Why use a humidifier?
Humidifiers add moisture to the air to prevent dryness. This may seem a little strange at first, because we often go to great lengths to keep our homes sealed from the elements, free from damp and generally as dry as possible. However, very dry air does pose some health risks.
Dry air has a habit of causing irritation in the eyes, skin and other parts of the body and humidifiers can be a very effective way to treat dry skin, noses, throats and lips. If you find that your lips are often dry and cracked, it may be because the air in your home is too dry.
Some people also find that using a humidifier reduces nosebleeds and sinus congestion. If you suffer from any of these conditions, and especially if you find that symptoms improve when you are outside on a warm day, you should consider installing a humidifier to improve your household environment.
Some people report that a humidifier is also an effective way to ward off cold and flu symptoms. We are not sure why this works, but it is thought that humans are not naturally equipped to live in dry environments.
Of course, it is not simply a case of increasing the humidity of your house in a random manner. If you make your home too humid you will start to cause damp problems. You will also make it harder to heat your home effectively, and when a house is too humid it can make respiratory problems worse. Other problems that are worsened by increased humidity include an increase in dust mites, mildew, mold and harmful bacteria.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that homes should not have a humidity of over 50 percent, while Mayo Clinic says that humidity should be maintained between 30 and 50 percent.
To maintain the ideal humidity you need to install a good quality humidifier that will monitor and control humidity levels in your home.
Do you need a humidifier?
If you are unsure what your household humidity is you can use a hygrometer (a tool that is used to measure humidity levels). You should ideally use it over a period of a week and take readings at different times of the day to get an idea of the average humidity. Humidity varies throughout the day, especially in busy homes where people are showering and cooking several times a day.
Types of humidifier
There are several types of humidifier on the market; for the purposes of this article we shall take a look at steam humidifiers and bypass humidifiers:
- Steam humidifiers – Steam humidifiers, also known as steam vaporizers, are generally best for those who are on a tighter budget. A basic steam vaporizer is a small, portable humidifier and is usually used in just one room. Whole house steam humidifiers are connected to the home’s HVAC system. They are often used in medical buildings to improve patient comfort, but they also work equally well in the home.
- Bypass humidifiers – Bypass humidifiers, also known as bypass flow-through style or biscuit style, use a pipe to bring water into contact with an electrically controlled valve. Air passes through the valve, which is the part that gives it the biscuit name. The biscuit is made from a matte ceramic that is similar to a piece of coarse steel wool. This gives it a very large surface area within a small space. When humidity levels drop, a hygrostat triggers the valve to open and this causes a spray of water onto the biscuit. Hot air causes the water on the biscuit to evaporate and is then carried into the building. Bypass humidifiers have several advantages, such as less need for regular maintenance, they don’t need a water pan that can attract bacteria growth and they don’t require expensive air filters. They also use very little electricity.
Whole home solutions
To create the most comfortable and healthy environment it is best to install a whole home humidifier solution that will monitor moisture levels and adjust humidity as required.
The biggest advantage of these systems is that they are automated, so you do not need to continuously adjust settings or remember to turn them on and off.
Humidifiers need to be well maintained to avoid bacterial growth that can promote coughs and colds, so make sure that they are cleaned on a regular basis.
Some asthmatics find that they are aggravated by the minerals and microorganisms that are emitted, so make sure you also bear this in mind.