Handyman: Humidity is your friend in winter

Glenn Haege
The Detroit News

When it comes to indoor comfort, too much humidity is your home’s enemy in the summer. However, in the winter the air outside gets drier, and your indoor air will become desert-like when the furnace runs if you don’t add humidity.

That’s why a whole-house humidifier during the winter is key to enhancing your indoor comfort. Lack of humidity in the winter causes your skin to dry out, increases static electricity and can cause the wood floors and furniture in your house to crack.

Another advantage to having the proper humidity in the home is that it will help you save energy because you will feel warmer and won’t need to turn up the thermostat.

For most homes, the proper indoor humidity level is between 40 percent to 60 percent. To determine what your home’s humidity level is, get yourself a digital hygrometer from the hardware store to check it. Next, you need to have a system that will keep your home at a consistent 50 percent humidity level to increase your indoor comfort. On an older furnace, that probably means an adjustable humidistat on the furnace’s ductwork. But that also means running to the basement or utility room every time you need to adjust it. A better solution is to get an automatic digital humidistat you can install next to your furnace’s thermostat on the main floor.

With a whole-house flow-through or drum type humidifier installed on your forced-air furnace, you are on the right track towards the proper humidity in the home. But just having the unit doesn’t mean it is pumping out the level of humidity you need. You’ll need to maintain it by changing the drum or pad each year. However, if that isn’t putting out enough humidity based on your hygrometer tests and adjusting the humidistat, check to see if the unit is properly sized for your home.

While adding humidity in your home is vital in the winter, a home with too much moisture can lead to sweating windows and even bacteria growth. That’s why it is important to monitor your humidity levels to make sure it is optimal for indoor comfort. Newer homes can be highly insulated.

In fact it can be so tight that even when you have the perfect humidity level you may still get moisture on your windows. In that case, consider an air makeup unit such as the Xavier Equaliz-air,, or the Skuttle Model 216,

One of the first places to start is the Humidification Calculator on the website for General Aire,, a manufacturer of whole-house humidifiers. This calculator helps you determine the gallons of water per day that you need to disperse through the humidifier to get your home to the proper humidity level based on its size and the temperature and humidity levels you want in your home.

In addition to General Aire, other manufacturers of whole-house humidification systems include Aprilaire,, and Honeywell,

If one room or area in your home is drier than others, you can also supplement your whole-house humidifier with a warm mist humidifier available at hardware stores or even Bed Bath and Beyond.

For a home with baseboard or in-floor heat, consider a steam humidifier with a blower kit that can be hidden in a closet and the blower vent placed in the main part of the home.

With a little hygrometer testing and adjustment of your humidistat, your humidifier should be able to keep your indoor air quality comfortable all winter.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, email If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.