Friday, November 14, 2008

Changing Seasons

It's that time of year again in the northeast. The leaves have fallen, the temperature has dropped, and the air has become dry. This time of year, many of us are thinking about "winterizing" our homes.

One thing to consider during this process is how to best control your indoor air moisture levels throughout the winter months. When air becomes too dry a variety of problems start to occur: our skin feels itchy, our eyes become irritated, and static electricity occurs. Dry air also affects wood by causing it to shrink which can result in cracks, squeaks or gaps in floors, cabinets and doors.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends indoor relative humidity levels at 30-50%. In winter months, it is common for our homes to become dry, in large part due to air leaks. When cold air from outdoors enters a home it is heated to the indoor temperature. Because cold air is not able to hold nearly the amount of moisture that warm air is, when these two mix, relative humidity decreases and the home becomes dry.

There are ways to mitigate this problem and maintain recommended relative humidity levels. It is important to seal and eliminate air leaks to reduce the amount of outdoor air coming into your home. Caulking and sealing around windows, doors, and any other seams, cracks and openings to the outside will make your home more air tight. This will help maintain your air moisture levels, reduce your heating requirements, and ultimately make your home more energy efficient. For more tips on sealing air leaks and to find out where air may be escaping from your home visit the U.S. Department of Energy.

Of course our homes will never be air tight - at the very least, we have to enter and exit our living space. Humidifiers will increase and maintain recommended air moisture levels and protect us from the adverse effects of low relative humidity. There are numerous humidification systems on the market from small, inexpensive humidifiers that can be moved from room to room, to whole house humidification systems that are built into heating systems.

We hope these tips will help you to enjoy a safe and healthy winter!