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Why is my home so dry in winter

Why is my house so dry in the winter?

Dry Skin

Texas has mild winters when it comes to snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures but we still suffer the low humidity problems of our northern neighbors. When the outdoor humidity drops so does your indoor humidity leaving your home feeling dry and often uncomfortable. Lack of humidity or moisture in the air can wreak havoc on you, your family, and your home.

The most obvious health impacts are typically dry sinuses and nose bleeds, and dry skin that cracks. The latter is really aggravating for those with psoriasis or eczema. The real problem that comes with a dry home is much less obvious but much more threatening. Viruses and bacteria thrive in dry cold air. When there is a sneeze or a cough the viruses and bacteria stay suspended in the air longer in the dry air.

Your comfort is compromised with dry air. Static electricity is annoying, drier air feels colder than humid air, so you must crank the heat up a couple of more degrees to get a warm feeling. This results in higher utility bills, and that is uncomfortable.

Your home suffers as well. The moisture is sucked out of all your wood products. Your wood floors shrink and get gaps and cracks in them. Doors shrink and don’t operate properly. If you have a piano, fine guitar, or violin you know how quickly low moisture can ruin these prized possessions.

What can I do to fix the humidity problem in my home?

Attic Insulation

First, understand the primary cause of a dry home. It is usually the warm humid air escaping your home and being replaced by dry, cold outside air. Yep, you are heating the outdoors. Most homes are poorly sealed (even the new ones) and poorly insulated.

  1. Start by sealing doors and windows.
  2. Next seal any wall penetrations. Switch plates and plug plates typically leak cold attic air that migrates down the walls. Your ceiling leaks thru can lights and ceiling fans. Seal these to the sheetrock with caulk or gaskets that are made for the fixture. You can get the gaskets cheaply online
  3. Insulate. Attic insulation settles over time, consequently losing its insulating value. Your attic should have 18 inches of insulation or more. Once heat escapes thru your poorly insulated ceiling the moisture goes with it.
  4. Seal your ductwork. Often duct work leaks at every seam and register leaking the air you just paid to heat into the attic. This puts your house under negative pressure sucking in outside air.

My house is properly sealed and insulated so how do I manage my humidity now?

Home Humidifier

You can add humidity to your home thru mechanical means typically with a humidifier. This can be a tabletop-type humidifier that will help with one room or a whole house humidifier that is part of your HVAC system. The ideal winter, indoor humidity is 35% or higher. In January and February, we will see levels drop below 15% without some means of adding humidity.

Are whole-home humidifier systems expensive?

The room humidifiers are economical costing less than $100 for a respectable unit and you can install them yourself. Just fill it with water and plug it in essentially. The downside is you will need one for every room you occupy, and these small appliances usually are only good for two or three seasons. They require regular cleaning which can become aggravating.

The whole home humidifying system is a steam humidifier that integrates with your HVAC system and is typically installed by a professional. It needs an electrical and a water source and is tied into your air distribution system. The cost is around $4000 but depends on the size of your home and the number of HVAC systems you have. This may sound expensive but considering the long-term savings, most find it to be the most economically sensible solution. Less sickness in the home means less spent on over-the-counter medications, prescriptions, and Doctor, visits. Less spent on skin moisturizers and lotions. A comfortable home with the thermostat 2 degrees lower means lower utility bills.

What can I do to improve the humidity levels in my home without investing in mechanical humidifiers?

House Plants

Here are a few tips.

  1. Showers in the evening add moisture. Warm not hot. Hot showers strip the natural oils from your skin drying you out. Leave the bathroom door open and do not turn on the exhaust fan.
  2. Cooking. Cook on the stovetop and not in the oven or microwave. Boiling water puts moisture in the air.
  3. Dry your clothes on a rack in your home. The dryer heats up and exhausts the moisture from your laundry right out of the house.
  4. Open your dishwasher to air dry.
  5. Hydrate yourself. Drink plenty of water.
  6. Indoor plants put off moisture. Spray the leaves daily and they will really get to work.

Have a design specialist design a humidifying system for you at no charge and you can decide if that is the solution for you.