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RandomGirl's avatar

Any suggestions as to how to cope with the warm, dry air in my house?

Asked by RandomGirl (3357points) February 23rd, 2013

It’s cold. The air in the house is stuck with no place to go. It’s getting kind of stuffy and dry. On top of that, we have special heating that makes the house stay around 80* in the winter, no matter what. (Yeah, we wear shorts and t-shirts all year long.) Because of this huge difference in temperature – 0* outside and 80* inside – any moisture inside the house condenses on the windows and then drips down onto the sills. They get moldy if we’re not careful, so we have to make the house as dry as possible.

I have problems with the dry air every winter. The skin around my nails dries out and peels, which is really painful. I get nose bleeds. My allergies actually act up, too! I almost always have a stuffed up nose. My hair dries out and gets all frizzy. It’s all around a bad time for me.

We air out the house as much as possible.
I drink tons of water (a gallon or more every day).
I use tons of lotion and chapstick.

Do you have any suggestions of supplements to try, foods to eat, something to put in my room, or anything else? I’m getting kind of desperate.

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21 Answers

janbb's avatar

Put a humidifier in your room. Also, maybe open one of the windows just a bit.

RandomGirl's avatar

@janbb: My room is already one of the most humid places in the house, because it’s in the basement. I have to make sure it stays as dry as possible or else it’ll get moldy. :/

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Have a bunch of tea.

RandomGirl's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe: Tea? Really? I love that idea! But why? What’ll it do for me? I’ll take any excuse for extra tea!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@RandomGirl It mellows out my throat and soothes it. And I love tea too. Plus the vapors help my nose.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Why on earth would your “Special heating system” keep the house at 80F? That is a ridiculous waste of heat, energy, and it is making your windows sweat, while making your feel dry. Here’s the physics :
The Vapor density of 80 F air is 25 gm/m^3. That means 1 cubic meter of air will hold 25 gms of water vapor. Air at 66 F has a Vapor density of 14 gm/m^3 roughly half.
Let’s say at 80F your house has a relative humidity of 25% (very dry). That means the air in your house is holding about 6.5 g of water per cubic meter. If that same air is allowed to cool to 66F, 6.5 divided by / 14 gm/m^3 = approx 50% relative humidity, which is quite comfortable. Your windows will not sweat, you will be comfortable, you won’t have dry nose bleeds and you will save someone a pile of money.
Fix the problem. Don’t cover it with tea.

Why would you tolerate 80F in the winter? Are you a renter and the landlord supplies the heat? Don’t be surprised if your rent is raised.
If it is your own house and you are paying for your own heat – it is worth fixing. Turn it down to a reasonable level somehow.
I’d be happy to give you some advice on how to do that if you don’t know what to do.

jaytkay's avatar

Why on earth would your “Special heating system” keep the house at 80F?

One scenario: An apartment building with hot water radiators and one boiler and one thermostat for multiple units.

Some apartments may be too cold, some too hot. For the people with the thermostat, it’s just right.

It’s common where I live.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@jaytkay If your apartment is too hot and you don’t have control over the stat, place a foil blanket over half the hot water radiator so it will not put out so much heat. If you don’t have one of those $5 foil blankets you can drape a towel over the top too. Or, if it is baseboard heat, you can shove a towel into the slot along the bottom. It is easy! It will not start a fire.

In this case by reducing the temperature the OP will actually be more comfortable. Reducing the heat will raise the relative humidity in her place and her dripping windows and dry sinus issues will stop. She can fix it with a couple of towels.

RandomGirl's avatar

@LuckyGuy: The heating system is three units that sit in various locations throughout the house. They’re filled with special bricks that have heating elements running through them. The heating elements heat up the bricks to extreme temperatures, while the outside of the unit stays relatively cool. The unit is then basically a pile of hot rocks, which you can’t do anything to change. The heat is distributed by a fan that blows along the bricks. You can set the thermostat to affect the fan, but you can’t do anything to get rid of the heat radiating from the unit. Once it’s hot, it’s hot. Unfortunately, there are only two settings on the unit for how hot the bricks can get. You get to choose between barely warm and the Sahara desert. :P

I should add that it’s a very inexpensive form of heating.

gailcalled's avatar

Keep lots of plants around and water them often.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@RandomGirl Inexpensive or not, that high temperature is making you and your house uncomfortable. Can you put a blanket on the unit to restrict the heat flow? Or how about reducing the air being sucked through the fan? Block half of the fan grill.

