Heating your home with a heat pump is energy efficient and cost-effective. When dry indoor air becomes a problem in winter, however, you’re likely to find that the central humidifiers that work just fine with fossil-fuel-fired furnaces aren’t as effective when used in conjunction with a heat pump. Fortunately, a steam humidifier may be the solution to the problem.
At best, dry indoor air is a nuisance. It can make your skin itchy, your lips dry and cracked, and your throat irritated. It can even make your nose bleed.
For some, those minor irritations can lead to even more serious problems. When dry air irritates your throat and your nasal passages, you’re more susceptible to respiratory illnesses such as cold and flu, sinus infections, and reactions to allergens. Asthma sufferers may experience more frequent or more severe asthma attacks when the air is dry, too.
Dry air isn’t kind to your home and the things in it, either. Low humidity can cause wood floors and finishes to dry out, shrink, and crack; wood furniture is vulnerable to damage caused by dry air, as well.
Perhaps worst of all, we’ve all experienced the inconvenient—and sometimes painful—build up of static electricity that occurs when dry air helps surfaces hold their static charges.
Many home heating systems incorporate a humidifier that works by bypassing some of the warm air generated by the furnace through an evaporator pad that’s saturated with water. As the warm air flows across the pad, it picks up some of the moisture from the pad, and that moisture is distributed through the home’s heating ducts. Over time, the added moisture increases the relative humidity of the air throughout the home.
Steam humidifiers, such as those manufactured by Thermolec, take an active approach to raising your home’s humidity. In these systems, a sensor called a humidistat recognizes when the air in your home is too dry, and when the humidity drops below a specified level, the humidistat triggers the production of high-temperature steam in a reservoir attached to the system. That steam is then mixed with the heating system’s warm air and is sent throughout the house, raising the humidity of the indoor air.
Steam humidifiers use less water than bypass humidifiers. Bypass humidifiers often use as much as 15 gallons of water to produce one gallon of water vapor, while steam humidifiers can produce almost one gallon of vapor for every gallon of water used.
Steam humidifiers also typically require less maintenance than bypass humidifiers, whose evaporator pads need to be replaced at least once a year. Thermolec’s Acu-Steam system is designed to operate for more than 10 years without needing a replacement canister or heating element.
Steam humidifiers are especially advantageous in homes heated by heat pumps. Heat pumps typically produce warm air with a lower temperature than that produced by gas- or oil-fueled furnaces, and bypass humidifiers don’t work as well when the air passing over the evaporator pad isn’t warm enough.
Steam humidifiers generate steam using their own heat source, so they don’t rely on the temperature of the heating system’s air to produce moisture. As a result, they’re able to consistently introduce more moisture throughout your home when working in conjunction with the relatively low-temperature air put out by the heat pump.
Working in coordination with one another, a heat pump and a steam humidifier prevent dry winter indoor air from making your home uncomfortable and unhealthy, and they do it in the most energy-efficient, cost-effective, hassle-free way possible.
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