One of the keys to keeping an HVAC system running at peak efficiency is proper humidity. Humidity is moisture in the air, and it affects how well the air conducts heat. Higher humidity makes hot air feel hotter and cold air feel colder. Too little humidity, and you start to experience dry, itchy skin. Read on to learn ways to achieve ideal home humidity in the winter.
Winter air naturally feels dry, and the response is often to over-humidify your space. All that moisture in the air will just make it feel colder, though, because it conducts heat away from your body more efficiently. Too much humidity can even saturate your clothes with moisture, causing you to be even more cold.
What you want, then, is to maintain just enough humidity to keep your skin from drying out and making you uncomfortable, without making the home so humid that it feels colder.
How to Achieve Ideal Home Humidity in the Winter
First you need to identify what your ideal home humidity is. This will be different for every home, and it depends on a lot of variables.
Your Home’s Insulation/Construction
The humidity in your home is almost never the same as the humidity outside. The difference between the two is determined by the construction of your home. The more ventilated a home is, the closer the indoor humidity will be to the outdoor humidity.
Conversely, the better insulated your home is, the bigger the difference between indoor and outdoor humidity will be. This is because a well-insulated home will need less air movement through the heating and cooling system to maintain your preferred temperature. Therefore, there is less air exchange between the inside of your home and the outside.
How Much Humidity Do You Generate?
Boiling lots of water, taking long hot showers or baths, or essentially anything else that uses hot water has to be factored in to your ideal humidity level. These things may seem trivial, but they all increase the humidity inside your home.
Cold air is dry air. Colder air is physically incapable of holding as much moisture as hot air. So, the colder the climate, the less humid it is and the more humidity you need to generate in your home.
A house in Alabama in winter will not need as much about humidity as a house in Montana, and neither will need as much as a house in Alaska.
Related to temperature to a degree, external humidity naturally has an effect on internal humidity. If you live on the coast or near a large body of water, you may find that you never have to worry about humidity in the winter. Or, you may find that your home is far too humid in winter. Meanwhile, if you live far from the ocean you may have much, much drier air and need to add humidity to it.
Finally, personal preference must be taken into account. Your preferred humidity and temperature is unique, and what you find comfortable may be unbearable for someone else. Remember that temperature has an effect on humidity. If you prefer a warmer home, you will naturally have a more humid home.
Home Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers
Once you have an idea of what your ideal home humidity is, you need to get the right equipment. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers are, unsurprisingly the best tools for adjusting the humidity in your home.
Humidifiers emit water vapor to add moisture to the air. Some do this by heating water to create steam, while others use ultrasonic sound to vaporize the water. Evaporators use a fan to blow air over a wet wick and evaporate the water into the air.
Most dehumidifiers work just like an air conditioner. They use a fan to pull air over a coil filled with refrigerant. The cold coils cause the moisture in the air to condense on the coil, thus lowering the humidity. Some dehumidifiers work by using a fan to pull air over a piece of material that absorbs water, but these are unusual.
The vast majority of humidifiers and dehumidifiers are small portable units. These have a number of advantages. First, they are very affordable, allowing anyone who needs to alter their home humidity to do so.
Second, they only affect one room at a time. Perhaps you are satisfied with the overall humidity in your home, but you have a child suffering from dry sinuses or a sore throat. A small portable humidifier in the child’s bedroom can alleviate those symptoms without making the entire house uncomfortable.
Finally, portable units make it easy to have both a humidifier and a dehumidifier, so that you can always adjust the humidity in whatever way you need.
You can also purchase central humidifiers and dehumidifiers that connect to your HVAC system. These are far more costly than the portable units, but they may be what you need.
A central unit affects the entire home at once. Usually, if you find the air in your home is too dry in the winter, the solution is a central humidifier, as it will humidify the air in your entire home. The same is true for dehumidifiers if you find the air too humid.
Because these are larger, more expensive units, you may have to choose between a humidifier and a dehumidifier. This is rarely a problem, though, as typical homes only need one or the other, not both.
You can still purchase portable units, if you need to adjust the levels in one room to be different from the rest of the house.
Central units are often the best choice for keeping an ideal humidity level in the home during the winter, since they can alter the humidity in the entire house. Choosing between a humidifier and dehumidifier is simple: if the air is too dry, you need a humidifier, if it is too humid (it will feel “clammy” if that is the case) you need a dehumidifier.
If you would like to discuss your ideal home humidity needs with a professional, or would like to find out more about home humidifiers, contact Presidential Heating and Air today. Our experts can help you determine which system is right for you, and they can have your home properly humidified in no time.