Are Central Humidifiers Worth Having?

Let’s investigate the question. But first, what is a central humidifier? Humidifiers are devices that Moisten air so that building occupants are comfortable. Central humidifiers are integrated into a house’s plumbing and forced-air heating systems so that they humidify air while it is being heated. The water that is used by the device is pumped automatically into the humidifier from household plumbing, unlike portable humidifiers, which require the user to periodically supply water to the device .Humidifiers are available in various designs, each of which turns water into water vapor, which is then vented into the house at an adjustable rate.

What is humidity?

Humidity refers to the amount of moisture in the air. “Relative humidity” signifies the amount of moisture in the air relative to the maximum amount of water the air can contain before it becomes saturated. This maximum moisture count is related to air temperature in that the hotter the air is, the more moisture it can hold. For instance, if indoor air temperature drops, relative humidity will increase.

Why humidify air?

Low humidity can increase your likelihood of getting colds, flu and other upper respiratory ailments since certain airborne pathogens, such as those that cause the flu, circulate easier in dry air than in moist air. In addition, drier air can aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms. This problem is especially prevalent during the winter heating season. This is because the relative humidity (RH) of the cold, outdoor air drops significantly when brought into your home and heated. Moist air also seems to soothe irritated, inflamed airways. For someone with a cold and thick nasal secretions, a humidifier can help thin out the secretions and make breathing easier.

Central Humidifier

Central Humidifier

Indoor air that is too dry can also cause the following problems:

  • Damage to musical instruments, such as pianos, guitars and violins.
  • It causes walls, woodwork, and hardwood floors to crack.
  • Electronics can fall victim to static electric charges, requiring expensive repair or replacement.
  • Peeling wallpaper.
  • Low humidity can make you feel too cold at normal temperatures leading you to turn up the thermostat. This leads to higher energy bills.
  • Bloody noses
  • Dry skin.
  • Dry mouth and dry, itchy eyes
  • Sore throats
  • Cracked, itchy skin
  • Painful static shocks
  • Dry air can make people more susceptible to infection.
  • Drier air can aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms.

A central humidifier will moisturize the air as it leaves your HVAC system. It doesn’t require much maintenance. You do not need to refill the water supply since it’s tied directly into your plumbing. Plus, since they do not use a supply tank of standing water like console models, there is less chance for bacteria buildup which can then spread into the air. Aditionally, a central air humidifier is out of sight and only functions when needed.

What are the issues associated with having a central home humidifier?

Humidifiers can cause various diseases. The young, elderly and infirm are susceptible to contamination from airborne pollutants, such as bacteria and fungi. These can grow in humidifiers and get into the air by way of the vapor where it can be breathed in. Some of the more common diseases and pathogens transmitted by humidifiers are:

  • Legionnaires’ Disease. Health problems caused by this disease range from flu-like symptoms to serious infections and in extreme cases, death. This problem occurs more frequently with portable humidifiers because they draw standing water from a tank in which bacteria and fungi can grow;

    Legionnaires’ Disease

    Legionnaires’ Disease

  • Thermophilic actinomycetes. These bacteria thrive in extremer temperatures – typically 113° to 140° F – and can cause an inflammation of the lungs called hypersensitivity pneumonitis;
  • “Humidifier fever,” this is a flu-like illness marked by fever, headache, chills and malaise, but without prominent pulmonary symptoms. It is normally short lived, subsiding within 24 hours without residual effects.

Other problems associated with humidifiers include:

  • Accumulation of white dust from minerals in the water. These minerals may be released in the mist from the humidifier and settle as fine white dust that may be small enough to enter the lungs.
  • Moisture damage due to condensation. Condensed water from over-humidified air will appear on the interior surfaces of windows and other relatively cool surfaces. Excessive moisture on windows can damage windowpanes and walls, but a more serious issue is caused when moisture collects on the inner surfaces of exterior walls. Moisture there can ruin insulation and rot the wall, and cause peeling, cracking or blistering of the paint.
  • Accumulation of mold. Mold grows readily in moist environments, such as a home moistened by an over-worked humidifier. Mold can be hazardous to people with compromised immune systems.

A tight, energy-efficient house holds more moisture. Adjust your use of the humidifier to keep your home between 30 and 50 percent relative humidity. Additionally, you may want to run a ducted kitchen exhaust or bath ventilating fan or open a window briefly if the humidity level gets too high.

Is a central humidifier worth having? You decide. Ultimately, it depends on if and/or how it enhances the comfort of your environment.