February 14, 2024
Understanding the Role of Humidifiers in Colorado's Dry Winter Climate

Dry air is a year-round challenge for Colorado homeowners, and those issues are only intensified during the cold season. A popular way to combat this problem is to add water vapor to the air. That is achieved with a humidifier, and there are both portable units and whole-home systems available.

Dry Air in Winter

Air holds water molecules. Those molecules are held together by vapor pressure. Maximum vapor pressure goes up as temperature increases but also down as it decreases. That means in winter, air can hold less water, and it absorbs it more slowly. This isn’t an issue just in Colorado. However, the average low temperature in this area between October and April—more than half the year—is 33 degrees Fahrenheit or less.

How Heating Exacerbates Low RH in Your Home

A common misconception is that running a furnace dries out the air in a home. While drier air is often a byproduct of home heating, warm air does not directly dry out. What’s happening is that the air supply in the home is being replenished by dry winter air. That air is then heated. It can now hold more moisture, but there isn’t any more available. While the humidity stays the same, the relative humidity or RH goes down. This is why many people perceive that their heating is drying out their air.

What Is the Optimal RH?

The EPA guideline for optimal RH is between 30% and 50%. It should never be more than 60% for both health and home maintenance reasons. Above 60%, mold is encouraged to grow, and dust mites can thrive. Some homeowners may need to keep their RH at 40% or less to avoid window condensation. There is no perfect RH as it varies from person to person. The EPA recommends finding the lowest RH, preferably down to 30%, at which you and your family are most comfortable.

The Benefits of a Humidifier

Keeping your home in the optimal RH range has a number of benefits. It allows you to be comfortable at a lower temperature. Homeowners who invest in a whole-house system are often able to reduce the temperature setting by several degrees or more. Moisture in the air helps to prevent dryness and irritation of the skin, nose, throat, lips and eyes. People tend to sleep better when the RH is in the optimal zone. They’re also less prone to headaches and coughing, and people with asthma and allergies will generally experience milder symptoms.

Portable Humidifiers

Portable humidifiers have downsides that make them suboptimal as a long-term solution. With a portable unit, you’re only solving the problem in your immediate space. It can certainly help with your comfort. That said, it won’t provide the health benefits throughout your home. It also won’t do much when it comes to mold and dust mites and protecting your furniture and flooring.

Whole-Home Humidifiers

A whole-house humidification system requires a bigger initial investment and works best in homes with ductwork. If you have a central heating system, then adding a furnace humidifier, for instance, is a relatively simple upgrade. Once installed, keeping your entire home at an ideal RH will be as simple as setting the desired level on your thermostat.

Mechanical Ventilation

An energy recovery ventilator is a type of mechanical ventilation. The biggest benefit to this upgrade is that it reclaims energy that would otherwise be lost. That improves energy efficiency. It does affect humidity to a degree. However, a ventilator will generally not be enough on its own to deal with a humidity issue in Colorado.

Cleaning Your Whole-Home Humidifier

Your whole-home humidification system should be serviced once a year. This is often done during a heating system tune-up in autumn prior to needing heat. During this appointment, your technician will perform a deep clean of the humidifier. The water filter and evaporator pad will be replaced at this time as well. You may also need to run vinegar or a cleaning solution on a regular basis. This helps to avoid bacteria that can build up and diminish indoor air quality.

Your Local HVAC Pros in Northglenn

Unique Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. has more than 15 years of experience serving Northglenn and the surrounding areas. We are BBB accredited with an A+ rating and offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Our HVAC technicians install and service whole-home humidifiers. We also install, replace, maintain, and repair all manner of home heating and cooling systems. You can also count on us for duct cleaning and other indoor air quality equipment, including dehumidifiers and air scrubbers. Call us today, or contact us online to schedule an appointment or to learn more about the products and services we offer.

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