How to know if you have dry air at home
Arctic air masses can produce very low indoor humidity.
The winter season usually ends up with many of us stuck inside, especially this year. And it's also a not-so-great time for dry air, dehydrated skin, and sore, cracked lips.
Wondering if your home is in the throes of a dry spell? Here are seven signs your home's air quality is too dry.
Photo by Michael Pierce
1. Getting shocked due to discharge of dry air
Indoor spaces like offices, homes, and warehouses can be hotspots for low relative humidity (RH) for any number of reasons. What's important, as part of our first point in this article, is that these places are also more likely to produce electrostatic discharge (ESD) as a result. This isn't just a minor annoyance, either. While it might seem harmless to touch a door handle and get a tiny shock, ESD can actually cause serious damage to computers and electronics. This is why it's important to maintain humidity levels. And, of course, to keep an eye out for those pesky electrostatic shocks so you can literally feel indoor dry air developing.
Photo by Jacek Dylag
2. Feeling dehydrated due to dry air's low humidity
Everyone gets thirsty. But feeling dehydrated and constantly wanting to drink is usually a sign of either a medical problem or low humidity. If you've noticed an abnormal thirst and lethargy and dizziness from dehydration, you may have a dryness problem on your hands. Dry air sucks the moisture out of the human body. If you've ever dropped your phone in water, then left it in rice to dry out, you've seen this in action. Low relative humidity environments work on the objects in them over prolonged periods of time.In the case of human bodies, this can lead to a serious depletion of fluids. Dehydration and thirst result and the overall effect is anything but healthy.
Photo by Dawn Higham
3. Feeling cold despite winter thermostat settings
The number one job of your thermostat is to control the temperature in your home. So, what do you do if your living room feels colder than the temperature you set on the heater? For starters, you might want to consider a humidifier. A lot of the time, the air in a room feels colder than the thermostat's temperature due to overly dry air. When exposed to low humidity, the body's sweat and moisture evaporate. And, without them, you're more exposed than usual to the elements.
4. Getting nosebleeds due to dry air in the home
Humidity and nosebleeds go together like, well, humidity and uninvited chills in warm air conditioning. Dry air begins to evaporate moisture from the mucous membranes in the nose, causing them to dry out, become brittle, and crack. And, if you're lucky, that's where the problem stops. But, for many around the country, nosebleeds can result from these cracks becoming worse. This cracking can cause wounds that open up too much and begin to bleed. And not to be too scary, but this opens up your nasal passages to infections and viruses.
5. Noticing degrading furniture in the wintertime
Believe it or not, wooden furniture is another great indicator of air quality and indoor dryness. Furniture damage, specifically, results in items made of wood. When the air is overly dry, this furniture has good odds of expanding and contracting relative to the relative ambient humidity. This is actually a two-step process. While the air is still relatively humid, wood furniture will absorb trace amounts of this moisture and expand somewhat. Once the air dries out, this same moisture is quickly released back into the air. The result? Your furniture actually shrinks! Now, a few contractions and expansions here and there are actually normal. Most furniture, wooden houses, and structures incorporate this expansion and contraction. But everything has its breaking point, and wooden furniture may crack and warp if exposed to dry air for long periods of time.
Photo by Justin Kauffman
6. Having trouble breathing due to dry air
Human beings are much more susceptible to tiny obstructions in our airways than we give ourselves credit for. In a house with low relative humidity, the dry air often gives the people living there breathing troubles. You're especially likely to see these effects of dry air at night while sleeping. This is a time when we're more likely to go long periods with our mouths open, and there tends to be very little movement in the air for eight hours at a time. If you are waking up extremely thirsty in the mornings, with a dry throat or nose, there's a good chance the air in your house is too dry.
7. Having dry skin and lips due to dry air
Of course, sometimes the only sign you need that something is wrong is the obvious one. If your skin and lips become increasingly dry the more time you spend in your house, this is a warning sign your house may be too dry. Pay special attention to the palms of your hands, heels of your feet, skin in and around your nostrils, and around your eyes, as well as your lips. If you've never had problems with this before, this could be your body's way of telling you the air is too dry and things need to change at home.
Photo by Brina Blum
Dry air at home? Know the signs
Your home is supposed to be your own little zone of comfort and control away from the rest of the world. But, when dry air becomes a problem, it's important to know the symptoms, so you can address the issue with some well-earned dehumidifying. Struggling with dry skin, cracked lips, and static discharge in the wintertime? Hate waking up every morning feeling dehydrated, dizzy, and thirsty? Or maybe it's the site of your wooden furniture bending and warping in the dry November air that's driving you crazy.
Whatever the symptoms, living in a home with a humidity problem is the same as living somewhere with bad air quality: no fun for anybody.