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Your humidifier can offer many benefits that aren't as obvious as the cure for dry throat, sinus irritation, and other symptoms of air that is too dry. Here are some of the benefits:
1. When your humidifier returns your home to recommended humidity levels, Staph and Strep bacteria die off up to 20 times faster than in air that is too moist or too dry.
2. A 10 percent improvement in relative humidity is equal to a one-degree change in temperature. If your home starts off at only seven percent humidity and changes to a more comfortable 47 percent, it will feel as if the temperature has increased by four degrees.
3. Potted plants thrive much better at the recommended humidity levels your humidifier will bring to your home.
4. Adequate humidity prevents damage to expensive hardwood flooring that can be permanently warped in air that is too dry.
There are many benefits to running a humidifier at the recommended settings. Too-dry air is a disadvantage you simply do not need to deal with in the wintertime, thanks to humidifier technology.
If you are coping with dry winter air and low humidity, running your humidifier can help increase your comfort level, but you'll need to monitor your humidity levels to avoid creating conditions ripe for mold growth. One low-tech way to do this is to pay attention to your windowpanes. If you see condensation building up on the windows, you may need to adjust your humidifier to lower the relative humidity in the home back to a level that won't create moisture build up. Such build up can lead to mold, warped wood, and other problems if it goes unchecked.
Some areas of the country have very dry conditions that may require the use of a humidifier to prevent respiratory infections and other problems associated with breathing air that is too dry. You may find that winter weather in your area is particularly drying. In cases like these, use an air humidifier in the common areas of your home to increase the moisture to between 30 and 50 percent. Remember that when the winter weather gives way to spring and you stop using heat, you should also stop using your home humidifier. Too much moisture in the air is just as bad as not enough!
Too much humidity in the air is bad for electronics, but a lack of proper moisture can be just as damaging in a different way. A humidifier is an excellent way to prevent excessive buildup of static electricity. If you notice those annoying shocks every time you touch another person, a doorknob, or other metal surfaces, your air is too dry. Remember that you will also get zaps when working with some kinds of computers, including the Macintosh models sold with metal housings. A zap of static electricity can be the kiss of death for computer components, home stereo circuits, and other electronics. Use your home humidifier to rectify the dry air situation and drastically lower your "zap potential".
If you have recently installed a humidifier in the home to cope with dry winter air and low humidity, you may need a period of up to three weeks before you start noticing a difference in your air quality. This is because the wood in your home, carpet, and even houseplants can all absorb the moisture created by your humidifier. Once moisture hits a normal level from the humidifier, you will notice the difference, but give the machine time to bring levels back to where they should be. Unfortunately, you may not be able to undo any damage caused by low humidity to sensitive woods on pianos, picture frames, and other items.
Most parts of the country will have higher humidity in the summer, and it is a bad idea to operate humidifiers during this time. The excess moisture generated can lead to mold growth, excessive water condensation, warping woods or tile, and other problems. It is also a bad idea to run a humidifier in the wintertime in any potentially freezing place in the house such as an attic. You risk doing serious water damage to your home in such cases. When the seasons begin to change again, and you wonder if there is enough moisture in the air, you can check the hygrometer or Internet sites such as the National Weather Service (http://www.srh.noaa.gov/) for local readings. Don't be taken by surprise by low humidity! There are plenty of resources to tell you when you should break out the humidifier once more to insure enough moisture in the air.
If you notice a buildup of white powder in areas of your humidifier, you may be experiencing issues with hard water. Many places around the country have more lime in the water supply than other parts of the country. If you have concerns with lime, try using a water filter pitcher or an "on-sink" water filter and fill your humidifier with the filtered water for better results. You might also try purchasing bottled water in the gallon-jug size for use with your humidifier. Depending on the brand, you may see different results from a house humidifier, portable humidifier, etc. Some models are known for their lack of scaling, while others may be more sensitive to hard water.
Many first-time air humidifier buyers are unsure when they hear the gurgling sound emanating from their brand-new machine. The good news is, that noise means the humidifier is working properly. That is the sound of water in the machine being drawn where it needs to go in order to properly humidify the home. When it comes to the water in your humidifier, you should also know that most manufacturers recommend using clean water only in the machine. Adding medicine to the water reservoir is not a good idea as you may damage the humidifier with residues or other by-products. Some humidifiers come with a "medicine cup" type compartment that is intended for menthol-type inhalants or other medicinal products.
Did you know that air that has low humidity could damage guitars, woodwind instruments, and stringed instruments such as cellos and violins? A musician who plays one of these should invest in a good hygrometer to see what low-moisture problems might be occurring in instrument storage areas. You may need to invest in a humidifier to properly safeguard your musical equipment from the damage caused by low humidity.
A hygrometer is a device that measures relative humidity. Many models come with indoor and outdoor temperature sensors that are also handy. If you have a humidifier and need to know when humidity levels are low enough to begin using one effectively, you may wish to invest in a hygrometer. This can be especially helpful for portable models of home humidifiers that are put away during the "cooling season" in the summer months. Once fall begins to turn to winter, you can monitor the hygrometer day to day to see where the humidity levels are at in your home. Once the moisture level become low enough, you can break out your portable humidifiers and put them to work. The hygrometer is also a good way to gauge whether your humidifiers are set properly. If there is too much moisture in the air, you can adjust the settings on your air humidifier and keep the moisture level at the proper levels.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|