Humidification: Keep Equipment Running Right, Help Occupants Feel Better
Winter typically brings with it more than just cold, snow and Christmas. As temperatures drop, it becomes more difficult for the air to hold moisture. The result is low indoor humidity, which can cause physical discomfort and potential difficulties with electronic equipment. A humidification system is usually the best solution to the problems caused by dry indoor air. Here is a brief overview of the nature of low humidity and how a humidification system can substantially improve the indoor environment in your office or commercial facility.
Relative humidity is the amount of moisture contained in a given volume of air compared to how much moisture the air can hold before it becomes saturated. In most cases, an indoor relative humidity level of around 30 to 50 percent will keep occupants comfortable and reduce problems associated with dry air.
Causes of Low Indoor Humidity Indoor humidity can be affected by the introduction of dry outdoor air through:
- Ventilation: Dry outdoor air can be brought into your indoor spaces through air exchange during ventilation processes.
- Leaky vapor barrier: Most buildings should have a vapor barrier, which is a term that encompasses the sealing of all passive sources of moisture loss, such as cracks and openings in the building’s structure, or gaps in frames and casings of windows and doors. Dry air can easily enter the building through these leaks in the vapor barrier.
- Everyday use: During everyday operations, dry air can enter through the entrance and exit doors, service bays or delivery docks.
Problems That Result From Low Humidity
Low humidity and dry indoor air cause physical discomfort to the building’s occupants. Dry indoor air can also cause damage to electronics, building materials and furniture. In people, low indoor humidity can lead to physical effects such as:
- Scratchy, irritated throats
- Dry eyes
- Cracked lips
- Dry mucous membranes.
Dry indoor air can also make you feel colder than the actual temperature of the room. This occurs because dry air absorbs moisture from your skin, producing a cooling effect similar the feeling of sweat evaporating from your body. Dry air also increases the chance of static shocks, those small but irritating zaps of electricity that most commonly occur when touching a metal object after walking across a carpet. Static electricity can also harm sensitive components in expensive electronic devices such as smartphones, computers, video and audio devices, and industry-specific equipment. Dry indoor air can cause warping, cracking, or shrinking of wooden furniture, flooring, building frames and paneling.
Humidification Systems and Solutions
A whole-building humidification system is often the best solution to dry indoor air. These systems are designed to raise humidity levels throughout the structure without introducing more moisture than is needed. Humidification systems can add moisture directly to indoor air or, more commonly, to the air that flows through the building’s HVAC system. The humidification equipment is installed so that all the air circulating through the heating system also enters the humidifier.
There, water vapor is added to the air, which increases its humidity level. The warm, humidified air then continues on its route to the inside of the building, where it flows into the indoor spaces and increases overall humidity levels. Consult with your local trusted HVAC contractor for help choosing a humidification system that will meet your needs. Your expert can help you find a humidifier that is sized correctly to provide the right amount of extra moisture for your indoor spaces. He can also help you find the right humidity set points to prevent issues such as condensation on windows with surfaces in direct contact with the outdoor air.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information on the importance of indoor humidification during the winter months, or to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!