity level in your home requires some attention. But by doing so, you can have a comfortable home for the duration of the heating season. If you can get through the winter without dry cracked skin and static shock, you’ve done a good job!
For more energy saving and home comfort tips, visit StayComfyMinnesota.com! Stay Comfy, Minnesota is your Minnesota resource for air conditioning repair, furnace repair and HVAC tips and advice.