When we think about humidity in the home, we tend to think about the adverse effects of too much indoor humidity. Overly moist indoor air can cause condensation, mold and mildew, and damage to wood and structural elements. But indoor air that is too dry can be dangerous, too – for your health.
Dry indoor air could cause your family to suffer from dry skin, allergies, asthma, sinus infections, and increased severity of cold and flu symptoms. You could even be more likely to get cold and flu viruses. Low humidity in your home could also be detrimental to structural elements, wood and furniture in your home. When it comes to your home’s humidity, it’s important to strike a balance.
The Importance of Controlling the Humidity Level in Your Home
Humidity levels that are too high or too low can affect the condition of your home, as well as the health of its occupants. If your home is too humid, mold and mildew can grow in it, which can cause structural damage and health problems, especially for occupants with mold and mildew allergies.
But a home that isn’t humid enough can also aggravate respiratory problems, such as allergies and asthma, and can make occupants more vulnerable to respiratory viruses, such as those that cause cold and flu. Low humidity can affect your family’s skin health, too. Babies and young children are most vulnerable to the health effects of low indoor humidity.
Dry air can also damage wood and other natural building materials inside your home. Wooden furniture, billiards tables and other items might also suffer damage.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Humidifier for Your Home?
Dry air in your home can dry out your skin and mucus membranes. This causes a range of health symptoms, including:
- Sore throat
- Nose bleeds and dry nasal passages
- Chapped lips or skin
- Dry, itchy skin
- Dry eyes
- Exacerbated allergy or asthma symptoms
- Exacerbated eczema and other chronic skin conditions
Adding moisture to the air in your home can ease many of these symptoms. Using a humidifier in your home can help protect your home’s wooden structural elements, and your wooden furniture, from damage caused by cracking and shrinking. But it can also help prevent or reverse health problems caused by low humidity. Humidifiers add back to the air in your home moisture that is often removed by HVAC systems. A humidifier can also add moisture to the air in your home if dry air is the result of your local climate. Using a home humidifier can even make your home feel warmer in the winter, and cut your heating costs.
How Do Humidifiers Work?
Humidifiers work by emitting water vapor into the air. There are several different types of humidifiers, and each type uses a different mechanism to create water vapor and release it into the air. The result, however, is generally the same – humid indoor air that feels comfortable and doesn’t dry you out.
The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Humidifiers
There are several different types of humidifier available on the market. Some are designed to be used in only one room, while others are built to humidify an entire house. Each type has its advantages and drawbacks.
Evaporative humidifiers use the action of a fan blowing across a wicking filter to circulate water vapor into the air. They are easy to clean and maintain, and safe for children and pets, because they don’t use heat. However, they’re usually loud, can accumulate dust or mineral build-up from the water, and pose a risk of bacterial contamination if they’re not kept clean.
Cool mist humidifiers are similar to evaporative humidifiers. They use a fan to release cool water vapor, and require little maintenance. They’re easy to clean and can even filter impurities from the water or diffuse inhalants to help cold and flu sufferers. However, they have the same drawbacks as evaporative humidifiers.
Ultrasonic humidifiers use a thin metal sheet, or diaphragm, that vibrates at a high frequency to create water droplets and release them into the air. They’re quiet, energy efficient and operate without generating heat. They’re easy to clean and good for allergy or asthma sufferers. However, they can be pricey. They can also accumulate dust and minerals or harbor bacterial growth.
Impeller humidifiers use rotating disks that operate at high speeds to emit water vapor into the air. These, too, function without heat, and can be good choices for homes with children and pets. However, they can contribute to mold growth or bacterial contamination, and can be prone to mineral build-up.
Steam vaporizers use heat to vaporize water push it into the air. They get hot, so they aren’t safe for use around babies, young children or pets, but they are affordable and relatively quiet. You can add inhalants to them for relief of cold and flu symptoms, too. However, they’re harder to clean than some other humidifiers, and use more energy.
Central humidifiers are built into your HVAC system. Though they’re the most expensive option, they’re also the easiest way to improve air quality throughout your whole home by adding humidity. Central humidifiers could be a good option for homeowners in dry climates.
4 Tips for Using a Humidifier in Your Home
If you decide to use a humidifier in your home, it’s important to use it properly. Improper use could contribute to mold or mildew growth in or around the humidifier. Make sure you:
- Clean and disinfect the inside of your humidifier at least once a week
- Use demineralized or distilled water
- Change the water every day
- Change the filter, if there is one, as recommended by the manufacturer
Dry air can affect your health, and the health of your home. But there’s an easy fix. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home. Your body – and your woodwork – will appreciate it.