Is Your Winnipeg Home Too Dry?
It has been said that during most of the winter months, homeowners in Winnipeg are living in a desert! With humidity levels dropping with our typically low winter temperatures, it becomes easy to compare extremely dry humidity levels (below 30%) to those that are found mostly in desert type climates.
Most noticeably we will develop symptoms of dry throat and nasal passages, chapped lips and dry skin. Those of us with allergies also will be more affected than most. What may not be as evident is the toll that our “winter desert” is taking on our homes and its furnishings. A high level of static electricity is often a good indicator of other problems that have already developed in your home.
Wood flooring and wood furniture will shrink or swell depending on its humidity content. Levels of 35-40% is the average humidity content recommended by most suppliers. Over time anything less than this will cause shrinking and noticeable damage. Seams on wood floors will open up, wood furniture may start to creak, and musical instruments (particularly pianos and guitars) will go out of tune. A tightly sealed home will sometimes develop high humidity and cause excessive condensation on windows. In more severe cases mould, rot and structural damage will eventually occur.
Here at Tradesman Mechanical we strongly recommend that you invest in an inexpensive hygrometer as a starting point to determine the actual humidity level in your home. You can find these at your local hardware store or from Tradesman for less than $75.00.
Fortunately there are many solutions available to overcome humidity problems. It becomes essential to first discover and understand the mechanics of your home to properly assess and apply the most effective or appropriate fix. In other words, how is your lifestyle affecting your home?
What may be adding humidity to your home?
How many occupants? People and pets will add humidity.
How many showers, baths or hot tubs in a day?
How much cooking and laundry on an average day?
Watered plants and aquariums add humidity.
Water seepage causes damp basements.
A power humidifier may be adding humidity– is it working properly?
What may be reducing the humidity in your home?
Electric furnaces or baseboard resistance heaters.
Electronic equipment, televisions, computers etc.
Air conditioning removes moisture (only when it runs)
Over-ventilating will dry out your home
Proper ventilation should be the most important consideration for homeowners to correct or control humidity problems. Once proper ventilation is in place, there may not be a requirement to add or remove moisture with the expense of a Humidifier or De-humidifier.
The air in every home is continuously being contaminated and it becomes necessary to replace this stale air with new fresh air. The simplest way to ventilate would be to open a window or door .Although this would obviously not be practical or effective, we can chose equipment that will mechanically ventilate to meet our needs. Exhaust fans, Central exhaust fans, Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV), Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) are all options for ventilating your home.
Since mechanical ventilation will be used year-round it is important to understand the difference from season to season as to how it will affect the humidity being introduced into your home. Winter days in our climate will be mostly cold and very dry. Ventilating will therefore lower the humidity making it important not to dry out your home by over-ventilating. Summer days however will sometimes be very humid which in turn will raise the humidity in the home also making it important not to over-ventilate.
Over-ventilating is a fairly common problem with HRV’s. This can usually be attributed to incorrect wiring or the homeowner not having the correct information and misuse of the system controls. An important consideration for new homes particularly with hardwood floors would be the option of an ERV. An ERV will recover most of the moisture that would be exhausted by an HRV, and may eliminate the need to introduce more humidity. Typically an HRV will handle most situations since our Winnipeg climate is not considered as humid as Vancouver or other coastal areas.
Once it is known that a home is not being over-ventilated, and the humidity is still too low, a power humidifier should be installed.
Call 888-2020 for Humidifier pricing or more specific information.
Flow Through Humidifiers
The “Flow Through” type humidifier will require less maintenance (clean & replace cartridge annually) but will use much more water.
A Steam Humidifier is the most expensive of these 3 types but will waste the least amount of water and require the least maintenance. (Clean once a year).
There has been much written on humidity problems that can come up in Winnipeg air-tight homes. “Lower levels of excess humidity can normally be controlled by the proper use of an HRV or Central Air in the summer season.
Higher levels may require the use of a de-humidifier. Portable de-humidifiers are available at most big box stores and can be quite effective at reducing the humidity level is a specific area.
Whole house de-humidifiers are not as common due to their cost, but can sometimes be the only solutions in extremely humid homes. Call us today for more information on humidity problems in your Winnipeg Home.