Dry air can cause respiratory problems and increased allergy symptoms for many people, especially in the winter. Dry air in your home can draw moisture out of porous materials like wood, including furniture, woodwork, wood floors, pianos and other musical instruments. It makes the air temperature feel cooler than humidified air, so you set your thermostat higher to reach the same comfort level. Two main types of humidifiers are available. Room units are small and portable, while whole-house humidifiers are permanently installed with your central heating and cooling system.
After your whole-house humidifier has been installed on your forced air furnace system, you can set the humidity level and forget about it. Aprilaire explains that a whole-house humidifier operates with a hygrometer to measure the humidity level, and it automatically humidifies the air as your furnace warms it, distributing it to every room through your duct work.
According to Aprilaire, a whole-house unit monitors the humidity level, adding moisture only when it is needed and limiting the level of humidity to the setting you select. Many room units do not have regulators to stop the humidification process when the proper humidity level has been reached. Too much humidity can increase mold, mildew and dust mites.
Allergy Buyers Club mentions that the water tanks and other parts of room humidifiers must be cleaned often to prevent mold and bacteria buildup. In contrast, a whole-house humidifier will need cleaning once or twice a year to remove white dust mineral deposits left by the evaporated water. Usually no other maintenance is necessary.
The even humidity level maintained by a whole-house humidifier keeps the air you breathe healthier, no matter which room you are in. Allergy Buyers Club reports that dry air can exacerbate sinus problems and cause nose bleeds, and it can encourage the spread of some viruses that cause respiratory illness. Humidified air can help reduce snoring for some people, and it reduces chapped lips, dry throat and dry skin.
Humid air feels warmer than dry air at the same temperature. Aprilaire recommends adding a whole-house humidifier to your furnace. The humidified, heated air allows you to keep your thermostat set several degrees lower while you enjoy the same comfort level throughout your home. A lowered thermostat helps you save money on your heating bill.
Room humidifiers need expensive distilled water to operate at maximum efficiency. A whole-house humidifier is plumbed into your household water system, so you never need to purchase special water. It adds a few cents per month to your water bill.
Fern Fischer's print and online work has appeared in publications such as Midwest Gardening, Dolls, Workbasket, Quilts for Today and Cooking Fresh. With a broader focus on organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family articles, she specializes in topics involving antique and modern quilting, sewing and needlework techniques.