With all of the wonders and beauty that Utah has, cold winter climate brings some indoor health challenges. Firing up your furnace to keep warm brings chapped lips, dry itchy skin, dry brittle hair, dry eyes, respiratory issues, nosebleeds, and cracked woodwork. Consider this: The humidity level in the Sahara desert averages 25% according to newsok.com. Most homes are “somewhere between 13 percent and 15 percent.” Sentimental furniture, antiques, pianos, and other items in your home can experience long-term damage from a lack of humidity. Fortunately, there is a way to combat the lack of indoor moisture. The solution is a whole house humidifier.
Having lived in Utah for many years, this author can attest to the nosebleeds and extremely dry eyes as a result of a lack of humidity. Prior to living in Utah, I had never before had an issue where my eyes would become so dry that I could barely open them–eye drops to the rescue. I wish I had known then the importance of having a humidifier, and knowing which lotion actually worked for dry skin (which by the way is Heel Rescue Superior Moisturizing Foot Cream–in case you are wondering, and yes, it works great on hands).
What does a humidifier do?
A humidifier adds moisture back into the air through cool mist or steam. Based on our professional testing using an instrument called a hygrometer (measures humidity in the air), the average humidity reading out of 25 different homes was less than 5%! That is almost 5 times DRIER than the Sahara desert!
There are many options for humidifiers to get moisture back into the air. From small countertop units, to heavy and bulky single room humidifiers, to whole house humidifiers. A whole house humidifier makes keeping moisture in the air simple. Once it is installed, you just set the humidity level based on the outside temperature and it goes to work 24/7 automatically. A whole house humidifier doesn’t require the constant attendance and cleaning of a portable humidifier. That means, for a lot of people, they will actually use it. Portable humidifiers require weekly cleaning in order to avoid bacteria growth.
Getting the moisture level in your home right with a whole house humidifier has great health benefits. The cold medicine manufacturer Vicks, referenced a study that found “that keeping indoor air at a Relative Humidity level of 40-60% reduces the survival of flu viruses on surfaces and in the air.” Oddly, a dry environment allows the flu virus to live longer, which emphasizes the importance of making sure that your home’s moisture level is in the optimal range.
Benefits of a whole house humidifier:
There are many benefits to having a whole home humidifier installed over having to manage a portable room humidifier. Some of those benefits include:
- Having control of the humidity throughout your entire home.
- Healthier homes during the winter months when you are typically cooped up indoors
- Protection of valuable wood items in your home, including floors, furniture, etc.
- On average, only needing to be maintained once per heating season (check your maintenance guide for your specific model requirements) rather than every week with a portable unit.
- They have a direct water line, eliminating the task of having to frequently fill the humidifier manually.
- It is more likely to be used if you don’t have to constantly maintain it or remember to turn it on.
What to know:
Whole house humidifiers do need to have a yearly maintenance done, which most homeowners are able to do themselves. You’ll need to check the recommendations of your particular humidifier. A simple cleaning and replacement of the humidifier pad are typically recommended once per heating season. If you have a steam humidifier, we recommend having a professional from Black Diamond Experts perform the maintenance as these devices can be very hot and usually require that the canister (steam producing tank) and probes be replaced annually.
Mineral from the water can build-up in humidifiers as scale deposits over time making your humidifier less efficient. Following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and replacing the water pad will keep your humidifier running properly.
Monitor the Humidity Levels
It’s also important not to over humidifier your home. Too much humidity can lead to mold growth. Signs of too much humidity would include condensation on the windows or the appearance of fog on the windows or glass. Some humidifiers come with humidistats which tell you the level of humidity in your home. A standalone humidistat can also be purchased for under $20 at Amazon.com.
Types of Whole House Humidifiers
There are several types of whole house humidifiers on the market. The three most common are the bypass whole house humidifier, fan powered humidifier, and steam humidifier.
Bypass Whole House Humidifiers
Bypass humidifiers work by circulating air from the furnace through a water-soaked medium or pad. This moisturized air is then recirculated into the air ducts and dispersed through your home.
This method isn’t as efficient as a fan powered humidifier as some of the humidity is lost in the process of the air being recirculated through the furnace. Some heat is also lost in the process of warming the water vapor. Bypass humidifiers are quieter to run than fan powered models. They also have less moving parts, which means less opportunity for breakdowns. Bypass humidifiers require the furnace to be on to run because it is dependent on the furnace fan. You’ll also need to remember to open the damper when you are using the humidifier during the heating season and close it during the Summer months when you turn off the humidifier.
Fan Powered Whole House Humidifiers
Fan powered humidifiers work the same way as bypass humidifiers but have their own fans to blow the air across the water soaked medium or pad. A fan powered humidifier is able to produce a gallon more humidity per day than a bypass humidifier.
Steam humidifiers use an electric heating element to heat a canister of water to generate steam. That steam is shot into the plenum of the furnace and distributed to the rest of the house. Steam humidifiers can be more efficient than fan powered or bypass humidifiers because it generates its own heat. The use of steam also helps to prevent bacteria growth. Steam humidifiers cost more initially and to operate than bypass humidifiers.
If you are ready to end the dryness woes of winter heating, give the technicians at Black Diamond Experts a call.