With the arrival of the home heating season, a variety of problems caused by low relative humidity can plague your home. Dry air resulting from the low relative humidity absorbs moisture from you and everything inside your home; dry noses, scratchy throats, itchy skin, and static shock are all familiar problems during the colder months as we heat our homes.

The American Society of Otolaryngology reports that it is important to prevent an overly dry environment because it makes people more susceptible to infections. Many viruses have been found to thrive in low humidity and can increase the likelihood of getting colds, flu and upper respiratory ailments. But dry air damage doesn’t stop there. Walls and ceilings may crack, wood floors and trim may separate; dry air shrinks the framing around windows and doors resulting in gaps that allow cold air in from the outside, making your home less energy efficient. Static electric charges could cause damage and pricey repairs or replacement of expensive electronic equipment.

Properly humidified air can help prevent problems aggravated by dry air. Experts agree that homes should have a humidity level of 30-50%, and when running your heating system that means running a humidifier. There are several options ranging from portable units that can be moved from room to room to whole house systems that work with your heating system.

Professionally-installed whole-house humidification systems help to deliver appropriately-conditioned air to every room in your home, making it more effective than portable units that humidify just one room at a time. They also require little to no maintenance once installed properly, and use your home’s plumbing and electrical systems to supply the required water and electricity for operation.

Portable humidifiers are freestanding and range in size from a table-top model to a floor model. These units have their own water supplies and plug into standard electrical outlets but tend to have higher maintenance requirements. Portable units must have water added daily and using distilled or demineralized water is ideal. They must be cleaned frequently and have the filter replaced at least as often as the manufacturer recommends.

Maintaining the ideal humidity level in your home will also help make it feel warmer. Low humidity makes the air feel colder because it holds less water; the warmer the air is, the more water it can hold, thus the warmer it feels. Think about how the thermometer says the temperature is 95° but it feels like 110° due to how high the humidity level is.

Preserving the most comfortable home environment is important to quality of life, so if your family suffers from the effects of dry air, you may want to consider a professionally-installed whole-house humidification system.