Many people know that using humidifiers is a great idea when the weather outside starts turning colder, although it’s hard to imagine that in the summer here in the Charlottesville area when the last thing on your mind is to add moisture inside a home when it’s so hot and sweaty outside.
During the colder fall and winter months, humidifier therapy adds moisture to the air to prevent dryness that can cause irritation. Humidifiers can be particularly effective for treating dry skin, nose, throat, and lips. Some people also occasionally use a humidifier to ward off common cold and flu symptoms.
When you have less than 20% humidity inside a home this can lead to at least three noticeable effects – using a humidifier would help all three of these problems disappear.
Increased static electricity.
The feeling known as “cotton mouth” is common at night and in the morning. The lack of humidity dries out your mouth, throat and nasal passages. It also causes dry skin and chapped lips.
* Wood in the house shrinks as it dries out. Things like wood molding, wood floors, wood furniture, etc., are affected
Why does the air get so dry in the winter? In the winter months, 40% to 50% is the recommended level indoors. Although 60% may sound good, actually what happens is any cold air that comes inside gets heated, and the humidity of the air changes dramatically.
The amount of water vapor the air can hold increases with temperature. Relative humidity therefore decreases with increasing temperature if the actual amount of water vapor stays the same.
The overuse of humidifiers, however, can potentially worsen respiratory problems, so it is important to know how to use them correctly. For the best results, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that the humidity level in your home not exceed 50%. (EPA)
Humidifiers work to put moisture back in the air, but what exactly does that mean, how does it help your chapped lips and is it crucial to own one? Humidifiers do more good than bad, as long as you clean them properly. Without regular care, a dirty humidifier could promote bacteria and mold growth.
You also want to ensure that your humidifier doesn’t make your home too humid. According to the EPA, ideal indoor humidity levels can vary but “the ideal levels of humidity for your living space will be less than 60 [percent] in the summer and between 25 — 40 [percent] in the winter.”
How do I clean a humidifier?
From white vinegar and tea tree oil to using distilled water, there are many ways to clean your humidifier. The important thing is that you do clean it, and regularly.
What kind of humidifier do I need?
The type of humidifier you choose depends on your preferences, budget, and the extent of the area in which you want to add moisture. There are five types of humidifiers:
Central humidifiers – built directly into your home’s air conditioning or heating unit. They’re the most expensive types, but are the best choice if you want to add humidity throughout the entire house.
Evaporators – blow moisture through a moistened filter. Fans power the unit and expel the humidity into the air. Evaporative humidifiers cost more than average drugstore steam vaporizers.
Impeller humidifiers – are among the most child-friendly devices because they create cool mists. Also called “cool mist humidifiers,” these units work with the help of rotating disks that run at high speeds. Impeller humidifiers are an affordable choice for people on a budget.
Steam vaporizers – are the most budget-friendly humidifiers, which can be purchased at drugstores. They are electrically powered and heat water that is cooled before being expelled into the air. These are the most portable humidifiers and are often used in one room. Vaporizers are not the best choice for children because they can cause burns.
Ultrasonic humidifiers – like impeller humidifiers, they produce a cool mist with the help of ultrasonic vibration. The units vary in price depending on the size you want for your home.
Controlling Humidity Levels
While adding humidity to the air may be beneficial, too much humidity can worsen respiratory problems and create an uncomfortable dampness in the air, which can encourage: dust mites, mildew, mold and harmful bacteria.
According to the Mayo Clinic, humidity should stay between 30 and 50%. A hygrometer can determine how much humidity is in your home. Some central humidifiers come equipped with hygrometers. You can also buy these devices from hardware stores. Test humidity daily, especially if someone in your household has allergies or asthma.
Special care should be taken in households with children. Never let children handle humidifiers, and don’t place a warm-mist steamer in a child’s bedroom. Burns are the most common injuries associated with humidifiers.
Allowing a unit to expel too much moisture can create condensation on the walls. This water can then turn into mold and spread throughout the home.
Unclean humidifiers can cause bacterial growth that can promote coughs and colds. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and clean the unit regularly to prevent bacterial growth. Steam vaporizers can get dirty quickly, but they are also among the easiest to clean. Rinse out all used water between uses. Additionally, be sure to wash the bucket and filter system every two to three days during usage.
Humidifiers can potentially emit minerals and microorganisms in the air. Although not necessarily harmful, the residue can bother asthmatics. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using distilled water to avoid this problem.
Call your doctor if your medical symptoms don’t improve. If your symptoms worsen with humidifiers, stop use entirely and contact your physician.