7 Ways to Cut the Dry Air in Your Home This Winter

Avoid the problems that come with dry air by considering these tricks to increase humidity in your home.

By Devon Thorsby, Editor, Real Estate |Dec. 1, 2017, at 1:13 p.m.

7 Ways to Cut the Dry Air in Your Home This Winter

Slideshow

When the air is too dry

Young woman relaxing on wicker chair

(Getty Images)

The colder weather is here, and the heat is on at home. But with the natural drop in humidity levels during winter, the dry, heated air inside can create an uncomfortable atmosphere. Common complaints of dry air are allergy and asthma problems, sinus congestion, dry skin, sore throat and nose bleeds. Stewart Unsdorfer, owner of Central Heating & Air Conditioning Co. in Cleveland, says humidity levels below 25 percent could benefit from adding water vapor to the air. If you’re worried about humidity levels at home, get a hygrometer – “It’s just like a thermometer that gives humidity readings,” Unsdorfer says – and weigh these seven options to help relieve your wintertime dry air woes.

Find the drafts.

Find the drafts.

(Getty Images)

Key to curing any air issues inside your home in winter is to first seal up the spots where cold air can leak in from outside. Add weatherstripping around windows and doors, and use a foam sealant around gaps in the wall around pipes or ducts that lead outside. Your basement in particular likely has places where air is leaking in surrounding the dryer vent and along the interior surface of the sill plate – the first piece of lumber in contact with the foundation. If sealed properly, “you’ll probably reduce air leakiness by [about] a third,” says Gary Parsons, a fellow at Dow Building Solutions, which makes products for both new construction and existing buildings.

Stovetop steam

Stovetop steam

(Getty Images)

As a nod to the days when coal and wood stoves were the primary source of heat in a home, an open pot of water or kettle on your stove can help get more water vapor into the air. Homes that have a wood- or coal-burning stove as an extra heating source can use the additional surface area to increase humidity. Cast-iron steamers and kettles meant for the old stove style will heat water and release water vapor into the air while you have the stove on, helping you save on central heating costs. A variety of steamers and kettles are offered at Target, L.L. Bean and Plow & Hearth, and they range from $25 to $100. Of course, a hot stove and boiling water should never be left unattended, so only use this method while you’re in the room.

Whole-house humidifiers

Whole-house humidifiers

Vapor from humidifier in the morning light in a living room

(Getty Images)

If you live in a house with uncomfortable levels of dry air, you’ll likely benefit from a humidifier that connects with the home’s HVAC system, Unsdorfer says. “When it gets below maybe 20 percent relative humidity inside the house, it could benefit from a whole-house humidifier," he says. As the weather outside fluctuates, you’ll need to adjust humidity levels in the home to avoid too much moisture, since a colder temperature outside means you should lower the level in the home. Otherwise, too much humidity relative to the outside can result in condensation where the warm air hits a cold surface – on windows, for example. If you’re not able to keep an eye on humidity levels at home, Unsdorfer doesn’t recommend a whole-house humidifier.

Portable humidifier

Portable humidifier

air humudifier in Living room, on the table

(Getty Images)

The single-room humidifier can serve as a suitable alternative when you’re not able to keep up with a whole-house humidifier. You can simply refill a tabletop humidifier with tap water to help even out humidity levels in an apartment or room. These smaller humidifiers are often a better option for rental homes, Unsdorfer says. Depending on the size and brand, in-room humidifiers can cost as low at $25 and reach more than $150.

Air dry everything.

Air dry everything.

Two pair off child socks are hanging at the clotheslinein the sun

(Getty Images)

A great way to reduce energy usage in winter and help release more water vapor in the air at home is to stop using your dryer and hang your clothes on drying racks inside the house. If your home is notoriously dry, your clothes will probably be ready for folding in an hour or two, and they’ll have helped add some humidity to the air temporarily. Remember, however, that you should air-dry the clothes in open spaces throughout the house. If you keep drying racks in a closed off part of the basement, Unsdorfer notes, “you’ll end up with a musty room.”

Add to the radiator.

Add to the radiator.

