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Whole-Home Solution to Protect Wood Floors

Every year homeowners invest thousands of dollars in natural wood floors some of which end up damaged because of improperly maintained conditions in the home. Could a whole-home humidifier be the solution? For a fraction of the price of the floors themselves, this important addition could make all the difference.

Imagine this scenario…

…you made it through the process of choosing new hardwood floors for your home. You selected your flooring type and design, moved furniture and family out, and after waiting days to get moved back in, finally have the beautiful floors you dreamed of.
Then after a few months, you notice squeaks and popping noise under foot. Gaps appear between boards and wave-like ripples develop across the floorboards.

The cause: not maintaining a proper level of relative humidity, between 35 – 55% RH.
Now the floor must be repaired if possible or replaced, and at the homeowner’s expense.

The National Wood Flooring Association estimates that 90% of wood flooring failures are related to moisture problems in the home.

When the air is dry, wood shrinks. When it is humid, wood expands.

Avoid these problems of extremes with a whole-home humidifier. It is the best way to keep your floors and family healthy and happy during the dry winter months.

A whole-home humidifier is insurance for wood floors

Whole-Home Humidifier = Insurance for Wood Floors

Most wood flooring manufacturer’s warranty requires the homeowner to maintain a consistent environment to keep the wood flooring stable.
For just a few hundred dollars, a home’s HVAC system can be adapted with a humidifier designed to diffuse moisture into the air when the heater is running.

Keeping your home consistently between 35-55% relative humidity is the best way to protect your wood floors from shrinking, expanding, cupping, cracking, squeaking or gapping.

An added benefit in maintaining humidity levels within this range is a healthier environment for us humans. Avoiding extremely dry air improves respiration, keeps lips from chapping and skin from drying out. They can help limit the spread of airborne viruses during cold and flu season.

Key Features to Consider when buying a whole-home humidifier for your wood floor

Key features to consider

Since not all humidifiers are created equal, look for these features when you make your selection.

  • Furnace mounted
  • Hot water supply line
  • Blower fan control
  • Outside thermostat sensor

Freestanding manual fill units are not capable of supplying the required moisture for an average size home. However, they can be helpful for supplementing small rooms that may be dry from being farther away from the main unit.

Furnace mounted humidifier resolves having to constantly add water.  Once installed, it is designed with a continuous water supply which infuses humidified air directly into your vented ducts.

Hot water easily evaporates and converts to water vapor more than cold water. The same principle as when your bathroom mirror fogs up when you run a hot shower, connecting the humidifier to a hot water supply results in a more efficient system.

A humidifier that operates only when the thermostat calls for heat, may not run long enough to keep your home above 35% relative humidity during the dry season. One that operates with the blower fan on the furnace can provide humidified air even when the heater isn’t engaged.  This adds necessary humidity throughout the day to keep your home more constant.

Outside temperature and humidity plays an important role in determining the amount of moisture a humidifier adds to the air.

When the air outside turns cold, it retains less moisture.

If the humidifier attempts to add too much moisture on a cold day, the indoor humidified air can condense on windows and casings resulting in damage.
The exterior thermostat provides information to the humidifier control panel to determine the amount of moisture needed to reach the desired setting. Having this extra component will help protect your whole home and wood floors during any season.

Use a hygrometer to measure RH levels in your home.

To stay between 35-55% RH may mean you turn the thermostat higher than you want.  Just setting the hygrostat to 45% doesn’t mean the RH will always remain there.  Check your hygrometer and adjust accordingly. Remember to keep the heater thermostat between 60-80 degrees F.

Know how your humidifier operates

One homeowner who complained of a “dry floor” (squeaks, gaps, etc.) reported having a new state of the art HVAC system with an installed humidifier. Unfortunately, the humidifier was not turned on.

  • Make sure your system installer knows and can explain how to operate the control settings. This includes how to adjust settings and when and how to maintain and service the unit.
  • Most HVAC humidifiers use filters or consumable wicks that you must replace regularly as dust and mineral deposits build-up.
  • Check for seasonal settings and determine when the unit should be turned on (in winter) and off (in spring) as the humidity changes through the seasons of the year.
  • If you notice consistent high or low readings, be sure to have your HVAC and humidifier system checked and serviced.
  • Monitor your home with a hygrometer to ensure your HVAC and whole-home humidifier system is working properly.
  • Remember: using a whole-home humidifier to keep your home environment consistent is THE BEST way to protect your investment in wood floors.
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