Don’t Let Your Whole-Home Humidifier Harm Your Health & Home


You decided to install a whole-home humidifier to improve your home’s air quality, but did you know that improper use can actually cause more harm than good? Learn how to use your whole-home humidifier correctly and to it’s full potential so it doesn’t cause permanent damage to your health and home.


What Can Happen If I Use My Whole-Home Humidifier Improperly?

Your whole-home humidifier works with your heating and cooling system to increase the water vapor content in your home’s air as needed. This is particularly helpful during dry winter months, when humidity levels in your home are especially low. Dry air can cause a myriad of uncomfortable problems, such as

  • Dry sinuses
  • Cracked wood or plaster
  • Itchy skin
  • Static shock

By utilizing a whole-home humidifier, you are creating a higher humidity level that can alleviate some of the nuisances that come with dry winter air. However, incorrect use can cause condensation, mold, mildew, rot, stains, and poor air quality. Often, homeowners do not know the proper level of humidity to maintain, so they raise the levels in their home to be too high. Once they notice a problem and call in a professional to fix it, the damage is already done, and repairs must be made.


How Does a Whole-Home Humidifier Work?

A whole-home humidifier is installed directly onto your HVAC system. As your systems runs, it carries water vapor throughout your home, increasing the indoor humidity in the air. Some whole-home humidifiers are automatically regulated so that your humidifier runs based on computer-monitored environmental conditions, while other models require you to monitor conditions and make manual adjustments.


What Humidity Level Should I Try to Maintain?

Most whole-home humidifiers will have a humidity cap that the system will not exceed. Ideally, you’ll want to operate your system to maintain a humidity level of 35-45%. Pay attention to your system as outdoor temperatures begin to shift, however. As temperatures increase, the relative humidity you feel will decrease. In other words, your humidity setting for a cold day should be much lower than on a warm day. The CDC recommends keeping your home’s humidity below 50% at all times. According to an Aprilaire FAQ, industry data shows that significant mold growth does not occur below 60% humidity, so as long as your levels are lower than that, your home should be safe.


What Is Causing the Condensation in My Home?

In areas like Iowa that suffer from brutal winter weather, condensation can become a big problem—especially if you have a whole-home humidifier. The air around your windows is far colder than the registered temperature of your home. As your whole-home humidifier adds moisture to the air, the humidity of your air increases. When the moisture-rich air moves toward the window, the moisture it contains condenses into a liquid as it cools. 

If this is a problem in your home, reduce the humidity setting and wipe affected windows with a towel daily. If condensation is left unattended, it can cause rot or form frost or ice, increasing pressure between the wood frames and glass of your windows. In this way, condensation can cause breaking or splintering of the window frame.

Too much humidity in your home can cause condensation in another location—your attic. You may think you have a leak in your roof, but in the winter, a common source of water damage is attic condensation. As warm, humid air rises to your ceiling and into your attic, it hits cold air and forms moisture, which can then leak back down through your ceiling. For more information on condensation in your home, read our article, “Do I Have a Roof Leak or Attic Condensation?


What Kind of Maintenance Does My Whole-Home Humidifier Require?

It’s a good idea to treat your whole-home humidifier as a part of your HVAC system. This means that you’ll need to schedule regular maintenance appointments for your system at least once a year. Depending on the model of your whole-home humidifier, you may need to clean or replace filters and sensors. Your local HVAC specialist can do this for you.


If you’re in need of roofing services this season, or you're experiencing condensation problems in your attic, contact Hedrick Construction. We get a lot of calls for “roof leaks” during the colder months and find that the culprit is really an overly humid home. Call us for help if you live in the Ames or Des Moines areas!

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