Dry air can cause an array of problems from cracked lips to nosebleeds to dry skin. It also can lead to more illness as most viruses thrive in a drier environment. Combine the fact that people are in closer contact with one another and the drier air that people breathe because of indoor heating, and you have the real reason more people are sick in the winter.
A humidifier can ease the symptoms of dry air and soothe cracked lips and dry skin in addition to creating a less inviting environment for viruses and bacteria by putting moisture back into the air. This moisture is not only healthier for you, but it is also healthier for your home, preventing things like cracked furniture and paint and peeling wallpaper.
Humidifiers are available for almost any size space, from a small bedroom to the whole house. One room humidifiers are often used in a bedroom. These are especially helpful if you have a cold, cough or congestion, as it makes breathing easier. Humidifiers are often recommended for babies as they are not supposed to decongestants or cold remedies. Larger humidifiers are designed for multiple rooms or a large living space. There are also units that can work in conjunction with your HVAC system and need to be installed professionally.
The Cool Mist Humidifier
Many humidifiers are cool mist humidifiers. They can be evaporative units, using a fan to help evaporate water, sending tiny droplets into the air that increase the moisture in your home or ultrasonic units that use ultrasonic vibrations to break up the water into tiny droplets that are released into the air. The ultrasonic units are often a little quieter than the evaporative units because they do not have the fan.
The Hygrometer or Humidistat
Many units will come with a hygrometer or humidistat, a device for measuring humidity in the air. This can be helpful as you do not want the humidity in your home to be too low or too high. If the humidity is too low, you will have the problems listed above. If the humidity is too high, you could encourage the growth of dust mites, mold and mildew in your home. Units with hygrometers will often let you set an ideal humidity level and the unit will automatically shut off when it reaches the level that you set.
Filters and Hard Water
Humidifiers usually come with a filter to help filter minerals and impurities from the water. Using distilled water is often recommended, especially if the water in your area has a high mineral content. Should you use an ultrasonic cool mist humidifier , you may find a white dust around it. That simply indicates that the water you are using in the unit has a high mineral content.
Cleaning and Maintenance of Your Humidifier
Maintaining your humidifier by regularly changing filters and cleaning the unit is extremely important to prevent mold, mildew and fungus from growing in and around your unit. It is usually recommended that you empty the humidifier of water daily and dry the unit thoroughly. Then you may add more water to run the unit again. Weekly, or more frequently, if recommended by the manufacturer, you should thoroughly clean your humidifier with bleach or with vinegar. You do not want your humidifier to blow mold, mildew or bacteria back into the air because you failed to clean it regularly.
With proper care, a humidifier will last for many years and prevent more problems and illnesses than you know.