How a Humidifier Can Help During the Winter

How a Humidifier Can Help During the Winter

December 22, 2016

Running the furnace continuously in the winter can dry out the air in your home. And there's really nothing like dry, cold air to exacerbate chronic conditions such as asthma or bronchitis, while making ordinary colds, sore throats. irritated noses and dry, chapped skin feel worse than they need to. The solution to excessive dryness in the home may be adding a humidifier.

Ideal Humidity

The ideal humidity in your home lies somewhere between 30 and 50 percent, depending on the season. In the summer, you want less humidity or you'll feel warmer than you need to; in the winter, you want more humidity, because chilly air holds less moisture, and because running the furnace dries air out even more.

How Does Dry Air Impact Your Health?

Overly dry air can make your home uncomfortable and negatively impact your health.

  • Your skin may feel itchy and your eyes dried out; making it harder to blink when you wake up in the morning. 
  • While you sleep, your throat and sinuses may get irritated, causing problems with mucus.
  • A study from the National Academy of Sciences links below average humidity, to the increased lifespan of the flu virus. It explains that the lack of humidity in the air during cold winter months could explain flu seasonality.

It's a good idea to install a hygrometer, an inexpensive item available at your home improvement store, so you can monitor the humidity levels in your home for every season.

Adding Humidity

You can boil water on the stove or take longer showers, but neither of those options is particularly efficient. Installing a whole-house humidifier that is plumbed in with your HVAC system offers precision control of humidity levels, without wasting water or electricity.

Some of the humidifiers you can choose from:

Central box or drum (non-steam).

These are mounted on the ductwork close to the blower of your furnace or heat pump and do not generally work for a house heated by electricity or hot water, or one without ductwork. Drum types move moisture by means of fabric or foam belts; similar to drum types, disc wheel models convey moisture with plastic discs; flow-through types use expanded aluminum or rectangular foam pads to transfer moisture.


Steam models heat water to the evaporation point, then direct steam into your ductwork. These humidifiers are independent of the furnace, so can be turned on even when the furnace isn't in use.


Portable humidifiers are available, but you have to move them from room to room, and keep refilling them when they run dry.


To learn more about adding a humidifier, read about our comfort controls.