Finding the Right Heat/Humidity Balance
Although it’s important to maintain the right level of humidity in your home all year long, in winter, balanced moisture levels are particularly critical. You actually need more moisture in your home’s air in the winter than in the summer. But how much is enough, and why is it important?
Ideal humidity is between 35-55 percent. In the summer, it should be lower, as too much moisture in the air makes us feel warmer, pushing the need to turn down the thermostat to cool off, and thereby using more energy. But in the winter, it’s a different story, and moisture levels need to be somewhat higher — 45-55 percent, although homeowners may have to adjust that if there’s condensation on windows.
Here’s why you should ensure the home is more humid in the winter:
- Mucous membranes dry out with low moisture levels, leading to irritated noses and throats, and aggravating respiratory problems.
- Skin dries out with low humidity, resulting in cracked and itchy spots.
- Wood furnishings, including floors, furniture, cabinets and musical instruments can dry out and crack.
- Maintaining more moisture in the air will actually reduce the infectivity of flu viruses.
How to Increase Moisture Levels
Acquire a hygrometer, an inexpensive device that will tell you how humid your home is. If it seems it’s too low for the winter months, you can increase moisture by several means:
- Take longer showers, allowing water vapor to enter the home.
- Boil pots of water on the stove.
- Add indoor plants.
- Acquire a portable humidifier.
- Install a whole-house humidifier.
The last step is actually your best bet. A whole-house humidifier installed in your HVAC system will allow you to regulate moisture levels in the air so it’s just right. Portable devices will help, but you have to keep refilling them and moving them around.