Have you ever returned from a trip to somewhere humid and then once you get back to Calgary your skin feels noticeably dry and it’s a little harder to breathe? That’s the low humidity that comes along with the altitude and thin air of having a home just east of the rocky mountains.
Here at ClearView Plumbing and Heating, we love Calgary, but something that really bothers us about our great city is the humidity (or lack of) much of the year, especially in the winter! These days Calgarians spend around 90% of our time indoors and we breathe all of this stale, dry air instead of crisp, refreshing air made possible by maintaining a healthy level of humidity in our homes. Knowing the impacts of humidity in your home is very important in order to optimize your family’s comfort and health.
How Can I Check the Humidity Level in My Home?
Checking the humidity levels in your home is fairly straightforward. You can use a tool called a hygrometer, which you can pick up from Canadian Tire or your local home hardware store. It looks like a thermometer and costs between $20-$150, and some are both a thermometer and a hygrometer with both temperature as well as humidity level displays.
Although, for the most part, you shouldn’t need to purchase one unless you want a handheld tester since most humidifiers have internal hygrometers to check and adjust the relative humidity to optimal levels. Relative humidity refers to the percentage of moisture content in the air in your home, with between 35% and 45% being the optimal and most comfortable range.
What if I have Low Relative Humidity in My Home?
If you have low relative humidity in your home, well that can cause a wide variety of problems (so can high humidity, but we’ll get into that later). Calgarian’s homes that have low humidity can experience problems such as:
- Frequent Nose Bleeds
- Dry, Itchy and Cracked Skin
- More Difficulty Breathing
- Increased Static Electric Shocks
- Dry and Sore Throats
- More Dust Irritation
Low humidity issues like these are usually more common in older homes, as they are often less energy efficient and have hardwood flooring. That was the case with one ClearView customer here in Calgary who had just bought a new home, but the hardwood had shrunk due to the low humidity!
Poor humidity will also make it more difficult to maintain a comfortable interior temperature causing your furnace or forced-air system to do more work. As a result, you can expect increased heating bills if relative humidity levels aren’t efficiently maintained.
So what do you do?
Enter, the wonderful world of humidifiers! These lovely inventions will provide moisture for your environment, which is great if you are suffering from asthma or allergies, get that dreaded winter cold, or just want to breathe easier with a little moisture in the air.
Now, there are several types of humidifiers and we will go through some of the more popular ones, so you can pick which one best suits your needs. Let’s get moist up in here!
What type of Humidifier is best for my home?
Portable units come in three general types: Warm Mist, Cool Mist, and Ultrasonic. The process they use differs, but they all add moisture to the air. Choosing between them is largely a matter of personal preference. The price ranges for these types stretch from $45 to $170.
Make sure the model you choose is easy to clean. As we discovered in our clean-air tests, these humidifiers can harbour gross bacteria if not cleaned regularly. You’re going to want to clean these humidifiers with every single filling to maintain optimal air quality and minimize bacteria and airborne viruses.
There is a 4th type, which requires far less maintenance and cleaning: a whole-house humidifier. In-duct or furnace humidifiers are the ideal choices if you have a forced-air heating system and want to humidify your entire home. They are tapped into the air ducts and plumbed into your home’s water supply, so they would require professional installation from ClearView Plumbing and Heating.
What are the benefits of installing a whole home, in-duct or furnace humidifier?
These types of humidifiers are hooked directly to your home’s current installed heating or air conditioning system and give you a few advantages, namely:
- Adding moisture back into your home so that you can breathe again!
- Moist air is easier to heat meaning that you don’t have to crank up the furnace and so can save on your energy bills.
- The extra moisture in the air helps your health and preserves the life of many of your belongings.
Whole house humidifiers are useful, but you have to be sure you install the right size.
Too big, and it will chew through power for no real purpose.
Too small, and it won’t do anything at all!
Now, before you crank that humidifier you just installed, keep in mind the recommended levels. Calgary homes should have humidity levels of between 35% and 45%. Any less than that and you have dry air. Any more than that and you’ll have the problems we mentioned earlier, including mold growth, food rotting faster, and bacteria growth. These things will damage your home and your health just as surely as the dry air did and, in the case of toxic mold, the damage could be much worse!
The right moisture level in your home is essential for the sake of your health and comfort. A whole-house humidifier can definitely help to make your home more comfortable to live in. They are fairly easy to buy and install nowadays, though if you’re looking for a different approach you could consider replacing your furnace for a boiler. Because it’s a water-based heating system, it doesn’t pull moisture from the air and keeps a moderate level of humidity in your indoor air, which can provide health benefits. It’s also a radiant heating system, so unlike forced air, boiler heat naturally distributes to all areas of a room, including the floors and surfaces, providing maximum comfort.
If you need help figuring out what size humidifier is best for our house – call ClearView Plumbing and Heating and we’ll come to help you!
Clearview Plumbing and Heating is Calgary’s plumber of choice since 1996. From boiler systems to whole-home humidifier systems, ClearView can handle any installation, maintenance or repair need you might have!
You can reach us at any time by calling (403) 216-8439.