An important part of keeping your home comfortable in the winter is humidity. Either too much or too little humidity comes with a set of problems that can have minor and even major implications.
Relative humidity is a measure of how much moisture is in the air. It is expressed as a percentage. The ideal range for home comfort is normally anywhere from 40% to 50% relative humidity.
During the winter we heat air which then expands. Imagine that it is 0°C outside and the relative humidity outside is 40%. Your furnace heats the air to 20°C. The air expands when heated, but the amount of moisture in the air is unchanged. Your heated indoor air will now have a relative humidity quite a bit lower than 40%.
Air that is too dry can lead to drier skin. When you sleep you’ll likely wake up with a dry throat and nose. Dry air also leads to more static electricity. Wooden floors can crack or spread open at the gaps. Furniture can also crack or loosen at the joints.
Recommended humidity levels can also save you money on your heating bill. If your home is 20°C with 40% relative humidity, you’ll likely be quite comfortable. If the air is drier, you’ll feel cooler and will be reaching for the thermostat to increase the temperature.
A properly operating humidifier installed on your furnace will correct these problems. In the fall when you have shut down your air conditioner, you turn your humidifier on. Set the humidistat at 40%. The humidifier will automatically work to add moisture to the air in your home as required. Be sure the water to the humidifier is turned on and the bypass damper is open. Depending on the type of humidifier you should install a new pad or panel. For the old drum style humidifier clean the water tray.
Household activities also can add moisture to the air. Taking a shower or cooking can add quite a bit of humidity. Even plants and fish tanks will add humidity to your home.
Newer homes that are quite air tight may require dehumidification in parts of the heating season. This is accomplished with an HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator). During the coldest winter days almost every home in London, Ontario will require humidification.
Older homes tend to be leakier. More outside air infiltrates into the house and the furnace tends to run more. A properly operating humidifier is very important for your comfort in an older home.
Salmon Plumbing & Heating checks your humidifier when we do your annual furnace maintenance. There are pads on your humidifier that may have to be changed. If your humidifier is not working, we can normally repair it. Like any piece of equipment, it may have to be eventually replaced. There are several types of new replacement humidifiers and you’ll want an HVAC professional to help you select the one that’s right for your home and lifestyle. You’ll also want a professional to install your new humidifier.
Our licensed professionals are happy to show you how to properly operate your humidifier or any of your home comfort equipment when performing a maintenance service or even when completing a service repair.
Finally, in the spring when you are getting your air conditioner ready for the warm weather, don’t forget to turn your humidifier off. There is normally an air flow damper that you close or switch over to the summer setting. In London’s climate, your air conditioner will dehumidify the air in the summer months.