Based on some long range weather forecasts I see, we are going be spending a lot of time indoors in the next few months. Make sure you do it in comfort. That means a combination of two important factors: the temperature and the humidity.
The first thing to do is start with the basics. Change your furnace filter and clean or change the drum, pad or sponge in your humidifier, and turn the water valve to your humidifier on. Then switch the metal arm on your ductwork near the furnace to “W” (winter) from “S” (summer) to enable the warm air from the furnace to flow through the humidifier during the winter.
I recommend changing your furnace filter at least quarterly with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of 8 or higher to filter dust and other pollutants.
The best way to determine the current humidity level in your home is to get a hygrometer at the hardware store. Once you determine the relative humidity, you can manually adjust your humidifier accordingly with the humidistat, which is often located on the furnace’s ductwork. You can also get an automatic digital humidistat installed right next to your furnace thermostat.
Adjust the humidity levels in the home to make sure it is between 40 percent and 50 percent when the outdoor temperature is above 30 degrees, because the proper humidity makes you feel warmer. When the outdoor temperature drops below 30, your humidistat should be set so the hygrometer is higher than 35 percent.
Having the proper level is vital because too little humidity during the winter will make your house feel like a desert and contribute to respiratory problems, increased static electricity and can make you feel colder. And while too little humidity can result in one set of problems, too much humidity in the home can lead to bacteria growth and condensation appearing on windows. Condensation on the inside of your windows isn’t the window’s fault, but rather having either too much humidity or a lack of air circulation.
For a newer home that is well insulated and tightly sealed, you may still get moisture on the windows even if you control the humidity level. In that case, consider a make-up air control unit such as the Xavier EQUALIZ-AIR, (equaliz-air.com), or Skuttle Model 216, (skuttle.com), which reduces unwanted air infiltration to provide added indoor comfort.
If you want a whole-house humidifier, or are ready for a new one, the first place to start is the Humidity Calculator on the General Aire website, (generalaire.com). This calculator determines the gallons of water per day you need to disperse through the humidifier to get your home the temperature and humidity level you want.
General Aire also makes whole-house systems for homes without duct work called Elite Steam humidifiers. Other manufacturers of whole-house humidification systems include Aprilaire, (aprilaire.com), and Honeywell, (yourhome.honeywell.com).
If you have a smaller home or just want to add humidity to one or two rooms, consider a portable humidifier. These units come in a variety of designs these days, including cool mist evaporative, warm mist and even ultrasonic humidifiers that use vibration at high frequencies to break up the water into tiny droplets and are very efficient.
Note: This article was accurate at the date of publication. However, information contained in it may have changed. If you plan to use the information contained herein for any purpose, verification of its continued accuracy is your responsibility.