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How to Humidify Your Home in Winter

Tips, Tricks and Humidifier Know-how

If your home is warmed by a forced-air furnace, you will want to invest in a humidifier (or two). Why? Dry winter air is hard on homes, hard on pets and plants, and most importantly, hard on people. Add a little humidity and you’ll bring added comfort to your home this winter.

Many notice their skin, hands and scalp get drier in winter. Along with that can come sore throats, aggravated asthma symptoms, dust allergies, and even nosebleeds for some. Homeowners have many humidification options available to them, so let’s discuss the common ones to see what scenario might be right for your home and lifestyle.

Furnace Humidifiers

Furnace humidifiers work in conjunction with your furnace. They are often bread-box-sized units that attach to your furnace. As air is blown through the humidifier, it picks up humidity, which is carried through your ductwork to the different rooms of your home. These humidifiers typically require a small plastic waterline in to deliver water and a larger drain hose out. Installation can be a DIY project depending on your skills or a quick and easy job performed by a professional.

The pros of a furnace humidifier are that it delivers moist air throughout the whole house; it only runs when your furnace runs, saving energy when compared to a humidifier that runs 24/7; and it saves table and counter space as it’s in the basement. Another plus is that moist air feels warmer in winter, so you might be able to keep the thermostat lower than if you didn’t humidify. For those who don’t want to lug water every day, these fit the bill as they don’t require filling.

Types of Furnace Humidifiers

Steam humidifers: produce either a warm or cool mist and require a small amount of electricity. Their main advantage is that they won’t cause mold.

Flow through humidifiers: expose warm furnace air to water, which evaporates and humidifies the air. These units have filters that need to be cleaned or replaced regularly. There is little chance of mold.

Drum humidifiers: have a rotating filter that sits in a pan of water. This type requires regular cleaning and maintenance or else scale could stop the drum from turning and mold can grow in the pan. Its advantage is that it’s affordable and easy to install on virtually any furnace.

Not sure which type to get? Call WeatherMakers, and we’ll send out a certified technician to assess your home and suggest the best options for you to consider.

Stand-Alone Humidifiers

These humidifiers occupy the main living spaces of your home. They can be large floor-based units, or smaller vaporizers that sit on your nightstand. Their advantages are that they are portable, easy to use and fairly affordable.

Steam vaporizers: you remember this one from childhood. It hissed a visible plume of steam into your bedroom, and sometimes your parents added cold medicine to it. Tried and true, but best used around adults as the steam is hot.

Mist humidifiers: operate on the same principle as the vaporizer but emit cool or warm mist only. They’re safe to use around children.

Impeller types: spray water at a screen that breaks the water into a fine mist. Evaporative types use a wick (filter, sheet) soaked with water to gently humidify the air. Ultrasonic humidifiers also fall into this category.

Console Humidifiers: these are large units that can humidify an entire house–some units reach up to 4,500 square feet. They are loud, require a lot of water and work very well in homes built on one or two levels. Some can be installed to work along with your furnace.

Combo Units: a humidifier puts moisture in the air, and a purifier takes out the pollutants and odours. Some brands combine the two, but unless you buy top units, they might not work as well as you hope.

What’s the Right Humidity Level for Your Home?

Wood floors and furniture benefit from a humidity level of at least 35% to prevent splitting along the grain. People tend to benefit from humidity levels between 35% and 45%. Anything higher and you risk mold and condensation on windows and window sashes when temperatures drop as cold air can’t hold as much water as warm air.

If you suspect your home is too humid, call an HVAC technician who will bring a hygrometer to accurately measure the humidity in your home. If you suspect mold in your ductwork, a UV purification system will help eliminate the problem. Cleaning your ductwork can help as well.

Signs Your Air Is Too Dry

  • Static electricity
  • Droopy plants
  • Chapped lips
  • Splitting wood on furniture, floors, musical instruments and cooking utensils
  • Sore throat
  • Dry skin

DIY Home Humidification Tricks

  • Bunch houseplants in living spaces–they’ll release water into the air
  • Hang your clothes to dry and they’ll release water into the air
  • Shower with the door open
  • Set water jugs or vases in the sun to evaporate the water
  • Boil water on the stove while cooking dinner

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