San Marcos, CA has a temperate winter climate. With average daily highs of 69 degrees Fahrenheit and lows that rarely dip below the mid-40s, most locals enjoy moderate indoor conditions and year-round comfort. But what happens when your home’s humidity declines and your indoor air becomes excessively dry? Your HVAC system offers limited humidity regulation, and your heating and cooling equipment can only extract excess moisture. Read on to find out the most common causes of dry indoor air and how to resolve them.

Poor Ventilation

Have you ever heard someone refer to their home as a veritable “hot box?” When properly built and ventilated, most homes “breathe.” Stale indoor air flows out of buildings through vents, cracks in building materials, and other openings. As it leaves, small amounts of fresh, outdoor air flow in.

Average outdoor humidity levels in San Marcos, CA are 75% in summer and 65% in winter. With the ideal humidity for most homes in the region falling between 45% and 65%, regular air exchange can help you maintain the right balance of moisture in your living environment. Whenever outdoor air flows in, it will bring outdoor moisture with it. This will prove all the more beneficial if you have correctly sized and well-maintained HVAC equipment running most of the time.

Ventilation in most Southern California homes has greatly declined over the past decade. In the interests of reducing their carbon footprints and lowering their home energy bills, locals are increasingly tightening their home envelopes. Measures like adding insulation and weatherstripping, upgrading windows and doors, and sealing all air leaks work well to this end, but they also inhibit natural air exchange or the “breathing” that homes should do.

If you have a tightly sealed home and run a forced-air furnace often, your heater is drying out your indoor air and there’s no incoming moisture to replace it. This may be the case if running your heater at night causes residents to experience symptoms like:

  • Dry throats and nasal passages
  • Sinus irritation
  • Excessively dry skin
  • Frequent nosebleeds

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can also be up to five times more contaminated than outdoor air. Thus, losing air exchange can also diminish your indoor air quality (IAQ) and create additional symptoms.

How to Mitigate Poor Ventilation

Given the moderate weather in San Marco, it’s easy to let fresh air in and add a bit of humidity to your home in most seasons. You can simply turn your heater or air conditioner off and open your windows and doors for 30 to 60 minutes. For a more permanent solution, you can also upgrade your home’s mechanical ventilation.

Constant Furnace Use

Even when homes allow for decent air exchange, they can still have overly dry air if people are constantly using their furnaces. Furnaces produce dry heat that simultaneously dries moisture out and warms building interiors. Condensing furnaces and heat pumps also constantly extract moisture while removing heat.

Temperature and comfort are relative. Although 45 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t exceptionally cold to someone who’s used to wintering in Colorado, Alaska, Minnesota, or Canada, it feels pretty cold for most Southern California residents. During winter, if you’re running your heater all of the time and it’s always extracting indoor moisture, you may need a way to add this moisture back in. Even though HVAC systems regulate humidity, they never add it to the home. At least, not when they’re working properly.

Cooler Temperatures

Cooler temperatures in San Marcos bring about a natural decrease in outdoor humidity. On most days, this difference is just 10%. However, on exceedingly cold days, the outdoor air can be exceedingly dry too. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air does. With a properly ventilated home, you can expect changes in indoor humidity to closely mimic changes in outdoor humidity. Moreover, with colder outdoor air, temperatures inside are bound to be colder as well, and your indoor air will naturally be less moist. Pair this with increased heater use, and you could find yourself feeling stuffy, tired, and all-around uncomfortable in your home.

Household Dynamics

Large and highly active households often struggle with excess moisture rather than dry air. Busy households are constantly engaging in moisture-generating activities such as taking hot baths and showers, cooking, and simply moving around and talking. Many homes with lots of people living in them have condensation-covered windows and walls.

If you live alone or with just one or two people and if people throughout your home don’t move around much, no one is adding significant moisture to the air. Running your heater will extract the moisture that currently exists before anything can replace it. Certain appliances and devices can also play a hand in moisture removal. For instance, if you or other residents use high-powered gaming computers, the heat from these devices will evaporate moisture too. Having one or more portable dehumidifiers can create the same effect.

How to Safely Add Moisture to Your Indoor Air

Portable humidifiers are rarely worth their risk. Although these units add moisture to small-sized rooms and work well for people with chronic, stuffy noses while sleeping, they’re prone to developing serious problems with mold, mildew, and overgrowths of harmful bacteria. If their filters or other components are ever covered in these pathogens, all of the moisture they release will spread them around. Surprisingly, purchasing a high-end, portable humidifier with features that mitigate the risk of mold and bacterial overgrowth can also be more expensive than having a whole-house humidifier installed.

It’s also important to note that portable humidifiers aren’t very sophisticated. Most add moisture indiscriminately. Once their tanks are filled and they’re turned on, they’ll release moisture non-stop until their tanks run empty. In small, contained spaces, this can lead to all-new IAQ concerns, especially if humidifier filters are contaminated with mold or bacteria.

Whole-House Humidifiers

Whole-house humidifiers solve the problem of overly dry indoor air both safely and effectively. These integrated HVAC accessories are installed in or on HVAC air ducts to seamlessly support the humidity regulation supplied by air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces. These systems are virtually impervious to mold, and they’re professionally maintained to further mitigate this risk. They’re also sophisticated enough to add sufficient moisture for resident comfort and to maintain balanced humidity.

The Hidden Benefits of Whole-House Humidification

Most people seek out humidifiers to improve their comfort and sleep quality. However, if your air is excessively dry, having one installed could protect the value and marketability of your property. Much like overly humid air, dry indoor air can lead to warped building materials and cause problems with your drywall, flooring, sub-floors, and more. Thus, even if you aren’t contending with regular nighttime nosebleeds, dry eyes, or dry nasal passages and skin, it’s still a good idea to have your IAQ and indoor humidity tested and take steps to mitigate any problems.

We offer superior heating, cooling, and indoor air quality services in San Marcos, CA. We also install smart thermostats, heat pumps, and ductless mini-split air conditioners. To sign up for our preventative maintenance plan or learn more about whole-house humidification, contact Oak Island Heating and Air Conditioning now.

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