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Do You Need a Humidifier in Winter Because of the Furnace?

One of the important indoor air quality installations that we handle for homes in Chicagoland is a whole-house humidifier. During the winter, moisture freezes out of the air and often leads to air with less than 30% relative humidity—too dry for comfort. When the humidity is this low, it adds an unpleasant edge to the already cool temperatures because heat can leave the body quicker. It also allows for the quicker spread of illnesses and can create damage to wooden and painted surfaces.

Does a Furnace Contribute to Low Humidity?

This is something you’ve probably heard stated as fact: natural gas furnaces “dry out” the air inside a home. If you have a gas furnace heating your house, does that mean you must have a humidifier to balance it out?

Not necessarily. If your home is suffering from low humidity, it’s probably something that would’ve happened regardless of the furnace. Some furnaces can contribute to decreased humidity, but it isn’t because the furnace is removing moisture. What’s happening is the furnace’s combustion chamber is drawing air from inside the house as it runs. This creates a deficit of air in the house, and air from outside rushes in through available openings to fix it. Because the colder outdoor air is drier than the indoor air, this often leads to a drop in relative humidity. (It creates cold drafts as well.)

But not all furnaces do this. A sealed combustion furnace doesn’t draw air from the home in order to run. Instead, it draws air through a PVC pipe that leads to the outside. Not only do sealed combustion furnaces avoid lowering indoor humidity; they are more energy efficient and safe as well.

If your home is struggling with low humidity, we suggest that you call us to see if a humidifier will help—and perhaps the installation of a new, sealed combustion furnace.

Malek Heating & Cooling serves Wilmette, IL and all of Chicagoland.

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