Humidification helps your home… and your health

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
- posted Tue., Sep. 13, 2011
- Contributed Photo

It’s hard to imagine right now, but it won’t be long before the ground is frozen solid, and your heating system is churning away. Besides expensive fuel bills, that kind of weather will bring dryness to your home.

Humidity in winter is normally low, and when we heat the air in our homes, it dries things out even more. Forced hot air systems are particularly effective at drying the air while it’s heated. Before you know it, you’re scratching a little here and there. Then when you reach for the light switch – ZAP – a little spark flies from your finger to the switch plate, and you recoil with a twinge of pain.

Dry air over a long period of time just isn’t good for you. And, guess what? It’s not good for your home and furnishings, either. Your body needs a certain amount of moisture in its struggle to ward off bacteria and disease. Once your nasal passages start to dry up, it should be a sign to you that your body’s defenses may be weakening. If your skin is starting to dry and your lips are cracking, what do you think your wood furniture is going through? It doesn’t have nerve endings, and won’t suffer from disease, but it is suffering, nonetheless. Finishes will start to fail, and joints may loosen or even separate.

You need to put moisture back in the air, and there are several ways to do it. The quickest remedy is a “tabletop” humidifier. They are quite inexpensive, readily available, and extremely easy to use. These typically hold several gallons of water, which they disperse into your home’s atmosphere. Get one with a small capacity, and you will need to refill the reservoir daily. Larger ones may be somewhat more expensive, but they have larger or even multiple water tanks. They will supply more of your house with moist air and need refilling less often.

Humidifiers operate on one of a few principles. Some merely blow air across cool water, forcing little droplets up into your space. Others create a warm steam mist. There are still others that wick the water onto a filter surface, making it slightly easier to disperse those little droplets. At the same time, the filter traps some of the minerals in the water. Ultrasonic humidifiers create a high-frequency vibration in the water to create the miniscule particles to be dispersed into the air. Because there are minerals in the water, these, too, are imparted in the particles, and tend to create a fine white dust over time. If you can see it on your furniture, you must also be breathing it, as well.

One other caveat related to putting a fine mist into the air is the bacteria it may carry with it. Steam mist tends to kill any bacteria, and so is less threatening. It’s important to clean and maintain the humidifier according to the directions that come with it. That’s the best way of keeping it from spreading bacteria. Stores that sell humidifiers will also supply bacteriostatic additives for the water, to mitigate the exposure to bacteria. Some devices also use filters that may need to be replaced, or at least cleaned.

These are portable appliances, and your house may need two or more to maintain beneficial moisture level. A cabinet-style humidifier is more expensive, but it holds more water, and will service a larger area in your home. If your home is heated with forced hot air, then you also have an option of installing a humidifier feature to distribute moister air as it heats. These use a direct and continuous water supply, so there’s no requirement to refill them periodically. And they work whenever the heating system is operational.

Humidification of the air in your house is amazingly simple. If you haven’t tried it in past winters, you will be surprised at the difference it can make in your living environment.

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