Humidifiers raise comfort, save cash


January 21, 1995|By James Dulley | James Dulley,Special to The Sun

Q: I need a good humidifier because I have wintertime allergies and the static electricity could light the Astrodome. What type of whole-house console humidifier is most effective and cheapest to operate?

A: Maintaining the proper humidity level is important for comfort and allergy control. A whole-house console humidifier is often more effective than a furnace-mounted one. A console model can be set to run continuously on a low, quiet fan speed, not just when the furnace blower is on.

Generally, 40 percent to 60 percent relative humidity produces the best indoor air quality. Many bacteria and viruses thrive in both drier and more moist air. Dust mites and mold are worse at higher levels and ozone at lower levels. Not only will your lungs be happy, but your furniture will last longer.

Properly-humidified air cuts your heating bills too. This allows you to set your furnace thermostat a couple of degrees lower

and save energy without feeling chilly. The savings will pay back many times over the $15 to $20 annual electricity cost to operate a humidifier.

There are six basic types of humidifiers -- evaporative (wicking), impeller, steam-mist, warm-mist, ultrasonic, and floor register covers.

Evaporative "wicking" designs are most often used for large, whole-house console models. These use a special filter-type material that naturally draws up (wicks) water from a reservoir. A fan circulates room air through the damp filters to release moisture and clean the air.

In one model, Moist Air, the wicking filters rest on floats in the water reservoir. As the water evaporates and its level drops, the filter stays in proper contact with it for the most effective humidification.

Some models use filters treated with an anti-bacterial material. Others use a built-in, replaceable, high-efficiency air filter with a secondary charcoal element to remove odors and carcinogenic volatile organic chemicals.

Be sure to select a model with a built-in "true" humidistat, not just a low/high switch. Without a true humidistat, the output does not respond to changing indoor conditions like cooking or a large group of guests.

A multi- or variable-speed fan is best. Combined with a humidistat, this provides complete control over comfort. For nighttime use, select a whole-house model with a quiet "sleep" setting. For extra bedroom humidity, small steam-mist and floor register designs are totally quiet.

Write for Utility Bills Update No. 679 showing a buyer's guide of eight whole-house and room humidifier manufacturers, moisture output capacities, design types, features, recommended humidity levels for health and reduced window condensation, type selection and capacity guidelines. Please include $2 and a self-addressed envelope. James Dulley, The Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

Q: The pressure relief valve on my gas water heater leaks. I have replaced it, but it still leaks when the burner comes on. What can I do to make it stop leaking?

A: Chances are that the replacement valve is not faulty too. Your tank may have sediment that is clogging the valve and making it leak.

Open and closes the lever several times. If it still leaks, lightly tap the valve body, not the lever, with a plastic mallet. This often dislodges particles. In the future, drain a few gallons out of the lower tank valve several times a year to reduce sediment buildup. This also increases its life and maintains its efficiency.

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