Modern furnaces do a great job of heating homes. Here in Jacksonville, FL, they help residents get through the cold of winter without running up massive energy bills. They do have some drawbacks, though. One of the biggest among them is that they can make the air in your home quite dry. In an area like ours, where the outdoor relative humidity tends to be high, that’s a bigger deal than you might think.
The good news is that the addition of a whole-house humidifier to your furnace can solve the problem. First, however, you’ll need to determine if your home needs a humidifier. Here’s everything you need to know about proper indoor humidity and how to tell if you might benefit from the addition of a humidifier.
What Is Normal Indoor Humidity?
The humidity of the air inside your home should be at slightly different levels, depending on the time of year. In the summer, it’s reasonable to have an indoor humidity between 50% and 60%. That’s at least 20% lower than the average outdoor humidity here in the summer. In general, your home’s air conditioning system will help keep your home in that range when it’s running in the summer.
In the winter, however, your indoor humidity is typically lower. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, your home should have a relative humidity between 30% and 50% in the winter. It’s important to recognize, however, that your furnace could drop your indoor temperature well below that ideal range. If that’s happening inside your home, it’s a problem you shouldn’t ignore.
Why Is Low Indoor Humidity a Problem?
When the humidity inside your home drops too low, it can cause a variety of problems. If you’ve ever noticed that your skin tends to get itchier in the winter, you’ve already experienced one of them. You may also experience an increase in static electricity inside your home. Simple discomfort is just the beginning, though. Dry air in your home can also cause:
- Respiratory problems like coughing and wheezing
- Dry or sore throat
- Increased thirst and lethargy
- New or worsening asthma symptoms
- Allergy problems
- Increased vulnerability to colds and viruses
As you can see, letting the air in your home get too dry isn’t just a comfort issue. It may also lead to a variety of health problems, too. So, if you found yourself reading the list above and thinking how familiar it all sounded, you may need to add a humidifier to your furnace.
Before you do, however, you should know that some other factors can cause the symptoms above, too. So, it’s a good idea to test your indoor humidity before making any decisions. Otherwise, you might not end up solving your real issue and wind-up spending money that you didn’t need to.
How to Test Your Home’s Humidity Levels
The simplest way for you to check to see if your home’s air is too dry is to perform an ice cube test. While this won’t give you a precise humidity reading, it’s a simple way to tell if your home’s air is excessively dry. All you’ll need is a few ice cubes, a glass, and some water.
First, add the ice cubes to the glass, followed by the water. You only need to add enough water to submerge the ice cubes, leaving the rest of the glass dry. Then, stir up the ice cubes and water, then leave the glass alone for about four minutes. If no condensation forms on the outside of the glass after four minutes, your indoor air is too dry. If it does, the air is reasonably humid.
Of course, it’s much more precise for you to purchase and use a hygrometer to test the humidity in your home. Portable digital versions of the device are available everywhere and don’t cost very much. Once you have one, you’ll want to measure the humidity in your home on a cold day when the furnace has run for a significant amount of time. Then, measure it on a warmer day when you don’t need as much heat.
That will let you know approximately how much moisture your furnace removes from the air when it’s running. If you find that your furnace pushes your indoor humidity level below 30%, your home needs a humidifier.
Adding a Humidifier to Your Furnace
If you find that your home’s air gets too dry when your heat comes on, you can add a whole-house humidifier to your system to solve the problem. Best of all, it’s usually possible to add a humidifier to any forced-air heating system, even if your furnace isn’t new. It’s not a do-it-yourself job, though, and will require you to hire an expert technician to handle the installation work.
To install your new humidifier, the technician will simply have to open the ductwork just above your furnace and mount the new humidifier unit. Then, they’ll run a new water supply line from a nearby pipe to supply the needed water to the system. They’ll also mount a humidistat to keep track of your indoor humidity and turn on your humidifier when needed.
The whole process is straightforward and simple and will solve your indoor humidity problems right away. You will, however, want to make sure that you have your new humidifier installed by a qualified technician, like a member of the team here at McGowan's Heating & Air Conditioning. That’s important because an improperly installed humidifier can be almost as bad as not having one at all.
If your humidifier isn’t installed in the right place, or its humidistat isn’t able to take proper humidity readings, one of two things might happen. Either the humidifier won’t turn on often enough, leaving you with air that’s still too dry. Or it’ll turn on too often, leading to humidity that’s too high. Then, you’ll have the opposite problem, and you’ll be paying for it, too.
Leave It to the Humidifier Experts
If you have the feeling that the air in your Jacksonville home is too dry in the winter, don’t wait. Perform the ice cube test, or purchase a hygrometer, to find out if you can confirm your suspicion. Or contact the team here at McGowan's Heating & Air Conditioning, and we’ll find out for you. When you call us for assistance, we’ll send a technician to check on your home’s humidity levels and make recommendations on what you should do.
If your home could use a humidifier, we’d be happy to help you with that. McGowan's Heating & Air Conditioning has served the Jacksonville area for almost 50 years, providing expert HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair services. We’re a family-owned and operated business that’s committed to providing you with unbeatable customer service and unparalleled workmanship in everything we do. We also provide a complete assortment of air quality, duct cleaning, and HVAC design services, so whatever your home needs, we can handle it.
So, don’t put up with another long, dry winter. Contact McGowan's Heating & Air Conditioning today, and we’ll help improve your indoor comfort with a new whole-house humidifier today!