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Home Humidity, Temperature, and You

We’re always looking for a way to decrease energy bills and consumption. Usually that means an expensive upgrade to a more energy-efficient system or a decrease in how comfortable we are. The real golden goose arrives when you find a way to cut costs on your monthly heating bill, maintain your comfort level, and avoid a few of the problems with “winter air.”

Normally when we think of indoor winter air we consider how clean it is. For many homes, the ventilation filter isn’t cleaned regularly and too many pollutants exist within the home, creating a very unhealthy atmosphere. But for our purposes here “winter air” is the dry climate generated by cool air that’s been roasted by a furnace to deliver a warm environment.

Problems With Dry Air

In the summer, a little dry air isn’t a problem. It absorbs water fairly quickly and the lack of humidity means that interacting with your phone’s touch screen is simple (your fingers won’t stick to the surface so easily). For summer heat waves, dry air is also great because it feels cooler than it actually is (more on this in a moment).

Here’s the problem with dry air. Dry air is part of why your skin cracks during the winter. Winter air dry to begin with, but the heating process pulls even more moisture of the air, condensing it in the furnace system. That dry air pulls water straight from your skin (and any other surface) drying it out considerably. While dry skin is not a problem for most people, if you suffer from excessively dry skin, it can crack, which can hurt a lot more than one would an otherwise comfortable temperature could hurt.

Additionally, at night, that dry air will dry out your throat and sinuses from breathing. It’s a minor annoyance for most, but it’s not pleasant, and can make a cold even more unpleasant.

But here’s the worst thing about dry air in the winter: it’s cold.

Why is Drier Air Colder?

Here’s an interesting thing about our world. The air around us is saturated with water. Our atmosphere absorbs and evaporates water into the air. This is why we have the water cycle that leads to rain, moving water across the world. A near-constant recycling of water the world over. But air can only hold so much water before it is no longer able to absorb additional moisture (this typically ends in rainfall, fog, etc). That saturation limit is set by how warm or cold the air is and the current air pressure.

Here’s another interesting fact: we cool our bodies with a variety of systems, one of which is sweat. Sweat works by a process of evaporation. Our bodies heat the water that’s on the surface of our skin. That water evaporates, taking heat energy with it (thermodynamics, where heat moves from hot to cold to balance temperatures). As long as water can evaporate, it can cool the surface of whatever that water is touching.

Putting these two interesting facts together we can learn something interesting. In a dry air your body is capable of shedding a great deal of heat. Water evaporates rapidly into the dry air, taking heat along with it. In the summer this is useful because it cools the body quicker. In the winter, dry air means the same thing: everything feels colder than it actually is.

Raise the Humidity, Lower the Temperature

Modern Programming Thermostat on a wall near door

Here’s how you can save money on your heating bill: use a humidifier. By raising the average humidity of your home (the recommended level is roughly 45% humidity) you can lower the thermostat by a few degrees without losing the comfort of a higher temperature. The higher humidity reduces water evaporation, raising how warm the air feels.

What you shouldn’t do is raise your humidity above 50%. The saturation of water begins to feel muggy and, while dry skin isn’t a problem, you increase the risk of mold and mildew thriving in the dark corners of your home. So save a little money on your monthly bill. Raise the humidity, lower your furnace costs, but keep an eye out for any signs of mold or mildew (if you see some, dial back the humidifier a bit).

Cassel Home Comfort Heating & Cooling is committed to being your best HVA/C contractor choice in Central Illinois in both Value and Customer Service! Call us to maintain your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in the Champaign, IL area: (217) 866-1596.

A live call center and friendly technicians are standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you with all your heating and cooling questions.