We have all been in homes in winter months, perhaps our own, when we feel a bit colder than the temperature seems to indicate. The wood joints have opened up in the mouldings, doors, cabinets and furniture. Interior doors and cabinet doors don't quite close or lock as they did a few months ago. We generally shock one-another or objects when we touch them. Our skin gets rough and itchy, our eyes are irritated and our throats and noses are dry. Those homes are begging for more humidity. Winter dries everything out in a home because the relative humidity is low and our furnaces are blasting hot air needing a healthy dose of water vapor.
A given volume of air can contain a fixed amount of water, but when that same volume of air is heated up it can contain a greater amount of water. So when our furnaces crank out heat in the winter, the potential amount of water contained in the air is increased. If we don't add water vapor to the heated air the relative humidity goes down and we feel cold. Our bodies are very sensitive to relative humidity. A temperature with only 10% relative humidity feels colder to us that the same temperature with 45% relative humidity. For example a heat index table tells us that a 70 degree temperature with 10% relative humidity feel like 65 degrees, but if we increase the relative humidity to 40% it feels like 68 degrees. That is a 3 degree increase in comfort by just adding water to the air!
With that in mind, we need to ensure we give our homes the ability to add humidity properly. One should carefully evaluate whole-house humidifiers in a new home or renovation. Humidification is not always one of the top boxes to check in a home project but one should know the benefits and work diligently to include the proper equipment. A typical evaporative humidifier is attached to the ductwork near the furnace as shown in the adjacent photo on the right. These humidifiers are effective but require periodic maintenance because they remove particulates and minerals from the water. These evaporative humidifiers are used in the vast majority of homes in the Washington, DC area, and perhaps nationwide, but there are other cost-effective options.
I prefer a steam humidifier (shown in the photo on the left and installed by Tri-State Home Services) which is dedicated to a zone or individual furnace in a home. These steam humidifiers are incredibly effective and have the ablity to increase the relative humidity measurably in a home.
Steam humidifiers , as opposed to units that operate by evaporation, have several advantages including lower water consumption, much higher capacity, and increased flexibility in installation. While a typical humidifier might have a capacity of 8-12 gallons per day, depending on how much the furnace runs, Residential Steam Humidifiers can have capacities of as much as 50 gallons per day, independent of the furnace operation.
Steam Humidifiers operate by heating a container of water causing steam to be formed, which is then distributed into the home. Most units can be mounted directly onto the ducting like standard humidifiers, and in the case of units like the Honeywell TrueSTEAM or the GeneralAire Elite Series they can be mounted remotely with the steam delivered to the forced air duct system via a hose, with a nozzle installed in the duct system.
Humidity is important to your home and your health in the winter months. Make sure you consult with your building professional or your trusted Heating and Air Conditioning contractor. I have several that I recommend - feel free to contact me.
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This article was posted in Quality, New Homes, Heating & Air Conditioning and tagged with Quality, humidity, humidifiers, healthy home, Heating & Air Conditioning