During the summer months, high humidity is terribly annoying. When it’s hot and humid outside, everything feels sticky, it’s difficult to use the touch screen on a phone, and it makes keeping one’s hair in order practically impossible. The combination of heat and humidity can be miserable, causing temperatures to feel even hotter than normal. So why then would anyone recommend adding a humidifier to your heating system for the winter months? Because a simple humidifier is an effective method to solving many of the problems faced by you and your friends throughout the colder months of the year.
Dry Air from Heating
Most central air systems are standardized to deliver both heating and cooling. During the summer, the cooling action of an HVAC system dehumidifies the air. This drops the relative temperature and dries out the air to a comfortable level. In the winter, the furnace (or in some cases, reversible heat pump) has a similar effect on the air in your home. When the air is heated, it also dries out. While dry air is a benefit in summer, it’s actually a problem when the temperature outside drops.
Dry air on its own comes with a host of problems. It makes the air colder, but we’ll address that in a moment. The drier air also increases static electricity (compounded by the fact that heavier fabrics, synthetics, and sweaters come out of the closet to fight the cold) which, while an annoyance to humans, can be dangerous to sensitive electronics and will surprise your pets when they walk up for a petting. Finally, it dries out your skin. Staying warm in winter is usually accompanied by the curse of chapped lips, dry eyes, and flaking or cracking skin. To some, it’s a worthwhile trade off, but to others it means a winter filled with creams, lotions, and eye drops.
- Colder Temperatures
- Static Electricity
- Dry Skin
How do you resolve this problem? Add a little moisture back into the air after it’s been heated. Increasing the relative humidity of your home makes it difficult for water to evaporate, decreasing how quickly your skin will dry out. The increase in humidity will also decrease static electricity (but your favorite sweater will probably still give you enough of a jolt to surprise friends).
Humidity and Relative Temperature
The title of this post mentions lowering heating costs and we mentioned that dry air feels colder, if it’s not evident now how a humidifier can save you on heating costs, allow us to explain. It takes energy to turn water into a vapor. When water evaporates from a surface, it takes heat energy for it to turn into a vapor. This heat energy usually comes from the surface itself, lowering the temperature of the object. Evaporation is one of the major ways our bodies keep us cool during the summer (and why a cool breeze is so refreshing). As the level of humidity in the ambient air increases, less water can evaporate to fill the water saturated air, stymieing the cooling process.
Put simply, adding water to the air (humidifying) makes it difficult for the same air to cool off occupants in the room. The room feels warmer than it actually is because we already generate heat and it becomes harder for our bodies to cool in humid air. This difference can be quit drastic in fact, as you can see on this chart from HowStuffWorks. It’s recommended that the best balance of humidity, year round, is about 45%. At this level of humidity, problems with mold growth are minimal and the setting you pick for your thermostat is closer to that actual value. You’ll be able to leave your thermostat at a lower setting, saving you on energy costs and operation time.
A home humidifier, built directly into your ventilation system, can make your home more comfortable in the winter. These devices are often cheaper than the extra five-degrees of warmth that comes from setting your thermostat higher, saving you money and saving energy overall. If you have any other questions, or want a humidifier installed before things start to get really cold this year, just call Boulden Brothers. We’ll be glad to come out and help you.
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