If you associate winter with illness, chapped lips, nosebleeds and creaking hardwood floors, it's likely that the air in your home is too dry. When the relative humidity of the air in your home drops too low, the air begins to draw moisture from everything it touches. While many people blame dry air on their heater, this isn't the whole story. However, the best way to fix dry air is to call a heating professional and have a whole-house humidifier installed next to your furnace. Here's what you need to know about the effects of dry air and how to fix it.
Why Does Your Heater Make Your Home's Air Dry?
When your heater pulls in cold, dry air from outside in order to warm it and blow it throughout your home, it doesn't actually remove any moisture from the air. In terms of absolute humidity, there's just as much water vapor in the warm air as there was in the cold air.
However, when the air is heated, its relative humidity decreases rapidly. Relative humidity is expressed as a percentage – it's the percentage of water vapor in the air currently compared to what it could hold if it was fully saturated. A low relative humidity is what causes air to feel dry. This is due to the fact that air with a low relative humidity readily sucks out moisture from everything it comes in contact with – that's why a clothes dryer uses hot air to rapidly lift water away from your clothes. The end result is that the heated air in your home feels uncomfortably dry.
What Problems Does Dry Air Cause?
The primary problem with dry air comes from the fact that it dries out your skin and the mucous in your respiratory tract. As you inhale dry air, it sucks moisture away from the mucous in your nose and causes it to dry out. Your mucous plays an important role in protecting you from pathogens – it traps any inhaled bacteria or viruses and prevents them from entering your body. When your mucous becomes dry, it loses its ability to entrap pathogens. Similarly, dry skin can crack and form sores – this is why many people experience chapped lips during the winter. These open cracks in your skin are another vector for pathogens lurking in the air. Overall, dry air reduces your body's ability to fight off infection and can lead to illness.
Dry air can also damage your home and your furniture. Dry air sucks moisture out of wooden items and causes them to contract. Wooden window frames can warp, creating gaps that let cool air escape. Hardwood floors can creak and buckle, and extremely dry air can cause the hardwood boards to strain against the nails and glue as they contract, which can cause damage to your floor. Wooden furniture can also crack and split due to dry air.
How Can You Prevent Dry Air In Your Home?
The easiest way is to call a heating installation professional and install a whole-house bypass humidifier. These humidifiers are installed next to your furnace and introduce steam into the air as it is blown out of your furnace. The result is that all of the warm air flowing through your ducts will be at a comfortable relative humidity level. Whole-house humidifiers are inexpensive and require very little maintenance, but they need to be installed by a professional.
Dry air has many negative effects on your home and those living in it. If you're tired of suffering from dry air and watching your wooden furniture crack and splinter in the winter, call a heating contractor to have a whole-house humidifier installed in your central air system.