Just because the Lufkin and Nacogdoches area isn't as dry as some other parts of Texas, it doesn't mean we're immune to the problems caused by dry air. Especially during the winter, indoor humidity often drops low enough to cause noticeable issues. Installing a humidifier can help improve indoor air quality, keep you more comfortable, and protect your home from the damage caused by dry air.
Getting Indoor Humidity Right
The term "relative indoor humidity" refers to the amount of water vapor the air holds. The ideal varies depending on the outdoor temperature and ranges from as low as 35 percent in winter to 50 percent in summer. For most of the year, you'll want to maintain a humidity level of between 40 and 50 percent.
During winter, however, the humidity in many homes around the area drops to 25 percent or lower. This happens due to a combination of low outdoor temperatures and forced-air heating systems, such as furnaces and heat pumps, which blow the air around and speed up evaporation.
Even the Sahara desert reaches moisture levels higher than 25 percent, so it's understandable that air that's always this dry can cause quite a few problems. While chronic dry skin and frequent static shocks are an indication of humidity that's too low, a hygrometer will tell you for sure.
A hygrometer is an inexpensive device you can place in your home to get an accurate reading of the humidity level. If it's often lower than 35 percent, installing a humidifier can help improve indoor air quality by correcting your home's humidity levels.
Correct Humidity and Improve Your Quality of Life
When the air in your home is too dry, chances are you'll end up feeling pretty uncomfortable for much of the winter. Low humidity is more than just a nuisance, though. If ignored for too long, it can have serious consequences for your health and the condition of your home. The moisture produced by a humidifier helps prevent these problems.
- Stay healthier all winter - Dry air saps moisture from your body, potentially causing dry skin, dry eyes, and chapped lips. Nasal passages also lose moisture, impairing their ability to protect you from airborne germs and increasing the likelihood of nose bleeds. As if that wasn't bad enough, research suggests the flu virus lives longer in low humidity, giving it more opportunity to infect you when your defenses are low.Dry indoor air dries out and irritates the lining of the respiratory tract, meaning if you have asthma, you're likely to experience a chronic cough, especially at night, as well as more frequent asthma attacks. That's not only uncomfortable, but it also increases your risk of permanent airway damage.
With sufficient indoor humidity, your body retains its normal moisture level, keeping your healthier.
- Experience greater comfort - In addition to the health complaints dry air causes, it can also interfere with your basic comfort level. As dry air pulls moisture from your skin, it creates an evaporative cooling effect. This is exacerbated if you have air leaks around your home or an older heating system, both of which can create drafts.If this effect makes you feel just two degrees colder, you're likely to turn up the heat to get comfortable. A humidifier can help improve indoor air quality by adding enough moisture to prevent this cooling effect. If that lets you turn your heat down by 2 degrees, you stand to reduce heating bills by around 2 percent.
- Avoid static shocks - Dry air makes it harder for electrons to discharge, leading to an imbalance of electrons on the metal objects in your home. Touch one of those objects and the electrons discharge against your skin, causing a static shock. These shocks are not only painful, but they can also damage electronics. The clingy clothes and frizzy hair static causes makes it all the more annoying.
- Keep your home in good condition - Cracks in wood flooring and furniture, peeling wallpaper, and chipped plaster can all occur when dry air draws moisture out of these items. Paintings and wooden musical instruments can also sustain permanent damage in an excessively dry home. A humidifier can help improve indoor air quality enough to protect your belongings from this kind of damage.
Choose a Humidifier That Meets Your Needs
If you're seeing signs of low humidity and think a humidifier might help, learn a little about the options available before you start shopping around. First, you'll need to decide between a portable humidifier and a whole-house model. The choice depends largely on how much improvement your air quality needs, but there are several factors to consider.
- Range of effectiveness - If your dryness issues are limited to one room, a portable model may be sufficient. If you have dry air throughout your home, you'll benefit more from a whole-house model. A whole-house humidifier can help improve indoor air quality in all your rooms because it's installed inside the HVAC system and adds moisture to all air passing through.
- Purchase cost - While prices vary, a whole-house model may be cheaper to buy than a portable one. A whole-house humidifier uses the furnace's fan to distribute humidified air. A portable model needs its own built-in fan, which increases the cost of the device. In any case, buying a whole-house model is usually more cost-effective than buying two or more portable models.
- Set-up requirements - Setting up a portable model is as easy as filling the reservoir and plugging the device in. Installing a whole-house model means hiring a heating and cooling professional.
- Maintenance requirements - With a portable model, you'll need to fill the reservoir daily and clean the system approximately every other week, depending on its design. A whole-house model never needs filling because it draws water from your home's plumbing. In evaporator models, the wick needs to be replaced only at the end of the season.
Humidifier Types of Choose From
Once you've decided between a portable and whole-house model, you'll need to decide what type of humidifier you prefer. Any humidifier can help improve indoor air quality, but different types add moisture to the air in somewhat different ways.
- Cool mist evaporative - In these humidifiers, a foam wick absorbs water from a reservoir. The fan blows air through the wet wick, causing the air to pick up moisture. The wick must be kept clean to prevent mold and bacteria growth.
- Cool mist impeller - These humidifiers drip water over a screen. A constantly rotating disc propels water through the screen, creating a mist. As the fan blows air through the system, the air picks up this mist. More water-efficient than evaporative models, impeller models are a smart choice for limiting water consumption. They're also less prone to micoorganism growth.
- Steam - A steam humidifier generates heat that boils water, creating steam. A dispersion tube directs the steam into the air and the fan blows the now humidified air out into the duct system. Because the heat helps kill microorganisms, steam humidifiers are among the healthiest systems you can buy.
- Ultrasonic - These are available primarily in portable form. The brass diaphragm in these humidifiers produces high-frequency ultrasonic vibrations that break up water into a fine mist. Higher-end models don't use a fan, so they run quieter than most other humidifier models. They have a higher output than evaporative or impeller systems, making them ideal for very dry conditions. On the downside, they can produce a large amount of white dust from mineral deposits. Using distilled water solves this problem.
Could you use some professional guidance on resolving your indoor humidity and air quality issues? If so, get in touch with us at McWilliams & Son Heating & Air in the Lufkin and Nacogdoches area.