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Winter air is murder. Whenever temperatures drop, humidity plummets and the symptoms are pretty serious: chapped lips, dry skin, bloody noses, itchy eyes, allergies, and sickness. Staying healthy and well is why you need a winter humidifier. By releasing moisture back into the air, they not only keep you feeling fresh, but fight the worst effects of winter air. They help lower your heating bill, fight flu, and keep you safe from allergens.
Why Winter Air Is so Dry
It's no secret winter air is pretty harsh. A lot of people blame their furnace, but it's actually the temperature that's to blame. As the air gets colder, air density increased and it gradually loses its ability to retain water. The vapor molecules suspended inside clump together faster than the fading thermal energy can break them apart again. Eventually, if the temperature falls far enough, the water condenses back into liquid and precipitation occurs in the form of rain or snow. This prevents high levels of water vapor from building up in the atmosphere and running the furnace makes it worse. The heat forces the air to expand, driving up relative humidity and making dry conditions feel even drier. Without a humidifier, things stay that way until summer, when temperatures rise and the air starts absorbing moisture again.
How Air & Water Humidifiers Remedy Dry Air
There are two basic types of humidifiers: cool mist and warm mist. Cool mist humidifiers like the Luma Comfort HC12B Ultrasonic Humidifier generate humidity using acoustic droplet vibration. A metal plate at the bottom of the water tank, known as a transducer, vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies beyond the range of human hearing. The fluid pressure in the tank rises and falls as the water expands and contracts with each wave, until eventually the pressure in the droplets finally exceeds the vapor pressure of the surrounding air. The pressure difference triggers a phase transition, transforming the water from a liquid into a gas. As this happens, the force of the compression waves on the surface of the water push the vapor out of the tank and into the air. Humidifiers can release over 2.5 gallons of water this way over a 650 foot area every day, more than enough to humidify almost any room in your house.
Warm mist humidifiers are a little more straightforward. Standard warm mist humidifiers use a heating element at the bottom of the tank to boil the water and release the steam out into the room. Others, like the Luma Comfort HCW10B Cool & Warm Mist Humidifier, use ultrasonic vibration to generate mist, but use the heating element to warm it as it's being released.
What's Your Ideal Humidity?
Ideally, wintertime humidity in your home should be 40-50 percent. However, this may not always be practical when temperatures drop below freezing and condensation and ice form on the inside of your windows. Over time, this sort of moisture can cause serious structural damage. If you live in an extremely cold climate, here are the recommended humidity levels for common winter temperatures.
|-20° or Below||15%|
These guidelines are based on a 70°F indoor temperature. If you like to keep your house warmer than that, an easy way to check the humidity is to look for fog on the windows. If you see any, it's time to turn it down. Conversely, if you notice the floorboards starting to separate, it's time to turn it up.
Why Your House Is So Cold
When you warm a room, the air absorbs energy from the heater and transfers it to you through a process known as convection. Warm air near the heat source rises up towards the ceiling, causing the cooler air above it to sink down where it gets warmed and rises in turn. Convection continues until eventually the entire room has been warmed to a uniform temperature or the heat source is shut off.
Air is a notoriously bad thermal conductor. Not only is its thermal capacity half as large as water vapor, it's thermal conductivity is 25 times smaller, which means it doesn't stay warm as long or transfer energy to you as quickly when humidity is low as when it's high. Water vapor is also less dense than air, so it rises and stratifies faster, creating stronger convection currents that warm you more quickly than it does when it's dry. If you're feeling chilly but don't want to run up your electricity bills, switch on a humidifier whenever you run your furnace. It's the best way to stay warm. The extra moisture increases the efficiency of your heating system, so you don't have to run it as hard or as long. Warm mist humidifiers work even better. They're a great supplemental heat source. They warm up the air at a fraction of what it costs you to run your furnace.
Why You're Sick So Often in Winter
There's a reason flu cases spike during winter. It's partially because people spend more time indoors, in close proximity to one another, but mainly because the dry air makes it easier for flu viruses to thrive and infect new hosts. Researchers studying flu transmission have discovered that when humidity levels are low, around 23 percent, approximately three-quarters of flu viruses released into the air are able to infect new patients. When humidity levels are high, around 43 percent, over eighty percent of flu viruses die before they can infect anyone. Most are rendered inactive fifteen minutes after they're released into the air. The difference is the way the virus interact with the mucus we emit when we cough. When humidity is low, mucus droplets dry out completely, but leave the virus intact. When humidity is high, they droplets dry only partially, altering the pH balance so the salts inside become stronger, too strong for the virus to survive.
Besides flu, dry air also attacks the mucus membranes protecting your nose, throat, and lungs. These membranes play an important role capturing and eliminating viruses and bacteria before they can infect you. To keep them hydrated, humidity levels should be kept around 40-50 percent. Anything less encourages the development of seasonal illnesses. Anything more encourages the development of mold and dusts mites, two big allergy triggers (see below). To keep track your humidity levels, it's easiest to invest in a humidifier with a built-in hygrometer, like the Luma Comfort HCW10B Cool & Warm Mist Humidifier. The additional technology keeps the humidifier from releasing moisture when humidity gets too high and activates it again whenever humidity drops too low, so humidity remains optimal all the time.
Why Allergies Act Up in Winter
Allergies are abnormally intense auto-immune responses to foreign substances in the air. They're common in summer and spring, when the air's inundated with pollen from flowers, trees, grass, and weeds, but there are a number of allergy triggers in your home as well: dust mites, pet dander, dried food particles, mold spores, and fabric fibers. Winter's the season when they're most active. Not only are you indoors more often, but the dry air makes your nose, throat, and eyes more susceptible to them. Dried mucus and phlegm is harder to dislodge, and dry eyes lack protective moisture. Winter humidifiers not only relieve these symptoms, they also reduce allergens. The water vapor attaches to dust, mold, and dander particles, causing them to clump together until, eventually, they're too heavy to remain suspended in the air and drop down to the floor.
There is one downside. Some allergens, like mold and dust mites, thrive in humid environments, so be careful how much moisture you release into a room, especially any room where you rest or congregate. Raising the humidity too high may actually cause the symptoms humidifiers are designed to alleviate. Make sure it's never more than 50 percent.
There are many reasons why you need a winter humidifier. It keeps you warm, keeps you healthy, and keeps you fresh. Comfort is more than just a warm fire. It's a balanced environment where heat and humidity work together to help you thrive.