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

Packing Tips for Moving to Your New Home

Devon Thorsby | July 12, 2019

Prevent a moving-day disaster with these expert packing tips.

Living Room Renovation Ideas on a Budget

Devon Thorsby | July 10, 2019

Give your living room a personal touch with these simple remodeling ideas that won't break the bank.

Should You Get a Swimming Pool?

Lisa Larson | July 8, 2019

Before you call up a local pool installer, consider the costs, hassle and potential added value that a pool could bring.

Best Places to Live in North Carolina

Devon Thorsby | July 5, 2019

Which Tar Heel State metro area meets your needs for cost of living, job market and quality of life?

The Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania

Devon Thorsby | July 3, 2019

Which metro areas in the Keystone State would best fit your needs?

The Hidden Costs of Buying a Home

Dima Williams | July 1, 2019

Aside from the price of a property, various expenses accompany its acquisition.

5 DIY Backyard Renovations on a Budget

Devon Thorsby | June 28, 2019

Transform a difficult backyard with the right materials and some sweat equity.

Best Places to Live on the East Coast

Devon Thorsby | June 26, 2019

See which metro areas on the Eastern Seaboard offer the most for residents.

5 House Flipping Mistakes to Avoid

Deanna Haas | June 24, 2019

Here are five common errors to avoid that can imperil your house flipping investment.

7 Bathroom Remodel Ideas on a Budget

Devon Thorsby | June 21, 2019

These renovation options can make your bathroom feel new again.

The Best Places to Live for Families

Devon Thorsby | June 19, 2019

These metro areas meet the most important criteria for families looking to relocate.

Should You Buy a Fixer-Upper?

Steven Gottlieb | June 18, 2019

Buying a home that requires a major renovation may take more coordination than you think. Here are four questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge.

7 Kitchen Remodel Ideas on a Budget

Devon Thorsby | June 14, 2019

Transform your kitchen with projects that won't require you take out a loan or spend your entire savings.

Buying: How Many Homes Should You Tour?

Robin Kencel | June 13, 2019

Here are the factors that contribute to whether you'll be able to find the right home on your first tour or tenth.

Best Places for Public Transportation

Devon Thorsby | June 12, 2019

These metro areas have public transit systems that help a significant number of their residents get around.

How to Rebound After an Expired Listing

Lisa Larson | June 10, 2019

An expired listing with your real estate agent shouldn't be considered a failure. Here's how to get your home sale right the next time.

8 Outdoor Patio Decorating Ideas

Devon Thorsby | June 7, 2019

Make your time outside a little more enjoyable with these decor tips.

Outlook for the Housing Market in the Next Recession

Devon Thorsby | June 5, 2019

Homeowners should not fret, as long as they're prepared for the possibility of a downturn.

Should You Sell Your Own Home?

Deanna Haas | June 5, 2019

The "for sale by owner" approach is a great option for some, but not for everyone. Are you a qualified candidate for the FSBO route?

Buying a Home in a Buyer's Market

Wendy Arriz | June 4, 2019

Many parts of the U.S. are seeing homebuyers have the upper hand at last. Here's how you can make the right deal during a buyer's market.