The six problems caused by dry air, and how to combat them.
As the cold weather moves in, humidity levels naturally drop. That’s because cold air can’t hold as much moisture as warm air. Ideal indoor humidity during winter should hover around 45 percent. But dry winter air can cause your humidity to drop substantially, to levels of 15 percent or less. With this humidity imbalance come a number of potential problems that can affect your health, your home and especially your comfort.
Problem 1: Dry air and disease prevention
The upper part of your respiratory system, including your throat and nose, is lined with moist membranes. These membranes serve to capture dirt, dust, viruses and bacteria before they reach your lungs. When these membranes lose too much moisture to dry air, their ability to capture particles becomes compromised.
Proper humidity levels help these membranes do their job preventing harmful particles from getting into the sensitive areas of your lungs. So if you take steps to keep the right amount of moisture in your air, you can actually reduce your risk of illness.
Problem 2: Dry air isn’t good for your nose
In some individuals, particularly dry air can cause another uncomfortable and unpleasant symptom: itchy, uncomfortable nasal passages. Because the majority of breathing is done through the nose, low humidity levels can cause the inside of the nose to become dry and irritated. This is not only painful, it can cause nosebleeds. But properly humidified air keeps the nasal passages healthy and comfortable with every breath.
Problem 3: Low humidity hurts your skin
Your skin is over half water. So when the air lacks humidity, your skin will start to dry out. This can cause itching, flaking, and tightness around the joints. It can also cause painful cracking of the skin, and chapped lips. Overly dry air can also cause flare-ups of existing skin problems, including eczema and acne. But humidified air can help keep your skin feeling great throughout even the harshest Canadian winter.
Problem 4: Static electricity
When air is properly humidified, the static electricity in your home is naturally dissipated. However, when the air is too dry, this static electricity begins to build up. This can cause blankets and clothes to stick together. And, more noticeably, it can cause painful electric shocks every time you touch a doorknob or another metal surface.
When air has enough moisture in it, the electricity is dissipated before it can build up. So you don’t feel the shocks, and you have no problem making the bed or folding the laundry.
Problem 5: Damage to your home
Dry air tries to absorb moisture wherever it can find it. This means that during cold winter weather, dry air can start to pull moisture from the structure of your home. As your house dries out, you’ll notice that floors, particularly hardwood floors, will begin to creak more.
Dry air can also pull moisture from the wood in the frame of your home, causing walls and door jambs to shift. This can make doors hard to open and close, and cause gaps between ceilings and walls. These gaps can also form in windows that are made entirely of wood. This lets in cold winter air, thereby increasing the cost of your heating bill.
Problem 6: Damage to your furnishings
As the air in your home becomes more dry, it can start to damage not only your home, but the things in it. Wood furniture can start to bend and even crack. Musical instruments can lose their shape and their tune. Even paper items such as books and artwork can become brittle, warped and wrinkled.
Fighting dry air
If you’d like to avoid the misery, inconvenience and damage of dry air, there are two types of whole-home humidifiers available to you. Each will help alleviate the issues caused by dry air. And unlike portable humidifiers that only restore moisture in one room, whole-home humidifiers help preserve comfort and healthier air in every room.
A bypass humidifier is one that uses the airflow created by your furnace or air handler to deliver moisture through your home. Bypass humidifiers typically mount out of sight in the basement or attic, and require very little maintenance.
The bypass humidifier can add 12-17 gallons of moisture to the air flowing through your ducts every day. It also includes optional automatic humidity controls that regulate the water it adds to the air based on your settings. So you can specify the indoor humidity you’d prefer, to fine-tune your comfort.
Unlike bypass humidifiers that require a furnace or air handler to circulate moisture, a power humidifier is one that uses its own electric fan to deliver moist air throughout your home. The power humidifier can add up to 18 gallons of moisture to your air every day.
Because it uses its own powerful fan, the power humidifier can humidify the air even when your heating and air-conditioning system is not operating. And due to its large capacity, the power humidifier is ideal for larger homes that need more moisture in circulation.
Don’t suffer through winter.
The cold weather makes winter bad enough. Don’t let dry air add to your discomfort. And don’t let it damage your home and the things in it. Take control with a humidifier, and enjoy the air in your home all year long.