When winter's arctic air moves in, Ontarians from Windsor to Fort Severn crank up the heat and stay inside. But after a while, do your stairs squeak or is there a sudden bounce in your home's floor? Do the joints on old wooden furniture feel loose? Are you getting shocked when you touch a door knob? Do you notice your throat feels scratchy or your sinuses feel raw?
With people spending 90% of their time indoors, maintaining indoor air quality is a modern necessity. The problem with heating homes and offices is that it can dry out the air to the point where it pulls moisture out of everything. Structural beams and posts can shrink and wander out of position, causing your floors to sag. Beautiful hardwood floors, molding, and valuable heirloom antiques can be ruined by low indoor humidity. Dry indoor air also increases the build up of static electricity. That same phenomena that causes makes hair frizz out and jolts you when you touch a door knob can also damage sensitive electronic gadgets and computer components.
Dry indoor air not only makes you feel uncomfortable but it can also make you sick. Breathing passages in your nose and lungs can dry out, causing irritation that can easily lead to nose bleeds, sinus infections, and dry eye. Also, people tend not to feel thirsty during cold weather and so don't drink as much water as when temperatures are warmer. Consequently, all that dry indoor air is constantly drawing moisture from your body. This can lead to chronic low-level dehydration that can reduce your productivity with dry skin, fatigue, head aches, mind fog, and joint pain.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC) can circulate humid air throughout your home or office to eliminate all these potential problems. The trick is to choose the most effective humidifier. While portable humidifiers offer an inexpensive solution, they are best suited for single room use and are too small to effectively humidify an entire home. Even if your HVAC system can pull some of that humidity out and circulate it, chance are good that most of moisture will remain in one room. Portable humidifiers are smaller, requiring frequent filling and frequent cleaning. Their smaller motors are also made for shorter periods of continual use and consequently can have a more limited lifespan.
Controlling how high the humidity goes is an important factor as well. If your humidifier is unable to self-regulate its output, it can make the air too humid. When humidity levels get above 55%-60%, the moisture in the air can cause condensation problems as well as spread mold and mildew.
Maintaining the humidity in your home at about 35-45% avoids all these problems. The easiest and most effective way is to use a whole-house bypass humidifier that monitors and controls your home's relative humidity. A typical whole-house bypass humidifier is fitted over a hole cut into the return air duct. The humidifier holds a pad or similar wicking media over the hole (other types include misting and ultrasonic humidifiers). A small water line from the plumbing system brings water to moisten the pad. Water flow is regulated by a low-voltage electronic valve and a humidistat that measures and maintains the relative humidity according to the user's control settings. A short air duct from the supply side (near the plenum) brings warmed air into the humidifier. The warmed air flows through the pad and into the return duct, carrying the moisture throughout the home.
A whole-house bypass humidifier fitted onto a HVAC forced air system can evaporate large amounts of moisture into the air (sometimes between 12 to 17 gallons of water per day) and circulate it throughout your entire home. Systems like this run automatically all the while effectively maintaining the relative humidity in the best comfort range.
While humidifiers don't actually make a room warm, water vapor holds more heat than dry air. As imperceptible as it seems, you can actually feel that heat on your skin. If you feel warm and comfortable, you can save money by turning down your thermostat by an extra 1 or 2 degrees. Reducing your thermostat by 1 degree over 8 hours saves 1% on your heating bills.
Humidifiers should have yearly maintenance to keep them functioning. For example, this can mean cleaning lime-scaling from the wicking media, replacing worn out wicking media, or de-scaling misting nozzles. The best time is before heating season begins in autumn right when you have a professional furnace maintenance visit by Direct Energy.