Here in the Tennessee Valley, it can sometimes be hard to imagine that you’d ever want more humidity in the air. But as the weather cools and the heat comes on, the air inside of our homes can actually get very dry, and that can cause problems for our comfort and health, as well as potentially doing damage to our homes and furniture. A whole-house steam humidifier can maintain an ideal level of humidity throughout your house during the heating season while avoiding many of the downsides associated with portable humidifiers.

If you’ve ever traveled to the desert regions of the southwestern United States, you may already be familiar with some of the negative effects of very low humidity. When the relative humidity drops below about 35%, you may begin to experience discomfort in the form of dry skin, chapped lips, a bloody nose, or a scratchy throat. Lower relative humidity levels also make you more susceptible to airborne viruses like the flu because when the membranes inside of your nose dry out, it becomes easier for viruses to pass through them.

While too-high humidity can damage wood floors, trim, and furniture in your home by causing them to swell and warp, humidity that’s too low can also cause damage. Under dry conditions, wood shrinks and eventually can crack. Shrinking doors can lead to gaps that allow cold drafts into your home as well, increasing your heating bills.

Low humidity can lead to spending more than necessary on heating bills during the winter time in other ways as well. As a general rule, when the humidity is lower, you feel cooler. In the summer, that means you want to decrease the humidity, but in the winter, lower humidity means that you’ll have to set your thermostat higher in order to feel comfortable. With a whole-house humidifier, you can turn down the thermostat in winter, saving an estimated 4% for every degree you lower it, according to the EPA.

Some homeowners choose to use portable humidifiers to achieve some of the benefits listed above; however, portable humidifiers have some serious drawbacks that a whole-house system does not. First, portable humidifiers must be refilled, as well as being cleaned regularly to avoid the growth of mold. Whole-house humidifiers are connected to your home’s water supply, so they constantly refill with fresh water on their own. Second, portable humidifiers could make rooms in your house too humid. A whole-house humidifier constantly measures the humidity in your home and adjusts to keep it at an ideal level. You can control that level yourself from your home’s thermostat. Finally, portable humidifiers only humidify one room at a time, while a whole-house humidifier—you guessed it—humidifies the whole house!

If you’re looking for a way to improve your family’s health and comfort, as well as protect your investment in your home, consider upgrading to a whole-house humidifier system before the winter heating season turns your Tennessee Valley home into the Sahara Desert!