IAQ and Humidifiers: What You Should Know

October 20, 2014
Ross and Witmer

Living in the humid climate of the Charlotte and Mecklenburg area, you’re probably already familiar with the effects of high humidity. Excess moisture isn’t the only thing that can affect your indoor air quality (IAQ), though. Dry air can also reduce your home’s air quality, which is why it’s important to understand the connection between IAQ and humidifiers.

How a Humidifier Can Help You

While the ideal indoor humidity level falls somewhere between 35 to 50 percent, wintertime humidity levels in the average home can fall below 30 percent. This dry air contributes to many of the health and comfort problems we experience during cold weather.

A humidifier adds moisture to the air, optimizing your indoor humidity level and bringing you a number of benefits, including:

  • Better health – When your air has too little moisture, you’re likely to notice dry skin, eyes, lips and nasal passages. Dry nasal passages can lead to nosebleeds and more frequent illness and allergy symptoms since your body can’t effectively stop the pathogens you inhale. Improving IAQ with humidifiers can keep you healthier.
  • Greater comfort – You may have noticed dry heat feels cooler than humid heat. While this effect benefits you in summer, in winter it only makes you feel colder. Correcting humidity will keep you feeling warmer and more comfortable all fall and winter.
  • Lower heating bills – When your home feels warmer, you can turn down the heat to save money with no loss of comfort. For every degree you lower the thermostat, you could save 1 to 3 percent on heating bills.
  • Less static electricity – Tired of static shocks and clingy clothes? Dry air makes it easier for static to build up, so adding a humidifier to your home can help.
  • A better looking home – As dry air draws moisture from your home, it can cause cracks in wood flooring, walls, and furniture, as well as causing wallpaper to peel and paint to chip.

The Right Humidifier for You

Remedying IAQ with humidifiers isn’t as simple as buying the first system you find and bringing it home. First, you’ll need to decide which type of humidifier is right for your needs.

These systems are available in two types: portable units and whole-house humidifiers. A portable unit sits on a table or the floor and humidifies one room. A whole-use unit is installed as part of your heating and cooling system and humidifies the air throughout your entire home.

Each type has its pros and cons. Some of the benefits of a whole-house humidifier include:

  • Convenience – Once installed, this system runs whenever the HVAC system is running and the humidifier senses that the air is too dry. It draws water from your home’s water lines so it never needs refilling, unlike a portable system.
  • Low maintenance – A whole-house system requires maintenance only once or twice per year, whereas a portable system should be maintained every few weeks.
  • Budget-friendly – Whole-house units use your HVAC system’s fan to distribute humidified air. Portable units, however, require a built-in fan.

Despite the benefits of whole-house models, you may be better off improving your IAQ with one or two portable humidifiers. The benefits of these humidifiers include:

  • Easy set-up – Whole-house units must be installed by a heating and cooling professional, but with a portable unit, set-up is as simple as filling the unit and plugging it in.
  • Flexibility – Dry air problems may not be the same in every room. A portable unit can be moved to the area most in need of extra moisture at any given time.

How Humidifiers Do Their Job

When looking to understanding IAQ and humidifiers, it helps to know the basics of how humidifiers put moisture into the air. There are several different methods.

  • Cool mist evaporative – Evaporative humidifiers use a reservoir to hold water, a filter to filter minerals from the water, and a pad called a wick that soaks up that water. Air flows through the wick, picks up water, the flows out into your home’s air.
  • Cool mist impeller – Impeller humidifiers drip water over a screen and use a rotating disc to propel the water through. This creates a water vapor that’s picked up by the passing air. Because they use less water than evaporative systems, they’re a good choice if you’re concerned about your system’s eco-friendliness.

For professional guidance on dealing with humidity and air quality problems in your home, contact us at Ross & Witmer anywhere in the Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Gaston and Union areas.

Image Provided by Shutterstock.com

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