Whether summer or winter, humidity plays a big role in your indoor air quality. Too much humidity in summer leaves us feeling hot and sticky. But too little in winter makes us feel colder and the dry air can contribute to irritations like dry skin and nasal passages. Really low humidity can even dry out wood floors and furniture enough to cause cracking. So, here are some easy ways to avoid dry air in your home.
Why Your Home is Drier in Winter
Most homes “dry out” in the winter as the air outside gets colder and drier. When cold air enters your home, it automatically causes a drying effect because it can’t hold much moisture to begin with. Then, when it heats up inside your home and mixes with the warm air already there, your moisture level can plummet. For example, if outside air at 35° and 100% relative humidity enters your home and is heated to 70°, its humidity level drops way down to 28%. As it mixes in with the indoor air it will dry out your home in a hurry! And the colder the outside air, the more dramatic the drop in humidity will be. So, how dry your home becomes is actually a matter of how much outside air sneaks into your home: a leaky home will dry out faster than a well-sealed home.
Balancing Your Home’s Humidity
It would be ideal to maintain a 40% relative humidity in your home, regardless of outside temperatures. Our furnishings and our bodies would sure appreciate it. But it gets tricky in a Minnesota winter because too much humidity can also cause windows to “sweat.” If not kept in check, that excess moisture will damage windows and woodwork, and can even cause mold issues.
Unfortunately, a 40% relative humidity indoors will cause condensation to form on most windows when it’s subzero outside. Some windows can even sweat at 10° or 15°. So the trick is to maintain as high of a humidity level as possible without condensation forming on your windows. The big variable there is the age and construction of the windows themselves, which can vary greatly. It becomes a matter of adjusting the indoor humidity as outdoor temperatures change.
Humidifiers Are the Answer
The easiest way to adjust your home’s humidity is to install a humidifier. There are two basic types: portable and central duct mounted units.
- Portable humidifiers are less expensive and can be moved from room to room depending on your needs. However, they can also be a hassle to run and can only distribute humidity locally.
- Central duct mounted humidifiers, however, distribute humidity evenly throughout your home. Plus, these units are nearly maintenance-free and convenient to operate. They have controls that take the guesswork out of the periodic adjustments you may need to change humidity levels with changing outdoor temperatures. Some premier thermostats, like Carrier’s Côr and Infinity Series Controls, even have those controls built right in. Contact your heating professional to discuss adding a central duct mounted humidifier to your system.