I am guessing the heating units have PTC (positive temperature coefficient) elements inside like the ceramic heaters sold by Holmes. They heat up to a certain temp. and stay there. If more air flows over them the heating element cools down which allows more electric current to flow and produce more heat. If the air is blocked, the heating element gets up to the set temperature and does not put out extra heat. Reduce the air flow and you reduce the heat. It is a self controlling system.
Do me a favor. Block the inlet air duct some. Reduce it to 25% of full open. The device will not overheat, I promise. It will take hours for you to see a difference but it will happen. If you do it now you will be comfortable by tomorrow.
Of course you can always have a cup of tea. ;-)

laureth's avatar

We have the same problem, in that we keep the house at 65° but the cold windows still pull the water right out of the air. The best solution we’ve come up with is to tape some plastic over the windows(taped to the frame, so there’s a good couple inches of air between the plastic and the glass panes). The water does not reach the glass and can’t condense there, and it just doesn’t condense on the plastic because there’s not quite the same temperature differential.

Then, we’ve tried various humidifiers. There’s a Vick’s brand one (same as the vapor-rub for sick people) that is sold particularly cheaply near the cough drop aisle in a drugstore ($20?) that can humidify a bedroom just fine.

RandomGirl's avatar

@LuckyGuy: “Inlet air duct”... Are you talking about ducts, like in the ceiling? We don’t have any. It’s an all-electric house.

I think I’ll end up just suffering through the rest of this winter, because we can’t add moisture to the air in any form, and the rest of the family seems to not care about the dry air. I’ll keep Celestial Seasonings (the best tea on a budget) in business, though!

JLeslie's avatar

The room is already too humid, but it is too dry. Huh?

I agree to open the window a little bit now and then to at least bring the temperature down a few degrees. I would love to have my house at 75 in the winter. In college the dorms were very warm, steam heat from their own central utility for the campus, many of use cracked out windows a little at times.

But, cracking your windows a little won’t help with the dryness much. For your lips wear vaseline when you sleep to keep them moisturized. For hands Clarins makes an amazing hand cream, but it is n the expensive side. Eucerin lotion is very good for moisturing the body, many dermatologists recommend it. For your nose you can try saline spray. If the edge of your nose is cracking or irritated and red you can use vaseline at night for that too. It works very well.

RandomGirl's avatar

@JLeslie Two different standards – my body’s and the mold’s. We can’t humidify at all because the mold will take the opportunity, but my body is giving me fits with the dry air.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@RandomGirl You mentioned there are 3 units that have fans blowing across the hot bricks. You need to restrict the air flowing through the fans. Or even turning one of them off for a while. Are they heating different rooms? Turn it off when nobody is in the room. Do the fans have filters? That would be a good place to block the air flow.
Of course the best thing would be to set the thermostat correctly. but if these units don’t have it. then restricting air low will reduce heat output. If you show me a picture I can tell you where to block it. It is not hard.

@JLeslie You wrote “The room is already too humid, but it is too dry. Huh?” and OP wrote “Two different standards – my body’s and the mold’s” That is excatly the condition I wrote about up here Hot air holds much more water than cool air. Air at 80F can hold almost 2x the water that 66 F air can hold. If the air is hot (80F). @Randomgirl can feel dry even though the windows of the house are dripping and mold is starting to grow.

The correct fix is to reduce the air temperature by reducing or turning off the heat.

JLeslie's avatar

@LuckyGuy I just didn’t read it through well. But, thanks anyway. I am paranoid about mold growing too. For intsance I block off part of my house in the winter so I don’t pay to heat the whole thing to a high temperature, but in the summer I air condition everything for that very reason.

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LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie You know I love physics and chemistry. – and the data to prove it.
Closing off a section is a great way to save money. I would add one thing: an oscillating fan. That will keep the air moving in the unused rooms. Yes, it will cost you money to run the fan but that cost is negligible. Fans are typically 10–25 watts. Hpw much does that cost? A 25 watt fan will run 40 hours for a kilowatt hour of of electricity, 12 cents. ~$2.40 a month. And all the heat is going into the house anyway. You can get fans at Goodwill for about $3. People donate them because they are noisy. Who cares if it is noisy? It is in room you don’t use.

That same fan will help in the summer so you can reduce the air conditioning in that area too. It will raise the temperature slightly and will keep the air moving so there is no place for water to condense.
As you know, I vent my dryer indoors during the cold winter months to save heat and add moisture. When I do that, I turn on a box fan to help circulate the humid air. It works great.

JLeslie's avatar

@LuckyGuy I run a fan every so often, but not constantly. It’s a good suggestion though. I don’t have a mold problem to clarify, I just don’t want to have one. The house is only partly closed off for 4 months, and ever couple weeks in those months the house is opened for a day or even a week here and there, for when people visit, or we spend time upstairs.

I’m moving to FL so it shouldn’t be a concern anymore.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie The minimal operating expense of a fan is one of the best environmental bargains you can buy. If you get a room air cleaner then you are adding the benefit of clean filtered air to the mix. I have an electrostatic air cleaner that works great. That would also help @Randomgirl .

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