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Ask Casa: Help! It's So Dry In My House!

Ask Casa: Help! It's So Dry In My House!

Hi Casa,

I just moved to a new place, and I'm having trouble with the humidity (or lack thereof). Within the first few days, I realized I was waking up every morning with a dry throat, dry eyes, and pain in my back. I have electric heat, and my roommates (are from Texas, but we live in Chicago now) like to keep it cranked up high. Yesterday I came home and it was at 79 degrees!!! I bought a cool-air humidifier, and I think it's helping a little, but do you have any other tips to raise the humidity in our house? Should I buy some houseplants or something? Also — what should we keep our thermostat set to? I think anything over 72 during the winter is extreme. (But then again, I was raised in Chicago) What do you think?

To see my advice—as well as advice from a professional—just

Humidity is defined as the level of moisture in the air. It is generally recommended that a home's moisture level be maintained at between 35–45 percent, but in the Winter this can dip as low as 15 percent! It not only affects you, it can also dry out houseplants and hurt your home. There are many advantages to maintaining humidity in the air during the Winter. Warm air feels warmer and more comfortable when humidity is present; humidity can reduce static electricity problems and health issues such as bloody noses and dry, scratchy throats and eyes.

I emailed Francis Lazaro, an energy-conversation expert and auditor with the state of New Jersey, who wrote back saying "the high temperature setting inside this house is a major contributing factor for the low-humidity level and low-comfort levels. This comfort level is referred to as the Sensible Heat Factor (SHF). Clearly lowering the thermostat setting at least 5 degrees and preferably even more to 9 degrees will increase their comfort levels dramatically."

Francis also wrote a lot about psychrometrics, equilibrium, pressure-induced moisture Ffow, and other physics concepts. I'll be posting his entire answer on Team, if you're interested in reading about how air flow in houses works (I actually find it fascinating).

Along with turning down the thermostat, you may want to buy another humidifier and locate it centrally in your home to add humidity. Your landlord can also connect power humidifiers to forced air furnaces will add humidity (though in my experience, landlords rarely want to be bothered with this).

There are also some free and easy methods that will increase Winter air humidity. Instead of drying your sweaters, towels, and jeans in a dryer, hang them out to dry in your home on collapsible drying racks. If you do this around your plants, it will help them survive the dry-air temperatures as well.

You can also take glazed pots, fill them with water, and set them out in warm areas in your home. Since I'm a houseplant lover, and I know that many Casa readers are as well, consider that your plants will also be healthier in cooler air.

If your roommates complain about the colder temperatures, tell them to invest in lap blankets, sweaters, and wooly socks. It's how most cold-dwelling folks around the world get by! For more weatherization tips, Chicago and Cook County residents can turn to the wonderful nonprofit CEDA for help.

Do you have any more advice for Juliet? Leave your words of wisdom in the comments below.


Join The Conversation
ProudMommaOf2 ProudMommaOf2 8 years
I am suffering from the same problem, I live in ND and well we have been having a rough winter and I have natural gas in my home and my girls have two hermit crabs who do nothing but stay in their shell. We all wake up every morning with dry throats and my eldest daughter gets the occasional nose bleed.
aembry396 aembry396 9 years
I like to leave glasses of water hanging around the big areas in my seems to work
ptotheenguin ptotheenguin 9 years
Like insanitypepper, I have the opposite problem. I live on the Gulf Coast and it's always SO humid.
insanitypepper insanitypepper 9 years
I know a lot of you winter weather sufferers are going to find this annoying, but I have the exact opposite problem. I live in Florida, and I doubt the humidity in my house ever dips below 60%. It will be up to 97% outside by 5:00 am tomorrow, but it won't be hot enough to trigger the AC until close to noon. I'd love to find a way to dry out my house.
LadyLiLa83 LadyLiLa83 9 years
We have the exact same problem. It's annoying!!
emalove emalove 9 years
The air in my condo is very dry too. I suffer from severe allergies as well, so I had to invest in some cool-air humidifiers the minute I moved in. They help somewhat, but I could use some additional tips too...
H-Boogie H-Boogie 9 years
Juliet, I have the same problem with zero humidity. Literally. I purchased a small thermometer/humidity detector to help solve the problem and it regularly reads 10% in my bedroom. CasaSugar's tips are great and I got a 2-for-1 deal on humidifiers at Target. I also use fans sometimes since my heat will get one spot of a room super warm, but neglect other areas. Keep bowls of water out will help and it's amazing to see how fast the water levels can go down! I use "recycled" water from my pet's bowls when I refresh them and dump the "old" water into the plants or in out of reach bowls up high. Also, humidity from showers and wet towels can help, and the same goes for waiting until bathwater gets cold to let it drain. And tell those Texans to get a sweater!
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