Dryer skin and hair, irritated nasal passages, dry throats, itchy eyes and static electricity are all signs of low humidity in the home. Besides upping the risk of respiratory illness, dry air also is detrimental to the home’s wooden furniture, floors and trim, which can crack and split.
Humidifiers can solve the dry air problem. Ideally, indoor humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent. To determine the level in your home, purchase an indoor humidity monitor. (Many are included in home weather stations that also show the temperature.)
There are three types of humidifiers to choose from. The most common are tabletop humidifiers, inexpensive portable units that work best for single rooms. The small water tank requires daily refills and weekly disinfecting. Plus some units are noisy, which is especially important when buying one for a bedroom.
Console humidifiers are larger, multi-room units that are somewhat portable and often designed to look like a cabinet to fit into the room’s decor. The larger tank means less water refills, but the units can be very noisy. Some create as much noise as a window air conditioner. Plus they can up your electric bill.
A whole-house humidifier, also called in-duct humidifier, sends moisture throughout the entire house via a forced air heating system. This system requires professional installation. Most heating and air conditioning companies can do the work.
No matter what type of humidifier you choose, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions to keep harmful bacteria from growing in the water tank and dispersing into the air.
Also, there is such a thing as too much humidity during the winter months, especially in newer homes with tight, energy-efficient construction. The warning sign is condensation build up on the windows. Too much condensation can seep from the windows into the walls and ceilings, which can lead to peeling paint, damp insulation, mold, mildew, and rot.
As an alternative, there are a few ways to increase your home’s humidity without the use of a humidifier:
• Simmer water on the stovetop. Add cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, citrus peels or dried herbs and flowers for a lovely fragrance.
• Houseplants and vases of water also put humidity into a room.
• Place a bowl or pan of water over part of a heating vent, on top of a radiator or near a heat source.
• After a bath, let the water stand in the tub until it is completely cool.
• Open the bathroom door after a shower to let the steam into nearby rooms.
• Hang your laundry to dry instead of using the dryer.
• Purchase a tabletop fountain.
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