Save Energy — Humidifiers

Indoor humidity can drop to below 30% in the winter. Low humidity can increase dry skin, possibility of static shock, and shrinkage of wood furniture. Dryer air will feel colder. Adding moisture back into the air can have a number of advantages.

Your Home Energy Living Plan

  • Do not over humidify the air.
  • Try to benefit from moisture sources like cooking.
  • Maintain humidifier.
Impact of Your Energy Saving Actions

Humidifiers do not use a large amount of energy. If you decide you need humidification, then the impact will be minimal. Remember all humidifiers use about the same amount of energy when accounting for the cooling of the air.

How Energy is Lost

Humidifiers must place water into the air. There are many ways to do this. Many of these heat the water to a point it vaporizes and joins the air. These types will need a heater. Other types blow water into the air with a fan. Air at a higher humidity has more energy than air at a lower humidity (temperature being the same). To raise the humidity without lowering the temperature requires energy. Energy is added at the humidifier as in the case of a heater. Or energy is added later because the humidifier cools the air.

Humidifier Characteristics

There are several types of humidifiers. Steam or vapor type humidifiers heat the air to a gas, then inject the water vapor into the air. This type of humidifier will not change the temperature of the air since the water is already a gas. A heater is used to vaporize the water. Any impurities in the water is left in the humidifier. Therefore periodic cleaning is needed.

Another type blows air across a wet pad. This evaporative type allows air to evaporate the water which flows into the air. There is a fan but no heater. The energy to evaporate the water comes from the air, resulting in a lower air temperature. This drop in temperature must be compensated for by the furnace. As the water evaporates, impurities are left in the pad. The pad must be changed or cleaner regularly.

The last type forces small particles of liquid water into the air. This can be done either by an ultrasonic method or atomizing method. Ultrasonic humidifiers use a plate vibrating at an ultrasonic frequency to spray liquid water into the air. An atomizer has nozzles which break up the water into small particles and then is sprayed into the air. These humidifiers use less energy but they lower the air temperature. Any impurities in the water will be transferred to the air. These impurities will settle out on furniture and the floor. The ultrasonic humidifier has a water reservoir. If bacteria forms in the water, then bacteria can be sprayed out into the air.

Can humidifying the air make it feel warmer and allow for a lower thermostat setting in the winter? The human body cannot “feel” humidity below 30% to 40%. One can have dry skin or inflamed nasal passages, but you do not feel colder when the air is dryer in this range. When the humidity is above 50% to 60% you can feel warmer, because the air is less able to evaporate sweat. However, low humidity air can evaporate sweat well regardless of the particular humidity value. There is no energy benefit to humidifying the air; it is a comfort issue only.

Measure your air with a reliable humidity sensing instrument. Do not rely on the internal humidifier settings to consistently maintain humidity level unless you have checked its accuracy.

Energy Solutions Explained

Since energy is required to humidify the air, then the first action is to make sure additional humidity is desired. Humidifying much above 30% is usually not necessary.

Most types of humidifiers need cleaning. Failure to do so will affect their ability to humidify yet be using the same energy.

There are activities within your home that generate moisture. Cooking, bathing, showering, drying clothes all generate moisture. These activities are not for humidifying the air; therefore, their effectiveness is limited. Cooking concentrates the humidity to the kitchen. Bathing and showering concentrates the humidity to the bathroom. Additionally the shower may generate too much humidity. Venting the dryer indoor can throw lint into the air and only over humidify the laundry room. All of these actions must be undertaken with care.

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