If your home constantly feels overly dry and staticky during the winter months, a whole-home humidifier is a great option. Dry air is a common problem during the winter months as your furnace essentially sucks any moisture out of the air whenever it is heating. Whole-home humidifiers help tackle this issue by constantly pumping out moist air and circulating it through your ductwork.
The one reservation that many people have when considering a humidifier is that they’re worried that it will make their home too moist and potentially allow mold to start growing. High indoor humidity can definitely lead to mold issues. However, there are ways to prevent whole-home humidifiers from potentially causing mold issues.
How a Whole-Home Humidifier Manages Moisture Levels
Whole-home humidifiers are installed as part of a forced-air HVAC system. In a normal HVAC system, a furnace or heat pump produces heat, and the blower fan forces this heated air through the ductwork and circulates it around the building. With a whole-home dehumidifier, the heated air first flows out of the furnace and into the humidifier before entering the rest of the ductwork system.
A whole-home humidifier is connected to your home’s water supply. Inside the unit are a heating element and a water reservoir. As the unit heats, the water evaporates into vapor. This moisture is then transferred to the heated air coming from the furnace, which raises the humidity level before the air is then pumped throughout the home.
On some whole-home humidifiers, you have to manually turn the unit on and off and adjust its settings. As a result, the humidity level can easily rise too high and lead to moisture and mold issues if you’re not careful and constantly monitoring things. However, this problem can easily be prevented by opting for a whole-home humidifier that has automatic controls instead.
With this type of unit, the entire process is controlled by either your thermostat or a separate control panel. Just as your thermostat measures the indoor temperature to signal your furnace to turn on and off, it can also constantly measures the humidity level. You can program the thermostat or control panel to your desired humidity level. Once it measures that the air in the home is at this level, it will automatically signal the humidifier to stop running.
The humidifier will usually run whenever your furnace is on. However, if the humidity level is too high, the humidifier will shut off, even if the heat is still running. When the humidifier is off, no water vapor will be created. Thus, the air coming out of your vents will be much drier.
How Does Humidity Cause Moisture and Mold Issues?
High humidity causes moisture issues due to condensation. Warm air always contains more moisture than cold air. Whenever this warm, humid air encounters any cold surface, much of the moisture in the air condenses into water. The problem is typically worse during the winter due to cold air seeping in from outside.
If you have any cracks or air leaks around your windows or doors or in your walls, cold air will constantly penetrate into the house. This leads to your walls and other areas quickly becoming quite cold. When the hot air from your furnace hits these cold surfaces, any remaining moisture in it will almost instantly condense into water. These air leaks are also part of the reason that your home feels so dry during the winter since, again, cold air contains far less moisture.
Whenever condensation forms, this moisture will then soak into your walls, flooring, insulation, wooden studs and other parts of your home. If these materials can’t dry out, the combination of heat and moisture creates the perfect conditions for mildew and mold to begin growing. Even though most mold is non-toxic, it is still a major allergen and can cause respiratory problems.
Any type of moisture also creates the possibility for toxic black mold to grow, and breathing in these spores can lead to much more serious health problems. This is because black mold contains harmful substances known as mycotoxins, which can lead to mold poisoning or mycotoxicosis. Mycotoxins have also been linked to numerous other health issues including skin rashes, sinus inflammation and worsening of asthma and other respiratory ailments.
High humidity can also lead to water damage, harming your building materials and furnishings. Condensation inside your walls or in the attic can cause wood to begin to rot and threaten your home’s underlying structure. It may also cause your flooring to warp or buckle. Water stains on your windows, walls and ceilings are common issues stemming from condensation as well.
The best way to prevent these problems is with air sealing. This involves going around the entire building to make sure that it is free of any cracks or gaps. You also need to fully check the caulking inside and outside of your door and window frames. Make sure that the weather-stripping is still in good shape and seals tight to prevent drafts. The last part is to make sure that you have sufficient insulation in your basement, attic, walls and ceilings to prevent cold air from getting inside.
If no cold can seep inside, then the surfaces in your home will remain warmer. This helps to prevent mold and other issues by limiting the temperature difference between your home’s air and surfaces. The greater the temperature difference between the hot air and any surfaces, the more condensation you will notice.
Mold can also easily grow inside your home’s ducts. This can be prevented by making sure that your ductwork is not damaged and properly sealed. Determine if there is leaking air anywhere. Any ducts that run through unconditioned areas like your attic or crawlspace also need to be fully covered with duct insulation. Again, these things help to prevent hot or cold air from contacting the ducts and causing condensation to form in or on the metal.
What Is the Ideal Indoor Humidity Level?
Most experts recommend that your home always stays at 50 to 55% relative indoor humidity. Any humidity lower than 50% will cause you to experience more issues with static build-up. Low humidity can also worsen respiratory and sinus issues as well as dry out your hair, nose and eyes. It can even make your skin itchy and flaky. If the humidity level rises much above 60%, then much more condensation will form whenever warmer air meets a colder surface.
Professional HVAC Services and Solutions
If you’re considering a whole-home humidifier for your house in De Pere, Healthy Home Heating & Cooling LLC has all the information you need. We install humidifiers as well as a range of other indoor air quality equipment. This includes highly efficient air filtration and air purification systems from top brands like Secure Aire and Aprilaire. These systems can help eliminate mold spores as well as the vast majority of other airborne pollutants and allergens.
Our certified technicians also specialize in all other HVAC maintenance, repair and installation services. We work on and install central air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps, boilers and ductless mini-splits. We carry a wide selection of efficient HVAC units and equipment from Rheem, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu and Honeywell. Free estimates are available for all equipment replacements and installations, and financing for new equipment purchases is also available with approved credit. To learn more about whole-home humidifiers or any of our other services, contact Healthy Home Heating & Cooling LLC today.