The Colorado lifestyle comes with so many advantages, but there is a common discomfort we all must deal with—Colorado’s dry climate! While some suffer with year round symptoms, once winter hits our skin itches, eyes bloodshot, and sinus cavities swell up. The drug stores provide temporary relief with lotions, eye drops, and nasal sprays galore, but the greatest mystery to solve is how to establish comfortable and safe humidity levels in our homes. One of the most common solutions is to setup humidifiers in rooms throughout your home, but have you ever considered that running your humidifier could have negative health implications?
According to the CPSC, bacteria and fungi often grow in the tanks of portable and whole-house console humidifiers, and these microbial growths can be released in the mist. Breathing dirty mist may cause lung problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to serious infections. The real question here is how can we understand how to properly use our humidifiers, so we can survive the long winter?
The first thing we must understand is why it is so important to maintain the proper humidity levels in your home. Darcy Logan, writer of DoItYourself.com states, low humidity or lack of moisture means the air in your house will be dry. Without proper moisture, you open yourself up to all the pains that come with dry air. Darcy suggests using a hygrometer to test the level of humidity in your home. But keep in mind that basements are generally going to have higher humidity levels, as are bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. Indoor humidity levels should be around 30 to 50 percent, with the perfect level touching around 45 percent. Once you establish your home’s relative humidity levels, you can then decide if you need to invest in a humidifier system and how you can properly maintain the humidifier for your home.
Next you need to figure out what type of humidifier to invest in. Most homeowners opt for the single room humidifier system. There are four important factors to consider:
- The type of mist – cool mist, warm mist or warm steam
- The size of the room (square footage)
- The features the humidifier offers
- The brands that matter!
According to Consumerreports.org, you want to get the balance right when considering these factors. Warm mist humidifiers heat water to a boil, then emit the resulting steam. Some warm mist humidifiers include mineral filters that trap water deposits. Cool mist humidifiers are a little more complex because there are three kinds of cool mist humidifiers: Evaporative, Ultrasonic, and Impeller. Evaporative models use a fan to blow air over a wet wick. Ultrasonic humidifiers use a vibrating nebulizer to emit water. Impeller models produce mist using a rotating disk.
One of the most important things about humidifiers is knowing how to properly maintain and clean the machine. The Mayo Clinic warns that if you neglect your humidifier, dirty filters and reservoirs can quickly breed mold and bacteria. The writers of LumaComfort.com suggest, the following steps for proper care of your humidifier:
- Use distilled water or demineralization cartridges or filters if recommended.
- Properly clean after each use, the inside of a humidifier should be wiped down in order to prevent the accumulation of minerals and bacteria.
- Replace filters as directed by the manufacturer or at least every season; filters will begin to discolor whenever they collect debris from the atmosphere, so if you notice your filter losing its white color, it’s time to change!
- Never leave standing water in the humidifier for multiple days, organisms like mold, bacteria, mildew, and fungi can start growing.
- To clean the base of your humidifier, pour white vinegar into the base and allow to sit for 30 minutes; then rinse and wipe the humidifier many times to remove all vinegar.
- You may also want to disinfect the outside of the humidifier by wiping with bleach. After properly cleaning your humidifier, allow to sit and completely dry.
As a Colorado local, I also suffer from dry climate symptoms, so I decided to do a comparison between a very well-known brands, Vicks®. According to Airbetter.org, Vicks® humidifiers have been voted as top performing and are relatively inexpensive. The top rated was the “Vicks® Warm Mist Humidifier with Auto Shut-off”. The V745A is especially beneficial for people who suffer cold, flu, or seasonal allergies by producing an instant warm mist. The second runner up was the “Vicks® Cool Mist Germ Free V3900”. The cool mist kills up to 99.9% of germs, bacteria, and mold in the water prior to producing a cool mist. In addition you can add in the menthol-scented pads, which are great for babies with runny noses. With so many products on the market, it can be challenging to decide which humidifier works best for your lifestyle and home. So before you run to your local store, do some research online before purchasing.
After you purchase your humidifier, you will want to identify the best location to setup the machine. You do not want to place the humidifier on the floor, especially right on top of carpet — this could cause a nasty mold discoloration. According to Livestrong.com, an appropriate location is a flat, level, and firm surface at least five inches away from walls or any heat sources. In addition, be certain not to place objects close to or on top of the humidifier as this could block air openings. Check the area around the humidifier regularly to make sure absorbent materials such as carpeting, curtains, or tablecloths do not become wet as these are food sources for mold growth – just add water!
Better health and comfort is why we love our humidifiers! If you do see mold discoloration or experience musty odors, contact one of our trained Air Quality Specialists to perform a mold inspection in your home. We can also perform measurements and moisture meter readings to help you determine the best size and locations for your humidifiers. By learning how to properly select and maintain your humidifier, you too can thrive during the long, dry Colorado Winters.