Help with Humidifiers: Frequently-Asked Questions
  • Posted on October 25, 2019
  • By Rod Miller

One of the topics we get asked most about heading into winter is humidifiers.

Especially in our area, people aren’t used to the dryness of winter air; it’s definitely a marked change from the heavy humidity of spring and summer. To compensate, some homeowners turn to humidifiers to boost the amount of water in the air during colder months. But many people aren’t sure how to best use their humidifiers – and others are debating whether or not a humidifier is worthwhile in the first place.

At Rod Miller, we’re here to help. Here’s our take on the helpfulness of humidifiers, along with answers to the most common questions we’re asked on the topic.

How Humidifiers Help

Most commonly, people opt to use a humidifier for its health benefits. These can include:

  • Minimizing the risk of viruses. Some studies have found that viruses spread more easily in drier air.
  • Maintaining healthy hair and skin.
  • Reducing allergy symptoms.
  • Reducing snoring.

In general, an optimized level of humidity contributes to human health. During the winter, humidifiers can help to achieve this. But they provide benefits in a few other areas, too:

  • Humidifiers are helpful for houseplants. Dry air can be difficult for many of the moisture-loving plants that are commonly used to decorate east-coast homes.
  • Humidifiers are helpful for maintaining wood floors and furniture. Dry wood is damaged more easily.
  • Humidifiers help to save on heat bills by allowing greater comfort at lower temperatures (higher humidity allows the body to retain more heat).

If your home could do with any of these benefits or just tends to be overly dry in the winter, then using a humidifier is probably a good idea.

Common Humidifier Questions

If you do choose to use a humidifier, there are a variety of factors to consider that will impact your usage. Here are the questions that homeowners most often ask us.

Which type of humidifier should I get?

To be clear, we’re talking specifically here about humidifier that are tied to the operation of the heat cycle. These humidify an entire home (as opposed to a standalone humidifier like the kind you might put in a baby’s room). The three most common types are fan-powered humidifiers, bypass humidifiers, and steam humidifiers.

The best fit for your home will depend on your needs, but fan-powered systems are a popular choice. These work (as their name implies) by using a fan to blow air across an evaporative pad. The evaporating water then passes through your ductwork and is output with the air.

Bypass systems work similarly; the only difference is that they use the the blower motor of your furnace instead of their own fan to accomplish the same effect. As a consequence, they can input less humidity into the air and are often a bit less efficient. They do tend to be quieter, though.

Steam humidifiers are less common, but they can be a good choice if you’re looking for maximum impact. They’re typically the most effective type, but also tend to be the costliest to operate and maintain. Unsurprisingly, they function by heating water and then dispersing it as steam, which has a greater effect than fan-based approaches.

What should I set my humidifier to?

We recommend setting humidifiers in this area to 35% relative humidity. For Maryland winters, this is a good level that should keep your home healthy without causing any issues. For the most part, you can set this and forget it for the rest of the winter.

If you do want to go higher, you can, but past 35% you’ll start to see larger amounts of condensation on windows and surfaces, especially on colder days. Be careful, as excessive condensation can cause damage to your home over time.

What’s the dusty material on my humidifier?

We’re also commonly asked about the dusty material that tends to appear on and around humidifiers (especially those that are hooked up to or use tap water). The answer: It’s from mineral deposits in your water.

Don’t worry – only pure H2O is being passed into your air, since as the water evaporates it leaves behind other materials. But you will need to monitor and take care of the mineral buildup, because it can prevent your unit from working effectively.

Does my humidifier need to be cleaned?

On a similar note, yes, your humidifier does need to be cleaned regularly. We recommend cleaning it as often as you change your filters. Again, especially if you’re using tap water, this is absolutely essential to keeping your unit functioning.

Does my humidifier need to be serviced?

Humidifiers, like other HVAC systems, should be regularly serviced. They’re complex systems that require monitoring.

We recommend getting your unit checked at least once per year. The fall is a good time for this, as a technician can check your heating systems and humidifier at once to ensure everything is in working order for the coming season.

Need More Help with a Humidifier This Year?

If you’re thinking about installing a humidifier or if you have service needs, get in touch with us.

As the weather turns colder and the air gets drier, using a humidifier can help your home to stay healthy and comfortable. Our technicians can ensure your system is set up to work at its best for your needs.

Get in touch online today, or give us a call at (301) 638-8348 if you need humidifier help this season.

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