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Humidifier & Dry Skin

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Don't know where to go with this question - so I'll try it here. Our family has dry skin, nose bleeds and all the other symptoms. Extended ski trips are a problem. We use the in-room portable humidifiers but frankly they don't seem to do much good. According to "experts" the comfort zone for relative humidity is from 40% - 60%. When I check the humidity in the rooms after running one of those little tabletop units for hours or days it never gets above 30%. There is seldom any condensation on the inside windows of our condo regardless of how cold it gets outside so this also indicates very low inside humidity. No amount of filling and refilling the little humidifiers seems to help much and the constant drone of the several humidifiers is also a negative. . Some of you folks live in the mountains. Is there an alternative to the plastic humidifiers like they sell at the drugstore or the Walmart? What do you do to keep moisture in your homes when it's cold and dry outside?

post #2 of 21

Out of curiosity, have you tried upping your water intake? I find that when I'm up in the dry mountain air for any period of time, I end up drinking a ton of water. Not intentionally, but my body just seems to crave it more. Maybe that helps keep my skin/nasal cavities/etc. stay more hydrated. I also ski with a winter camelbak. I drink tons of water throughout any given day on the snow.

post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 

Yes, I think we all take in more fluids. I don't know if it's enough but it's enough to make me get up in the middle of the night every night. We use lotion, saline and fluids but still have issues. My specific interest is if there really is anything out there that will increase the relative humidity in a condo. My information indicates that the counter-top units don't do much good.

post #4 of 21

Wet a towel in the bath/shower and wring it out so it's not dripping wet, then hang it somewhere in the room - I use a hanger or leave it in the bathroom on the heated rail if there is one, as this makes it evaporate quicker. Seems to work for me. 

post #5 of 21

In Breckenridge, I remember getting the worst blood clots in my sinuses from the dry air.  


It was so bad that between the obstructed airway, and the reduced oxygen at high altitude, I couldn't sleep for 3 nights.  Everytime I would doze off, I'd wake up gasping for air.  It didn't really kick in until maybe the 3rd or 4th night there.  I tried the towel thing... but I think it was too late.  I was so desperate for sleep that I actually soaked the entire floor in front of the electric baseboard heater.


It made for the NASTIEST "Farmer's Hankies" in the snow.

post #6 of 21

Just a thought here....how about an aquarium?  Surely all that water has to add humidity into the air, the water does evaporate.


If you have forced air heating, this is the root of your problems.   I seem to recall a system that actually adds humidity into the ventilation system.


When I was a kid my mom used to put a bowl of water above each heater to combat the dryness.

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 


Originally Posted by Richie-Rich View Post

Just a thought here....how about an aquarium?  Surely all that water has to add humidity into the air, the water does evaporate.


If you have forced air heating, this is the root of your problems.   I seem to recall a system that actually adds humidity into the ventilation system.


When I was a kid my mom used to put a bowl of water above each heater to combat the dryness.

Aquarium mite help but who would feed the fish from May to July? smile.gif

It's easy to add an automatic humidifier with a humidistat to a forced air system just downstream from the furnace. You pipe it into your water supply and drain it into the drain installed for the air conditioner condensate if you have AC. Unfortunately our condo has electric baseboard heat so there is no way to easily install a built in central humidifier since there is no air handling system in the condo.

There are units the size of two milk cases that are advertised as whole house humidifiers with multi gallon storage tanks. If that's the best setup I'll get one -  I just thought there must be a better way than filling a 16 lb (2 gallon) plastic water tank several times a day in the sink or bath tub and moving it to the humidifier and then hoping the humidity would find its way around the condo by osmosis.

I've thought about adding steam generator like is used in a steam-bath but I've never had any experience with one. Could I just let it run for hours instead of minutes or would that just wear it out in one season?

post #8 of 21

It tough getting the humidity up at high elevations. You're probably going to have to adapt the best you can to the dry air.  The best thing you can do for your skin is to switch to a non-drying soap like Dove or a body wash with moisturizer like Olay with Shea Butter.  The second best thing you can do is religiously apply moisturizer to your skin after each bath and before you dress in the morning.


