To say that winters in Minnesota are cold and harsh is an understatement. Winters in Minnesota are typically better described as brutal — with heavy snow, blowing winds and bone-chilling cold! Needless to say, we’re all grateful for the shelter of a warm and cozy home at this time of the year, but that warmth and coziness exacts a price on our own health, and yes — even on the “health” of our homes.
The Effects of Overly Dry Air
We know when things are getting too dry in our homes when we start to get static electric shocks when we touch a doorknob, and even at times, when we touch each other! Our skin becomes dry and itchy, our hair becomes so dry that it’s hard to keep it from “flyaways” at bay, our nasal passages and throats suffer, and we become more susceptible to colds and other viruses. Those of us with asthma and allergies are also at greater risk for flare-ups.
What we may not notice as quickly is what dry air is doing to our homes. Our nice wood furniture becomes dry and might even crack, ditto for our hardwood floors and moldings. Paint chips easily, and dust settles onto (and inside of) our expensive electronics. It soon becomes apparent that we’ve got to do something to increase the relative humidity for the sake of our own health, the health of our families, and to protect our homes from damage. Here’s another reason you may not have considered: Dry air feels cooler than humid air (just ask a native Floridian about that!), so we compensate by turning up the heat. The consequence is a higher energy bill and the creation of even drier indoor air!
Adding Much-Needed Moisture to the Air
When it comes to raising the relative humidity inside our homes, we’ve got choices that range from super-low tech (e.g., a pan of water in every room) to super high-tech (e.g., adding a humidifier to your heating and cooling system). In between is the option of placing table-top humidifiers in several rooms, although they do require maintenance — they’ve got to be filled regularly and cleaned regularly to keep germs under control.
Installing a Whole-House Humidifier
The ideal solution, of course, is to have your local heating and cooling professional add a whole-house (aka central) humidifier to your heating and cooling (aka HVAC) system. Not only will you be able to turn on the heat and live comfortably, saving your own health and the inside of your home, but you’ll also be able to turn your thermostat down and still feel warm. (According to the Department of Energy, you can save up to 3% on your heating bill for every degree you lower your thermostat.) That makes it a worthwhile investment that will pay for itself over time.
Another important consideration is the fact that a whole-house humidifier that’s integrated into your HVAC system has a humidistat, which is a device that measures humidity levels in your home. The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent. Lower levels result in the unpleasant effects of dry air discussed above, while levels higher than 50 percent can encourage the growth of mold and mildew, which causes a whole other set of unpleasant and unwanted effects! The safest, healthiest humidifiers have an integral humidistat that switches the humidifier on and off as needed to maintain a safe and healthy level of humidity throughout your home.
If you’re ready to add a whole-house humidifier to the existing heating and cooling system in your St. Paul-area home, be sure to contact the professionals at Metro Heating and Cooling in Maplewood for a free estimate.