Making sure your home’s humidity levels are consistent and adequate is one of the most important fall projects you can do. With the proper humidity, you will feel warmer and more comfortable, and you won’t need to turn the thermostat up as high to compensate for the fact that dry air makes you feel colder.
It will also get rid of the static electricity in the home and eliminate the potential that dry air has to cause cracks in your wood floors and furniture.
When we close up the house for the winter and run the furnace, the indoor air gets very dry unless you add humidity. For anyone with a forced-air furnace, that means having a whole-house humidifier attached to the furnace that supplies additional humidity through the air ducts whenever the furnace cycles on.
But how much humidity is too much? The first step is to accurately determine what your current level is. For most homes, the proper indoor humidity level is right around 50 percent. Get yourself a digital hygrometer from the hardware store to check it. Next you have to have the proper sized humidifier for your home.
One of the first places to start is the Humidification Calculator on the website for General Aire, generalaire.com, a manufacturer of whole-house humidifiers. This calculator helps you determine the gallons of water per day that you need to disperse through the humidifier to get your home to the proper humidity level based on its size and the temperature and humidity levels you want in your home. However, there are other factors that may make it necessary to go beyond this standard calculation when determining how much water you need to put into the air.
“Most people follow the guide that the size and amount of humidity you need is based on the square footage of the home, and while that provides a good basis, other things such as wood floors, moldings, carpeting and air infiltration can make it necessary to add more humidity that recommended,” said Matt Marsiglio, operations manager for Flame Heating, Cooling, Plumbing and Electrical, (888) 234-2340, flamefurnace.com.
While adding a drum or pad style whole house humidifier is a good way to increase the humidity in the home, Marsiglio said there are more advanced types of systems, such as the steam humidifier from Aprilaire, aprilaire.com, which runs independently of your HVAC system and can accommodate larger homes up to 6,200 square feet. It can also be used in homes that do not have forced air systems.
Once you have the proper humidifier, you need to adjust it as the outdoor weather changes to keep your home at a comfortable level. With an older furnace, that probably means an adjustable humidistat on the furnace’s ductwork. But that also means running to the basement or utility room every time you need to adjust it. A better solution is to get an automatic digital humidistat you can install next to your furnace’s thermostat on the main floor. There are also programmable thermostats that already have a built-in humidistat feature, such as the Prestige IAQ thermostat from Honeywell, yourhome.honeywell.com.
If you have one of the newer high efficiency variable speed furnaces, you probably have an electronically commutated motor (ECM) that will enable you to run the furnace fan and humidifier without turning up the heat, making it easier and cost effective to pump added humidity into the air.
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.
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