Humidifiers – Pros and Cons
Seasoned Coloradans know better than anyone that even though we’re about to flip the calendar to March, winter still has plenty of time to rear its head in the Front Range, and no matter the snowfall totals at the end of it all, there’s one Colorado winter staple you just can’t avoid – dry air. How do you keep from waking up every morning with a scratchy throat and feeling like you need an endless supply of lotion just to retain some moisture in your skin? Humidifiers are a common answer to the question of kicking dryness to the curb. But what’s the best solution, and what are the real benefits you can count on if you install a humidifier in your home?
How Humidifiers Help
How don’t they help may be a better question. In dry climates like Colorado, especially when you add in the cold weather that will make it feel even dryer inside, the benefits of a humidifier are many, but some of the main ones are:
- Relief of common respiratory and skin ailments associated with dry air
- Reducing the viability of airborne viruses and bacteria
- Protecting fine wood furniture, wood flooring, and musical instruments from cracking due to dryness
- Reducing airborne dust
- Providing comfort levels on a par with a higher thermostat setting, without having to set the temperature that high – which means lower utility bills and more money in your pocket at the end of the month!
- Helps reduce shocks from static electricity
Different Types of Humidifiers
For our purposes, let’s break it down into the two main categories: portable units, and whole-house rated central units that are designed to be installed on a forced air (typically a furnace) heating system. Many homeowners start with a portable unit – it may seem an easier option, or they may not be aware that central units are also available. The drawbacks of a portable unit include their constant need to be refilled, and the limited square footage they are capable of covering. Portable units can also leak or make it a bit ‘swampy’ right around the unit. While they may be a good solution for short term or small-area humidifying, a whole-home rated central unit is likely the better choice for your long-term humidifying needs.
You Might Not Want One If…
Though in a climate like Colorado’s there are few circumstances where a humidifier won’t help improve the quality of your indoor air, you may not need one if you have a lot of plants, an indoor spa or swimming pool, or for some other reason already have a reasonably humid home.
In most cases, it’s less about whether or not a humidifier is a good choice, and more about the type of humidifier chosen.
Choosing the Right Humidifier
If you’re trying to figure out which central unit might work best for you, there are a few things to consider. There are two main types of central units – flow-through humidifiers and steam humidifiers. Both have their advantages in different situations, and which one fits you best will depend on your objectives.
Flow-thu humidifiers mounted to your furnace operate by using hot air from the furnace to evaporate water as it flows through a special media pad within the unit. Your furnace then delivers this humidified air throughout your home by means of the ducting system. These units do have some performance limitations, as they require that the furnace be operating in the heating mode in order to provide humidification. So if the furnace isn’t running (think sunny days!), neither is the humidifier. Flow-thru units can be a great comfort solution for many homes. They are the most affordable option, and require the least amount of annual maintenance – but they might not be enough for some families and homes.
Steam humidifiers provide a more assured solution to humidity issues. While they still will connect to your central ducting system, these systems boil water internally to create humidity, so they aren’t forced to rely on the heating system being ‘on’ to help. With a steam unit, you have a far greater chance of maintaining a consistent humidity level, especially in larger homes. Steam units come at a higher price and require a little more maintenance, but if you need a truly consistent solution, this may fit your goals best.
No matter what style humidifier you think you’re interested in, it’s worth discussing with your service professional before you make a final decision. If you’re tired of getting a shock every time you go to hug your partner or pet the cat, it might be the perfect time to get serious about what a humidifier can do for your home. Give us a call and let’s get your home back to a less….shocking state!