Here’s How to Combat Dry Indoor Air This Winter

Creaky floors, static electricity, dry itchy skin…it must be winter in Wisconsin! In addition to being cold -- even freezing -- our winters can be rough in other ways. Cold temperatures sap moisture from the air, leaving you vulnerable to airborne illnesses and itching (literally) for relief.

Here’s how to add much-needed humidity to your home.

Humidity and Your Indoor Air Quality

Warm air holds more moisture than cold air. It’s why you sweat during the summer. During winter, it’s more difficult to work up a sweat because cold air wicks moisture off of your skin, leaving it dry like sandpaper.

The cold will also do a number to your sinuses, causing nasal passages to dry up, leaving you susceptible to airborne viruses. (It’s why flu germs spread more easily in winter.)

Arid conditions compromise the structure of your home, as well. Winter air pulls moisture out of the flooring, walls, furniture, framing -- anyplace it can find it. This has the potential to warp and widen gaps in wood window and door frames, letting in more cold air. Ever wonder why your floors creak and your door jambs shift? Blame the air.

At the very least, dry winter air is annoying. The little jolt of electricity every time you reach for the doorknob, the sock clinging to your sweater, and the epically bad air day are all symptoms of static electricity, itself a product of low humidity.

Try These Humidity Hacks

Your indoor humidity levels should be between 30 and 50%. A hygrometer is a convenient monitoring device that can give you an accurate reading of your home’s humidity level.

To keep your indoor air within the optimal range, follow these steps.

  • Ditch the dryer: Let your laundry air dry on a line inside your home instead. This will add a touch of moisture to your air and prevent your clothes from getting static-y. Bonus: You’ll save energy by not running the appliance.
  • Skip the dry cycle: If you’re using your dishwasher’s heat dry cycle, you’re wasting valuable humidity. After the final rinse, open the dishwasher to let comforting steam into your home.
  • Add houseplants: Plants add moisture to the air through a process called evapotranspiration. Water travels from spoil, up the stem and to the leaves where it evaporates through the pores. The best humidifying plants include spider and jade plants, areca palm, English ivy, and Boston fern, just to name a few. The bigger the leaves the more they help humidify.
  • Install a whole-house humidifier: A whole-house humidifier works in conjunction with your central heating system by delivering water vapor through your ducts. This ensures every part of your home has adequate moisture.
  • Upgrade your furnace: Your furnace can be a culprit of dry air. Wait, but doesn’t warm air hold more moisture? Yes, but stick with us here. Standard furnaces are known as atmospheric furnaces -- they draw air from inside the home to fuel the combustion process. Then the air outside the home seeps in to replace it. And, as we’ve discussed, outside winter air is exceedingly dry. If your furnace is sucking the moisture out of your indoor air, consider replacing it with a sealed combustion furnace. This type of furnace is sealed off from your home, drawing outside air through a vent. Because it’s not recycling the same indoor air, it’s more efficient, improving your comfort and helping cut your heating costs.

Bottom line: Increasing the humidity of your indoor can help ward off illness and protect your home. You’ll be more comfortable, too; humidity helps make a space feel warmer. For all of your heating and indoor air quality needs this winter, turn to the pros at Southport Home Services. To schedule an appointment, call (262) 383-4040.