Photo showing an old fashioned cast iron radiator painted white, standing on a worn oak wooden floor.

(Getty Images)

If you live in an older home or apartment building with steam-heat radiators in each room, help increase the humidity by placing a tank or tub of water on the radiator itself. The water, heated by the radiator, will add water vapor to the air over time and can easily be refilled with tap water. Home improvement companies like Kontrol and Snow Joe make specially designed humidifier tanks that can be secured to a radiator for less than $10. But placing a pot, tub or bowl that won’t risk breaking on top of a radiator is another viable option.

Bring in some greenery.

Bring in some greenery.

houseplants in pots on a table at a brick wall

(Getty Images)

“Having a lot of house plants also increases the humidity and the indoor air quality of the home,” Unsdorfer says. Plants help increase humidity in the air through the transpiration process, which is the movement of water through the plant itself. However, if the air is below 30 percent humidity to begin with, some plants may have a hard time surviving because they're suited for much more humid conditions. Be sure to stick to recommended watering frequency based on the type of plant you bring into your home to help it thrive.

Read More

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

Recommended Articles

8 Ways to Upgrade Your Front Porch

Devon Thorsby | May 22, 2019

These projects can take your front porch from a simple stoop to an outdoor living space.

Signs You Have a Good Real Estate Agent

Deanna Haas | May 22, 2019

How can sellers know when they’ve found the perfect listing agent? Here are some telltale signs.

6 Ways To Try Out A Neighborhood

Steven Gottlieb | May 21, 2019

How to determine whether a neighborhood is right for you before you close on a home.

How Much Does It Cost to Sell Your Home?

Dima Williams | May 20, 2019

From the real estate commission to taxes, a slate of costs accompanies the sale of a property.

The Most Desirable Places to Live

Devon Thorsby | May 17, 2019

Check out where U.S. residents would live if they could.

How to Finish a Basement

Devon Thorsby | May 15, 2019

Before you dive into a massive construction project, know the cost and process involved when finishing a basement.

10 Affordable Spring Renovation Projects

Andrea Woroch | May 14, 2019

Transform your space without overspending on a home renovation.

Deal Breakers to Spot Before Moving

Wendy Arriz | May 14, 2019

Before deciding on your next home, consider the sights, smells and sounds around a house or neighborhood that can become a problem later on.

Apps for Finding Your Next Apartment

Devon Thorsby | May 10, 2019

These apartment for rent apps can help you find a place, submit an application and even pay your rent.

Selling Your Home in Spring and Summer

Devon Thorsby | May 8, 2019

Prepare to put your home on the market during the hottest selling seasons.

How to Decide Where to Live

Lisa Larson | May 8, 2019

For college graduates deciding where to move next, keep these key details in mind.

How Much Down Payment Do You Really Need These Days?

Teresa Mears | May 3, 2019

Conventional wisdom says 20%, but you can buy your first home with much less down.

The Best Places to Live for Allergies

Devon Thorsby | May 1, 2019

Consider these spots for your next hometown if you're fed up with seasonal allergies.

Popular Home Updates Worth the Money

Devon Thorsby | April 26, 2019

With a few tweaks to your home, you can save money and get more back when it comes time to sell.

Considerations When Renting Out a Room

Geoff Williams | April 26, 2019

Before renting a spare room, discuss pets and parking to ensure a prospective tenant is a good fit.

The Best Places to Live for the Weather

Devon Thorsby | April 24, 2019

Where would you move to enjoy blue skies and sunshine year-round?

What to Consider Before Signing a Lease

Geoff Williams | April 23, 2019

Before you commit to signing a lease, consider these expert-backed tips.

Best Places to Live for Quality of Life

Devon Thorsby | April 19, 2019

These metro areas offer the best education, access to health services and crime rates.

Why Spring Is the Perfect Time to Sell

Devon Thorsby | April 17, 2019

Spring is here and interest rates are low – it's a great time to make the most of eager buyers.

Home Selling: Real Estate Team vs. Agent

Dima Williams | April 17, 2019

Solo agents are an industry standard, but teams offer a novel alternative. Here's what sets the two arrangements apart.