The Humidity in Your Home

Humidity levels in your home drop drastically during the winter months as the temperatures drop. This makes heating your Holland home about more than just temperature. Low humidity can cause uncomfortable living conditions in the home. Dry air causes nose bleeds, dry scratchy throats, and static shocks.  Humidity can even change the way we perceive the temperature in the home. Dry air feels cooler even if it measures the same temperature. This may cause some families to turn their furnaces in way up and overheat their homes just to feel comfortable. This leads to energy waste.

Your home itself also suffers from a lack of humidity. Wood in the home continually absorbs and releases moisture throughout the year to balance with the conditions in the home. When wood releases too much moisture, it will cause it to contract slightly, and this leads to gaps in hardwood floors, cracks in moulding, and trim-work that can pull away from walls.

Humidifiers are a tool homeowners can use to combat lack of humidity.  There are single room units that can humidify small areas, or there are whole home humidifiers that attach to the ductwork and work in tandem with the furnace to add humidity to the air traveling throughout the house. The most common whole home humidifier is a bypass unit. This unit redirects a portion of the air traveling through the ductwork through an evaporator pad that is saturated with water supplied from a nearby water line. As the air is pulled through the pad, it picks up moisture and supplies it to all the registers in your house.

Unlike temperature fluctuation, humidity is a much more gradual process. A furnace can usually heat a home 5 degrees in less than an hour. To gain 5% humidity in the same house will take much longer. As mentioned above, the woodwork in the home—as well as most furniture—will absorb the new humidity in the air and equalize it with the surrounding conditions. This process takes days rather than minutes or hours. The humidity outside plays a large role in the length of time. Generally speaking, the colder it is, the less humidity is in the air.

A good humidity level to shoot for in West Michigan is 30% in the home. At 30%, many of the drawbacks of arid air are compromised, yet your home won’t be overly saturated so as to cause condensation on the windows. Over-saturation and window condensation are not good and can cause window damage. But keep in mind that every home is different. A newer home with good insulation and windows may be able to handle upwards of 40% humidity. 40% is the maximum humidity level that a bypass humidifier is capable of producing.  Humidifiers require an annual evaporator pad change and should be checked over every other year for proper reliability and cleaning.

New ultra-sonic single room humidifiers are a recent technology created to humidify smaller areas. As these have become more common, we have found more and more mechanical issues with furnaces in the Holland area. Ultra-sonic humidifiers produce a very fine, white powder during the evaporation process. This white powder gets sucked into the ductwork and collects on the filter, often clogging it up and causing the furnace to trip out on high heat limit due to poor air flow.  The filter appears clean as the residue is white. We strongly encourage West Michigan homeowners to stop using these humidifiers; if it is absolutely necessary, then weekly air filter changes are recommended.

Chad Baumann
SALES & MARKETING MANAGER
Residential comfort expert. Recognized nationally as a top 40 under 40 in the HVAC industry. 10 years of experience in the HVAC field.