It’s the one thing every newcomer to Calgary seems to agree on: “wow, it’s really dry here.” If you’ve been here a while, you’re familiar with our skin flaking, lip cracking, semi-arid climate.
So far, this winter has been pretty rough for humidifiers because of the wide temperature swings we’ve experienced, with severe cold snaps followed by chinook winds. Such conditions make it difficult to maintain the desirable humidity in your home. Older humidifier units will struggle to keep up with Calgary’s conditions, so consider upgrading to a steam humidifier.
Why a Humidifier?
The upside to maintaining good indoor humidity is clear; your skin, throat, eyes and sinuses will all stay healthier. Besides maintaining a human comfort level, it also preserves wood floors and furnishings. Finished or not, wood will shrink and swell with the changes in humidity. For instance, if your new hardwood floor has a warranty, it very likely stipulates a humidifier in the home.
Earlier Humidifier Types
While perhaps better than nothing at all, we consider evaporative humidifiers a waste of money– running a hot shower, or a pot boiling on your stove will be about as effective.
Flow-through units were the most common type for a long time, but they only humidify when the furnace runs. That’s fine for more temperate locations, but Calgary’s weather makes them less practical; when they’re needed most, they can’t humidify at the rate a steam unit can.
When that dry chinook air moves in, you can lose half the humidity in your house over the course of about an hour, and it can take days to gain it back with flow-through or evaporative units.
In simple terms, a steam humidifier is a specialized kettle that boils water into steam to humidify your house, delivering water vapour to your air handling system. It does this with electrodes submerged in the water (rather than an expensive heating element that can burn out). They’re relatively new to the industry, and are gaining popularity as the humidifier type that can best keep pace with Calgary’s climate.
The crucial factor in installing a steam humidifier is getting the water supply just right. These units have very specific water requirements, making an expert installation all the more important.
While soft water is ideal for pretty much any other application, a steam humidifier requires an optimum mineral content for the electrode heating to work properly. We take a filtered water supply from a point ahead of the water softener’s tie-in.
Seen here is a cartridge from a badly neglected steam humidifier, showing an extreme example of sediment buildup. This buildup was so bad it created a lightning-in-a-bottle condition where there was an arc between the electrodes, tripping the circuit breaker. Instead of a puck-shaped mineral deposit, the inside should be just a white honeycomb-shaped material.
Don’t let this happen to you! Everything mechanical requires regular maintenance. Annual service to maintain your humidifier will ensure any problems you have will be caught while they are small and inexpensive to fix.
Integrating Air & Water Systems
A humidifier is part of an air quality system, rather than a standalone appliance. It’s not as simple as you might think; the unit must provide enough humidity for your home at a pace the air handling system can manage.
The right humidity also varies from house to house; if you have an older, poorly insulated home with no vapour barriers, your humidifier requirements will be different from those of a brand new build.
Internet-enabled smart thermostats are available that can inform your air quality system of the outdoor humidity to ensure your humidifier is working at the optimal rate.
These are all reasons why expert evaluation and installation matter. Got questions? Give us a call for a free consultation.