Get zapped by the cat? It might be time for a home humidifierChances are, the air in your house is too dry, which affects not only your home’s interior but your family’s health as well.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Have you ever walked across the living room in the winter and touched the cat, only to feel like you’ve been zapped by lighting? Is your wallpaper peeling up at the edges? Is your computer acting strangely? Are your hardwood floors pulling apart at the seams? Is it difficult to breathe through your nose?
Chances are, the air in your house is too dry, which affects not only your home’s interior but your family’s health as well.
“If I sleep without a humidifier running in the winter time,” related Linda
Erickson, owner of Erickson Hardware in Cloquet, “I wake up feeling like I have a throat full of cotton balls!”
Erickson said business has been brisk this winter for humidifier sales, since the cold, nearly snowless weather is making houses unusually dry.
According to houzz.com, the drop in temperature that accompanies winter sucks the moisture right out of the air. Add to that the drying effect of furnaces and other heating devices and you have the perfect formula for dry
skin and nasal passages that can cause nose bleeds, increased allergy and asthma symptoms, and increased chances for bronchitis and sinusitis, as well as dehydration, bacterial and viral growth, dry skin, static electricity that can harm electronics and damage to woodwork and wallpaper. Even pets and houseplants suffer, and dry air can cost money, too, by causing gaps in window and door frames, letting cold outdoor
air in and causing you to turn up the furnace still higher.
Essentially, humidity levels drop in the wintertime because cold air holds less moisture than warm air. Adding humidity to your home is the best way of combating all of the ill effects of dry air.
Erickson explained there are two types of home humidifiers to help bring humidity back into your home. She said the tabletop (or portable) humidifier is basically for apartments or individual rooms. They have a reservoir to hold water, and a wick absorbs the water while a fan blows the
moist air through a filter. As the air passes through the filter, it evaporates some of the water into the room.
She added that there is also a warm air version of the tabletop humidifier that uses a heating element to warm the water before dispersing it into the air. This type of humidifier heats the air slightly and needs to be cleaned more frequently to prevent buildup of mineral deposits.
A third type of tabletop humidifier, the steam vaporizer, turns the water into steam and with some models you can add medication into the air. This type runs the risk of steam burns, however, and must be used with caution, especially around children.
Erickson said the floor model humidifier is more like a piece of furniture and it will humidify one entire floor of your house. It works on much the same principle as the portable models.
Erickson advised that a special additive be added to the water to help prevent buildup in any type of humidifier, but there is also a cleaner to help take care of buildup if it should occur. There’s a whole line of filters for the devices and they should be changed as often as the need occurs.
“If you have your humidifier running constantly, it might need to be changed more often than if you only run it intermittently,” said Erickson. “All filters are white, so if you notice any sort of discoloration building up, it’s probably time to change it.”
Most experts suggest that filters be changed at least once a season (more often if you have hard water with a high mineral content) or if a humidifier hasn’t been used for an extended period of time.
Consistent maintenance helps not only to prevent mineral buildup but bacterial growth as well and it will prolong the life of your humidifier.
Humidifiers come in all sizes and capacities, and most feature adjustable controls.
“You can easily regulate how much humidity you put into the air,” said Erickson. “If you run it on high, chances are it will run 99 percent of the time. If you have it set on medium, it will run for a time and then shut itself off.”
She added that it’s a good idea to pick up a good quality humidity gauge to measure the humidity level in the house to make certain you don’t “over-humidify” your house, which can lead to its own set of problems.
Experts generally advise that a home’s ideal humidity should be kept at between 30 and 50 percent.
Humidifiers can be purchased at a wide range of retailers, from large discount stores to your neighborhood hardware store, which will sometimes offer to assist you in setting it up.
Another option to humidify your house is a wholehouse humidifier which is installed in the ductwork in conjunction with your furnace or heat pump.
Essentially, the heated air passes over an evaporator pad in the humidifier, absorbing moisture as it goes and distributing it throughout the house. A humidistat works with the system to help you regulate the humidity level in the home.
There are also a number of simplified, “low tech” methods to add humidity to the air, such as placing a pan of water on top of or next to a radiator or other heat source, hanging wet clothes up to dry inside the house or even venting your dryer duct into the house instead of outdoors.
Humidity can be your best friend or your worst foe. Keep the air in your house at an even moisture level throughout the winter. Your family — and your cat — will thank you for it.