When your home heater or air conditioner is running, as a homeowner, you think about lots of things. How much will your utility bill be? What is the ideal temperature for your home? Are you performing heater or air conditioner maintenance as often as you should be?
It’s less often that you consider the humidity level of the air inside your home. You certainly notice it when you walk outside during the summer, and the muggy hair hits your skin and lungs. Inside, though? It seems less of a concern, until it causes big problems.
Humidity is the measurement of water vapor in the air. Outdoors, the higher the temperature, the more water vapor that the air can hold. This is why St. Louis summers are so humid.
Indoor humidity is a little different than the outside kind, however.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that your home’s humidity level falls between 30 and 50 percent.
To measure the humidity in the air, you can buy an inexpensive hygrometer. Or, you can conduct a simple test with things you already have in your kitchen. You’ll need a drinking glass and ice cubes.
Place a few ice cubes into a drinking glass, and leave it alone in the room for a few minutes. When you come back into the room, check the exterior of the glass for any water droplets. If you see them, your home is probably adequately humid. If your glass isn’t sweating, you know your humidity is probably too low.
Dry air affects your home’s furnishings and your health, so it’s important to maintain healthy levels of humidity. (Be wary of making your home too humid, however; this can encourage mold growth and moisture damage.)
Low humidity can cause the wood in your home to warp or split as well as dry out and shrink the caulking around your plumbing fixtures and windows. It can get pricey to fix this type of damage, and it could lead to higher energy bills because the caulk issue can make your home feel drafty.
Dry air also affects your body. Air that’s low in moisture can result in you having dry skin, chapped lips, and more frequent nosebleeds. Viruses also love dry air! Some people believe their indoor allergies are worse during times of low humidity.
If you have an older, forced-air gas furnace, your home’s humidity levels may be too low. In addition to all the aforementioned symptoms of low humidity, you might also feel like the air inside your home is colder than it really is. This is because dry air tends to feel less warm than humid or moist air.
A standard, traditional-style gas furnace, or an atmosphere furnace, can lower humidity in your home. On these furnaces, the combustion chamber is open to the air on the exterior of the unit. If you can look into your furnace and see light from the burners, then you know you have an atmosphere furnace.
The furnace draws air from your home into the combustion chamber, which can create an air deficit inside your house. To remedy this, the air outdoors is pulled inside your home to make up for the deficit. And we know from experience that cold winter air is less humid than summer air. The resulting drop in humidity is often noticeable and uncomfortable for many people.
Of course, even electric heaters and radiant heating can cause dry air in your home.
An alternative to the older style atmosphere furnace is the sealed combustion furnace. With this style, the furnace burners are sealed up from the air in the rest of the house.
This system draws its air directly from outside – without pulling it into the open air of your home – using a PVC pipe that leads from the combustion chamber to the outdoors. This process eliminates that chilly air deficit.
The sealed combustion chamber has the added benefit of being more energy efficient, which can save you money over the long-term, should you choose to get residential heater installation this winter.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of low humidity, then you might consider purchasing a humidifier to moisten the air in your home.
The type of humidifier you purchase depends on your preferences and needs. You can buy one that stands alone and plugs into an outlet in your home. Some blow warm steam, while others put out a cool mist.
You also can contact your heating and air service provider to purchase a central humidifier, which is built directly into your home’s HVAC system and automatically controls the humidity level in your home. While it can be expensive, it is the most effective option.
Your best bet for achieving a regular maintenance schedule is to sign up for a service agreement with Meyer Heating and Air. We’re based in St. Louis and serve the metropolitan area, including the cities of Chesterfield, Arnold, O’Fallon, Fenton, and Ballwin.
With your service agreement, you’ll receive two inspection visits per year, priority scheduling for any additional visits, and discounts on equipment repairs and replacements.
When one of our experienced HVAC technicians visits your home for your scheduled appointment, they can help you determine whether your home needs additional equipment, like a humidifier or dehumidifier, to keep the air in your home healthy and comfortable. Regular service also helps prevent total HVAC failure.
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