Humidity Control in Clarksville, IN, Jeffersonville, IN, Louisville, KY and the Metro Region
Humidity Control (Humidifiers/Steam Humidifiers/Dehumidifiers)
Humidity control is perhaps the most important, overlooked aspect of a comfortable, healthy, efficient system. Most people never make the connection between comfort and humidity levels, but it is critical: if there is too much or too little humidity in the air in your home then you will either always be too hot or too cold. 35% is the recommended humidity level. Getting it right enables you to raise or lower the thermostat setting and save a great deal of money. Additionally, there are a host of health related humidity issues, from dry lips to nose bleeds to the ability of dust mites to survive (they cannot survive when humidity is below 50%, no dust mites in Arizona!). That being said, the solutions are not always as simple and not always inexpensive.
Adding humidity (usually needed in the dry winter months) is the simplest, cheapest thing to accomplish. It can be done as easily as adding potted plants that you water, getting a couple of goldfish bowls or setting out a pan of water. Of course, these solutions require actions on your part and do not give you actual control of the humidity level. Then you have the choice of stand-alone room humidifiers or a whole house humidifier added to your H.V.A.C. system. The stand-alone humidifiers are fine for small, localized solutions. Bear in mind that the inexpensive humidifier you pick up at Home Depot or Lowe’s is not going to work forever and very likely will be irreparable because of cost or availability of replacement parts. They are manufactured to be replaced, not repaired, so do not spend a lot of money for one we do not service these units.
A whole house humidifier is your best solution. These units are added to the front of your indoor unit and tied into the duct system. They have a humidifier pad that should be replaced annually. There are three basic types: a bypass humidifier that uses the furnace blower to move the air across the pad (the most common type, $4-600), a powered blower humidifier ($100-$150 more), and, a steam humidifier (about twice as much). For homes using a gas furnace for their primary heat source, either of the first two types should be used. If you have a heat pump for your primary heat source, then you should use a steam humidifier. Humidifiers add moisture to the air steam moving through your system. If the air is not warm enough to properly evaporate the moisture then it can become problematic.
Another possible problem with trying to control the humidity level is getting the system to run long enough to add the humidity. This is easily solved by running the furnace blower constantly or setting up an automatic humidistat that could bring the blower on when needed. This becomes a problem with the bypass and direct vent styles because the furnace may not be running, the air may not be heated and the moisture may not evaporate properly. A “can’t go wrong” solution is to use a steam humidifier and leave the blower on constantly. A note about the steam humidifiers: they require the water supply to be filtered and there is an annual filter replacement maintenance cost. Finally, supply and demand economics dictate that repair parts for humidifiers are fairly expensive relative to the cost of the humidifier, but repairs are not commonly needed.
Dehumidification is considerably more difficult. An air conditioner is a dehumidifier, so as long as the air conditioner is running then there should not be an excess humidity issue. However, certain areas of the house, like the basement, do not have the same type of conditioning and frequently have much higher humidity levels. There is also the problem of overly insulated/sealed homes where the air conditioner does not need to run very much and thusly cannot remove the humidity. The only real solution for excess humidity is to add a dehumidification system (which is really a self-contained air conditioner). These are fairly expensive.