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How to Combat Dry Air in Your Home

Winter Tips: How to Combat Dry Air in Your Home

Dry air is something that many homeowners have to deal with, especially when it’s cold out. But even as we head into spring, the task of adding humidity to our homes never ends. Air entering your home is what makes it dry out. So, as the seasons move from cold to warm in Minnesota, here are some suggestions to combat dry air this spring.

Why Your Home is Drier

Most homes “dry out” in the winter as the air outside gets colder and drier. When cold air enters your home, it automatically causes a drying effect because it can’t hold much moisture to begin with. Then, when it heats up inside your home and mixes with the warm air already there, your moisture level can plummet.

“Cold air contains little moisture as it takes heat energy to keep the moisture in suspension, so cold air entering the home in winter or spring will dry it out,” says Keith Hill, our resident expert and manager of technical support at Minnesota Air. “Spring air is not so cold, so the moisture content is not as low as winter outside air, which makes it less of a problem – but the solutions are the same.”

Reduce Air Leaving or Entering Your Home

Because how dry your home becomes is actually a matter of how much outside air sneaks into your home, a “leaky home” will dry out faster than a well-sealed home. That’s why it’s important to seal up the envelope of your house. This helps your home hold more moisture inside. In order to do this, look for cracks in the foundation, gaps around windows and doors, and if you have an attached garage, don’t forget about the service door. This door is especially important to seal, as it may also allow fumes from your automobile to enter your home.

“Remember that whatever air leaves the home has to be replaced with air infiltrating the home through cracks and crevices,” says Keith. “Seal up those leaks and limit the air leaving, and the moisture level will be easier to maintain.”

Fireplace or Exhaust Flue?

As temperatures warm up, you may be tempted to turn off your furnace and use your fireplace to heat your home. That’s fine, but know that if you have a wood-burning fireplace, the chimney could be working as an exhaust flue even when it’s not in use.

“Homes that have wood fireplaces can be very dry, particularly if the fireplace does not have well-sealed glass doors,” says Keith. “Many think that wood heat is hotter and that dries the home. It’s actually the open fireplace allowing warm air into the chimney, which essentially becomes an exhaust device.”

He says that when you’re not using the fireplace, the indoor air – which is warm and humid – tends to be drawn from the house continuously, and that puts the home into a negative pressure, which causes more outside air to come in and more of a drying effect.

“As a test, wrap plastic over the face of the fireplace – obviously do not fire it up during the test – and wait a day or so to see if the humidity level comes up,” says Keith.

Ways to Balance Humidity

It would be ideal to maintain a 40% relative humidity in your home, regardless of outside temperatures. Our furnishings and our bodies would sure appreciate it. But it gets tricky in Minnesota, with our widely variable seasons. In the spring, we begin to see more moisture in our air naturally, but that doesn’t mean we have the full-on humidity that comes in summer.

Keep in mind that you can naturally add moisture to your home just by normal living activities like cooking, cleaning, and bathing. “When the house is dry, it’s a good time to make some soup or bake some cookies,” Keith says.

But if you’re still looking for more consistent moisture, you may need to invest in a humidifier.

Choosing a Humidifier

The easiest way to adjust your home’s humidity is to install a humidifier. There are two basic types: portable and central, duct-mounted units.

  • Portable humidifiers are less expensive and can be moved from room to room depending on your needs. However, they can also be a hassle to maintain – they need to be emptied and filters replaced regularly. And they can only distribute humidity locally, not throughout your entire home.

  • Central duct mounted humidifiers, however, distribute humidity evenly throughout your home. Plus, these units are nearly maintenance-free and convenient to operate. They have controls that take the guesswork out of the periodic adjustments you may need to change humidity levels with changing outdoor temperatures. Some premier thermostats, like Carrier’s Côr and Infinity Series Controls, even have those controls built right in.

If you’re ready to take more control of your home’s humidity – and your own comfort – contact your HVAC professional to discuss adding a central, duct-mounted humidifier to your system.

Need to find a reliable pro in your area? Just use our convenient dealer locator.

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