Bloody noses are a tougher thing to solve.  I usually get mine when I use a decongestant and the air is dry.  The combination is too much.  If I get a nose bleed I try to limit my use of decongestants using a saline nasal rinse instead.  My girlfriend has a different approach.  She moisturizes the inside of her nose with fragrance free Vaseline, something her doctor recommended.

post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice. Our family has done all of the above during ski vacations. We don't use the fireplace because it sucks in dry outside air. We never fill the hot tub because we know it drys our skin. We use the little portable humidifiers but they hardly move the needle on the humidistat (measures moisture in the air). Now we're planning to spend more time in the mountains - multiple weeks consecutively. We know that after one week we come home and slowly recover but we are concerned about our condition after extended stays. Maybe we'll harden to the conditions but probably we'll install a built-in humidifier system that can increase the relative humidity 20% - 30% to get it into that 40% - 60% comfort zone instead of the 10%-20% that we normally see during winters on the mountain. I know that its possible because my bathroom gets up to 50% every morning while I shower! It's just a matter of finding the right equipment. I had hoped there might be some magic bullet I did not know about but I guess we'll just need to calla HVAC contractor. Anyone with a less expensive solution please let me know.

post #10 of 21

I'm not sure if my analysis is correct, but in my past experiences, when I've stayed at inns that have the old style steam radiators, they seem to not dry out the place quite like central heat does. Every place I've ever stayed at in Europe has had these, and a few of the cheaper places I've stayed at in the States had them as well. I love those. They seem to really heat the place well. That may be something to look into.

post #11 of 21

Are you looking for a portable solution for hotel room use, or do you have a permanent place where you can use a larger capacity unit or a unit built into the HVAC system?  I live in an extremely dry climate and know ALL about the problems you're facing, and how to deal with them.

post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 


Let me know about the problems and how to deal with them. I'm looking for a permanent solution. We own a condo and have skied on vacations for years but are retiring and will be spending extended time in Montana in both summer and winter. The condo has the usual assortment of portable plastic with little buzzing motors like you buy at the drugstore or Walmart. These seem to help sinus issues if you sleep close to one but they do not raise the overall relative humidity in the condo but about 10% which is not enough to get into the normal "comfort zone". Besides not working very well they look tacky.

(When I was a renter I never understood why someone would have a beautifully decorated condo and set three or four of these little portable humidifiers around on their fine furniture.)

The movable whole house solutions on rollers look like they might do a better job of humidifying but they also require you to schlep the water to the humidifier twice a day. They too are noisy (according to reviews) and do not add much to the decor of a living room.

Our condo has the cheap electric strip heater. Otherwise I'd have added a humidifier to the HVAC years ago.

My current best thinking is to use a centrally located laundry room to install a small fan and an air duct from the laundry room through the wall into the main, open, living room-kitchen area. Finish it out like an AC vent with a register etc. on the Living Room side. In the laundry room install a regular built in home humidifier of appropriate size just like you would on a HVAC system. Tap the water available in the laundry to feed the humidifier. Drain the humidifier through the drain used by the washing machine. Attach it all along one wall where the wall meets the ceiling and close the door to the laundry room so I don't have to look at the fan, humidifier, drain and duct work. If it short cycles or I'm not getting enough air circulation I'll knock a hole in the floor to the ceiling in the floor below and setup a simple return air. I thought I could find this kind of thing pre-engineered but so far no such luck, only large or small plastic humidifiers or the HVAC jobs.  I know I'm talking some money here but I can do most of the work myself and might even enjoy the challenge.

post #13 of 21

Now THAT's being creative.  Since you don't have a forced air system to take advantage of, that's a great way to set up a system where you can 'set it and forget it' (although, with most systems there's no such thing, as I explain below).  Here are a few comments and recommendations I have.


Where I live, the humidity is so low (around 10% in winter) that humidification is imperative for health and to prevent hardwood from shrinking, cabinets from cracking, etc. I used to be a builder, so I have seen virtually every system imaginable for houses, and I know the drawbacks of each and how few of them actually work well.


In your case, until such time as you build your home-made system, my suggestion is to get a single, large floor unit.  Yes, it will make noise, but it WILL work.  I have one of these that I used to use to supplement my forced air system humidifier (before I discovered the system I describe below), and it does an amazing job.  It holds 4.5 gals of water, and will literally put that all into the air within hours when the house is dry and the unit is cranked up.  Once you achieve the humidity level you want (35% is plenty in the winter) you can drop the fan speed down to a level that is much less noticeable, and it will only kick on sporadically depending on how the humidistat is set.  The large water capacity means you won't have to constantly be monitoring the water level, as you will with the small units (2-3 days between fills once you have achieved the target humidity, depending on size of the space), and because it's only one unit you can hide it behind a chair or couch rather than have several small units cluttering up counters and the house.  This is an excellent temporary solution that will solve your problem immediately.  If the water is hard, make sure you always have a spare evaporator pad on hand so you can change it when it crusts up with calcium.


