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When you live in a cold climate where ice and snow are fairly common during winter, one of the biggest conundrums you’ll have to face is your indoor humidity level. Unlike summer where humidity is in abundant supply and often leaves you sweating and seeking an air conditioner, winter weather leaves the air cold and dry. Dry air can have a lot of negative effects on your home, including causing things like irritated eyes, nosebleeds, difficulty breathing, and much more.

You may be tempted to think a humidifier can solve this problem, but unless your home is outfitted with modern specialized windows, your glass could become covered in ice to the point where you may not even be able to see. The cost of new windows can be extremely high and isn’t necessarily something most homeowners want to invest in. So what can you do?

The solution starts with understanding the problem: why is humidity so important? In addition to causing health problems, a lack of humidity can actually cause building materials in your home to start to rot. When these materials dry out, they start to decompose, and decomposed materials can become a breeding ground for mold. Thus, you need to make sure that your humidity remains at a decent level.

Why Does Humidity Fluctuate?

The biggest reason why indoor humidity fluctuates during winter is because of pesky air leaks in your home. Because winter air is typically so dry, any air leaks can quickly send precious humidity outside and replace it with the air-equivalent of a vast desert. A humidifier can temporarily rectify this, but you’re only going to waste energy and money in doing so unless you resolve the root cause of the problem.

The best way to keep your home more humid: close off these air leaks. Buy weather stripping from your local hardware store and replace any worn, cracked, or otherwise compromised strips along your doors and windows. Seal window and door mounts with caulking. Make sure there are no other air leaks in your home aside from those which are absolutely necessary (such as dryer vents or combustion air returns on your furnace).

Once you have sealed off those pesky leaks in your home, you can use a humidifier to adjust your indoor humidity, but do so sparingly in order to avoid the hassle of icing over your windows. Place the unit in a central location of your home, and one which is as far away from windows as possible. Keep in mind how long for your humidifier to increase your home’s humidity a given percentage, and then run your system accordingly.

Alternatively, many modern HVAC systems can also actively monitor your indoor humidity and use humidity controlling features to actively adjust and keep your home at the perfect humidity level based on factors and settings you provide! Talk to a Sterling heating and cooling expert to learn more about what systems have these features.

Ideal Indoor Humidity

What’s the ideal humidity level? That depends on two factors: the temperature outside, and the temperature inside. As the temperature outside decreases, your indoor humidity should also decrease to compensate in order to avoid the hassle of iced windows. You can keep an eye on this by purchasing a hygrometer, a device that measures humidity, from your local hardware store.

Let’s assume for a second that your indoor temperature is at a constant 70 degrees, a comfortable level during winter. When the temperature outside ranges between 40 and 20 degrees, your indoor humidity should not be more than 40 percent. However, you should do your best to try to keep it around 30 percent—any less could result in negative consequences.

As the temperature dips, indoor humidity should compensate. If the temperature falls between 10 and 20 degrees, indoor humidity shouldn’t exceed 35 percent. Between ten degrees and zero should be no more than 30 percent. Admittedly temperatures getting that low are exceedingly rare in the Virginia area, but it doesn’t hurt to know what to do in the event a major cold spell sweeps the eastern seaboard.

Struggling with your indoor humidity this winter? Call the experts at Donmar Heating, Cooling & Plumbing at (703) 457-8676 and get help with your issues today!
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