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Ken's Weekly E-Tip: Winter Indoor Humidity

The following topic suggestion was submitted by Bruce Tomcik, seasonal member from the Tionesta area. A special thank you to Bruce.

Indoor home humidity moisture levels are usually more of a concern to homeowners in the summer when the air can make it feel clingy and sticky. But low winter humidity is of equal concern. 


"Dry" Air            

Cold air is dry air. The lower the temperature, the less water can exist in a vapor state.  When that cold air outdoors comes into your home, via either infiltration or ventilation, it mixes with indoor air. The result is less overall water vapor in the indoor air. Drying that air even more with a heating system increases the problem substantially.


Problems with Low Humidity     

With humidity imbalance come a number of potential problems that can affect health, home and comfort:

  • Disease Prevention - Moist nasal passage membranes are designed to capture dirt, dust, bacteria and viruses. Keeping membranes hydrated will keep us healthy.
  • Skin Problems - Skin is over half water. So when the air lacks humidity, skin will start to dry out. This can cause itching, flaking and tightness around the joints. It can also cause painful skin and lip cracking.
  • Static Electricity - Static electricity builds up when air becomes too dry. This can cause that unpleasant shock experienced when touching metal surfaces or pulling clothes from a dryer.
  • Damage to Home and Furnishings - Dry air can crack wood furniture and cause noisy floor squeaks. As dry air moves away from conditioned interior spaces to cold unconditioned surfaces, moisture and condensation can cause interior mold build up unseen to most homeowners. Proper vapor barrier installation can solve this issue.


Improving Indoor Moisture Levels

  1. Install whole-house humidifier on furnace.
  2. Purchase a room humidifier.
  3. Invest in an inexpensive hygrometer that indicates inside humidity levels.
  4. Limit use of exhaust fans (kitchen and bathroom).
  5. Let wet towels and clothes hang to dry indoors.
  6. Stove top cooking is a great way to add moisture to your living space.
  7. Replace old windows with new high-efficiency ones with u-values of 0.35 or lower. Such windows are less prone to condensation and icing.


Recommended Indoor Humidity Levels

The following list, supplied by the Minnesota Department of Public Service, is based on a double-glazed window and an indoor temperature of 70 degrees. You will notice that the lower the outdoor temperature, the lower the indoor humidity should be.

Outside Air Temp Max Inside Humidity
20 to 40 degrees F 40 percent
10 to 20 degrees F 35 percent
0 to 10 degrees F 30 percent
-10 to 0 degrees F 25 percent
-10 to -20 degrees F 20 percent


Earn $50 Bill Credit

Let CEC install a load control device on your own electric water heater and earn a $50 one-time bill credit and a monthly $2.50 bill credit. Call 800-521-0570 x2195 to learn more. Members having a water heater installed by the cooperative are not eligible for the credits.


Twitter and Load Control  

Participants in our load control program for electric heat and water heaters can find out when and how long control periods are predicted by logging onto and clicking our Twitter logo. Please remember these are only predictions and actual times may vary.



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