As far as a permanent, 'set it and forget it' solution goes, there are many types of humidification units you can use, but almost all have serious drawbacks. Stay away from a power drum humidifier, as the evaporator pads plug up quickly with calcium and they are useless after that.  Flow Through/Drip style humidifiers are better, as the evaporator media won't plug up the same way, but the surface evaporative area isn't great enough to put enough moisture into the air to make much of a difference, and the flow-through design means a huge amount of water (hundreds and hundreds of gallons per month) is wasted as it simply flows through and out the drain when it is operating.  Tests show a flow-through humidifier wastes over 6,000 gallons of water annually.  Spray humidifiers plug up with calcium and stop working very quickly.  Those are the three most common options for humidification, but each is seriously flawed.


The best option in my experience is the rotary disk humidifier from Desert Spring.  It's a true high performance, high efficiency design that has 15 sq. ft. of evaporative surface that is capable of putting 14 gals of water into the air per day and is 100% efficient (zero water is wasted down the drain).  Of all the built-in humidifier systems I have seen and tested, this is the only one capable of reliably achieving target levels of humidity in a house and maintaining it without the need to be constantly maintaining the system.  If you were to install one of these in your home-made duct system, it will give you the best odds of getting the result you're looking for.  To maintain it you merely need to pull the disk module out a couple times a year, spray it with CLR, and brush it off after a few minutes.  The beauty of the disk system is the huge evaporative surface area and the fact it continues to perform perfectly even if the disks are coated with calcium (which is minimal due to their self-cleaning design).  Here's a LINK from another source regarding advantages of this system.


My parting comment is that, depending on the size of the gap at the bottom of the laundry room door, a source of return air may be necessary.  If the gap is an inch, that should be plenty.  Test it by opening and closing the door to see if the exhaust flow into the main room changes significantly.

post #14 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the advice and the links to the drum roller products. I've also found some other units designed to be permanently installed with water lines, drains and a built in fan for air circulation that can be used with or without duct work so I may not need to be quite as creative as I first thought. Do you have any experience with the steam generation humidifiers? They seem like a possible choice for a permanent installation.

post #15 of 21

Just occurred to me, that you might be able to use a room humidification system designed for cigar humidor rooms.   Dont know the pricing, but you can make your condo into a virtual rainforest with those systems.

post #16 of 21

A word of caution.  Most houses built in the past couple decades in the Rockies were built as well sealed as possible.  As a result black mold is a real problem that quickly depreciates the value of the property.  I would be real hesitant to put in a duct tape and baling wire system that doesn't have sensors to make sure the humidity isn't getting too high.  You could end up growing black mold between the walls without even knowing it.

post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 

I started this thread becasue I'm not interested in a portable whole house system or a duct tape and bailing wire system. I'm looking to do something with a humidifier system for a building without cental HVAC that is controled in the same way as a unit on a forced air HVAC system with a humidistat and all the other controls. Since starting this thread I've found seveal such units that can be installed free- standing.

post #18 of 21

When I rent a condo, I put a big pot of water on the stove and refill it as it boils down. Works pretty well, in my experience, and I have very dry skin as well as exzema, which really flares up in dry climates. Just don't forget to turn the stove off when you go to bed.

post #19 of 21
Originally Posted by steveturner View Post

Thanks for the advice and the links to the drum roller products. I've also found some other units designed to be permanently installed with water lines, drains and a built in fan for air circulation that can be used with or without duct work so I may not need to be quite as creative as I first thought. Do you have any experience with the steam generation humidifiers? They seem like a possible choice for a permanent installation.

The only steam humidifier units I've ever seen still require the unit to be fitted to a duct, so that the steam can be circulated via forced air.  If you've found something else, I'd love to see what it is. 

post #20 of 21
post #21 of 21
Originally Posted by Richie-Rich View Post

Here ya go:







That unit is only designed for a small room (walk-in humidor) and isn't what the O.P. is looking for.  A whole-home unit will humidify 24,000 to 30,000 cubic feet.  This one is only for 3,000 cubic feet.

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