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Low humidity in the winter can dry noses, skin and throats as well as crack fingertips. Your home can also suffer from overly dry conditions, including wood floors opening up, increase in static electricity, drywall is affected and even pianos can go out of tune.

“Relative Humidity” refers to the air’s ability to hold water/moisture. The colder the air, the less ability it has to hold moisture.

Indoor humidity levels should be between 30 to 50 percent, with the ideal level around 45 percent. Humidity levels can be easily checked with a hygrometer, an inexpensive gauge that looks like a thermometer

Homes that are not very weather tight will have a harder time keeping a comfortable humidity level. This is due to the “stack effect” of homes – meaning warm air leaves the house through insufficient attic insulation or drafty ceiling can lights. This loss of air creates a vacuum effect – pulling in cold, dry air through drafty windows and other openings in the exterior of your home. This cold air has less moisture and is hard to humidify.

To maintain proper humidity in your home, first insulate and weatherize thoroughly – making the home as “tight” as possible. Not only will you begin saving money on your heating and cooling bills, but you’ll also have more control over the level of humidity.

After the home is tight, add humidity as needed. At first, finding the most comfortable humidity level is a bit of a balancing act. If condensation starts to appear on the windows, the humidity in the home is too high, which can lead to other problems, including paint and wallpaper peeling. Overly moist conditions are also breeding grounds for mold, rot and insects such as termites.

Gas-fired and electric furnaces create a very dry heat. For that reason, we recommend using humidifiers in the winter. A whole house humidifier consists of a pad that has water flowing through it, with warm air blowing through the pad. This movement of warm air over the pad increases humidity in the air.

Whole house humidifiers typically require simple yearly maintenance. Minerals in our water supply flowing through the pad build up on the pad or block the orifice through which the water flows. It is possible for mold or fungus to form on the pad if not maintained for long periods of time.

It takes some effort, but maintaining the proper humidity levels in your home is worth it. After all, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors.