ZAP! We’ve all felt those little shocks you get as you move around your home or touch something on a dry winter day. They are annoying, but also a sure sign that you need to pay attention to the moisture levels in your home. In this case, if you are feeling those shocks – the LACK of moisture in your home. Here are some easy steps for combating that dry air.
Seal Up From The Elements
Our resident expert, Minnesota Air technical support manager Keith Hill, says it’s really the outside air that dries out a home in winter, so it’s important to seal up the envelope of the home. That means you should be on the lookout for cracks in the foundation, gaps around windows or doors, and openings under your garage door.
“Cold air has little heat content, and it’s the heat energy that allows the air to hold water in a vapor form,” says Keith. “As the outside air enters the home through cracks and crevices (infiltration), it mixes with the indoor air and the humidity level drops. Reducing those air leaks will help maintain the humidity in the home.”
Beware Of The Fireplace
You may be tempted to light a cozy fire on a cold winter day, and that’s fine, but just know that if you have a wood-burning fireplace, the chimney could be working as an exhaust flue – even when not in use.
“Homes that have wood fireplaces can be very dry, particularly if the fireplace does not have well-sealed glass doors,” says Keith. “Many think that wood heat is hotter and that dries the home. It’s actually the open fireplace allowing warm air into the chimney, which essentially becomes an exhaust device.”
He says that when you’re not using the fireplace, the indoor air – which is warm and humid – tends to be drawn from the house continuously, and that puts the home into a negative pressure, which causes more outside air to come in and more of a drying effect.
“As a test, wrap plastic over the face of the fireplace – obviously do not fire it up during the test – and wait a day or so to see if the humidity level comes up,” says Keith.
Look For Ways To Balance Humidity
In the summer, there is more moisture in the air naturally. When it’s winter, moisture in our homes can be generated from the things we do inside, like cooking, showering, cleaning, etc. It’s when you are doing those everyday activities that you add more humidity to your home, Keith says.
“When the house is dry, it’s a good time to make some soup or bake some cookies,” he says. “If we need more, a humidifier can be used.”
Keith suggests getting a portable one or a central humidifier, which is connected to your ductwork, as a solution. The portable units are cheaper, but require more daily maintenance to change the water and clean the filter. They are also less controllable, and are more likely to spill accidentally, Keith says.
A central duct-mounted unit works automatically, and some are able to adjust humidity controls through the use of sensors that can be very precise. They also need a filter change, but not as often.
Take control of your home’s humidity, and you are taking control of your own comfort. If you’d like to read even more ways to combat dry air in your home, check out our other article on humidity issues.