During our notorious Chicago winters, the dry air in our homes is pretty unbearable. It's known to dry out nasal passages and cause a variety of health problems, but did you know that the dry air can also damage your home? It's true. Dry air causes those extra squeaky spots and splitting in your hardwood floors, and also makes that once seamless crown molding show unsightly gaps or seams. Under humidified air can also cause irreparable damage to wood furniture and kitchen cabinetry. On a more severe (and rare) level, a home that's not properly humidified can also show signs of structural damage.
Here is a quick, basic guide to humidity in your home..........
- When you heat your home, it dries out your air. The now dry air will compensate by pulling moisture from everything else in the home - Including you!
- Some heating systems dry out your air more than others. Forced air furnaces will dry the air out quite a bit more than a boiler (radiator) system will.
- Humidity is measured by "RH" or relative humidity. If the RH is too low, wood can split and crack. If the RH is too high, wood can swell, buckle or rot. You may also experience mold or mildew issues throughout the home.
- A good RH is somewhere between 30 and 60 percent. You can measure humidity in your home with a hydrometer that you can purchase at a hardware store for less than $20.
Here is a quick, basic guide to adding more humidity to your home.........
- Install a "whole house" humidifier. This is a humidifier that is attached to your forced air heating system. If you have a new construction home (built within the last 20 years) with a forced air heating system, you probably have a whole house humidifier. If your not sure whether or not you have one, call your HVAC pro and ask. Each whole house system has a filter that has to be replaced about once a year (pick up filters at your local hardware store for about $10), but besides that there is not much maintenance to the unit. If your in the market to add a whole house system, they can run anywhere from $350 to $650. This type of project should be done only by an HVAC professional.
- If your not ready to invest in a whole house humidifier, then you can humidify your home with smaller humidifier units placed strategically throughout the home. The most common areas to place a humidifier would be the bedrooms, mostly for the health benefits and making the rooms for comfortable for sleeping.
- When you are shopping for humidifiers, you will see "cool mist" and "warm mist" options at the hardware store. Cool mist is the more popular of the two options because it's easier to clean, safer around kids (kids may get scalded by the water in a warm mist unit) and less expensive to operate. Make sure to do some research on the different units you are looking at, because like most small appliances, there will be a range of qualities and prices. Two brands that I like are Vornado and Venta, but there are quite a few options to choose from.
- No matter what system you end up with to humidify your home, there is some maintenance involved, whether it's changing filters, wicks or just cleaning. Make sure you stay on top of that to keep the humidity you are adding to your home healthy!
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