Troubleshooting Your Humidifier

“I want to buy your most expensive bottle of wine.”

This guy didn’t know what he was saying. I was living in Spain at the time, and we were taking a friend and his buddy around for a little tour. We happened to be in Toledo at a wine and cheese shop. This guy was thinking “grocery store,” and so he figured the most expensive bottle of wine might be $100. He didn’t realize he wasn’t standing in a grocery store.

John, my friend who was translating for him, tried to talk him out of this request. “You don’t understand what his most expensive bottle of wine is!”

“No, no, just tell him, ‘I want your most expensive bottle of wine.’” So John did just that.

At this point, the shop owner takes off his apron, walks to the door, gestures for us to follow him, turns out the lights, locks up the shop, and walks us down the street. After 5 minutes of twisting and winding through the roads, we’re completely lost. Finally, we turn down a cobblestoned alley, he stops at a large, ancient wooden door, and unlocks it. Except for the light of a few dim lightbulbs, we descend into the dark, 3 stories down into the depths of Toledo, Spain.

We reach the bottom which was 25 degrees cooler than the street. The lightbulbs he turns on faintly show that we’re in a true ancient European bodega. There are probably 100,000 bottles of wine everywhere. Tables hold some blocks of cheese and clothes. The shop owner, extremely pleased, walked over to a particular bottle of wine, asked how many bottles the gentleman would like, and proceeds to start to open one for everyone to try.

John panics at this point: “No no no! El no entiende lo que pide! (He doesn’t understand what he was asking!)” With that he stops the shop owner from opening the bottle. John explains that the friend was thinking in terms of about 18,000 pesetas ($100), not $1,800,000 pesetas ($10,000). The shop owner laughs good naturedly, and we all agree in Spanish that the guy was a dope.

At this point, we start to talk about the Bodega. It’s huge, relatively dry, and cold. The shop owner explains that the room almost never experiences any kind of light, which would degrade the wine. The temperature is nearly identical year round, perfectly suited to preserving the wine. To keep a perfect bottle of wine, you need the perfect environment to store it.

The same is true of your wood floor. Wine, cigars and wood: three very expensive items in your home that require very specific environments to stay in tip-top shape. A grand piano, essentially a fine piece of wood work, will go out or tune or have a damaged exterior with the wrong humidity levels.

If you want perfect performance of your woodwork, you need to have a perfect environment. The more imperfect the environment, the more degraded the performance of the wood. Getting that performance for the wood in your home means installing and maintaining your humidifier for tip-top performance. Let’s discuss some common pitfalls and how to troubleshoot potential problems to ensure your humidifier will run and maintain the humidity levels you want.

Panel or water line is clogged.

The way the units work is for water to enter the unit and be converted to vapor through evaporation or heat. The water lines or injectors can clog. In evaporative units, the water panel will accumulate residue that prevents water from moving over the cells, reducing or eliminating the evaporation process. Be sure to change your water panels and have your steam units looked at every year. Steam units tend to clog very often.

Damper Closed

Many units have a damper that can be closed during the summer months to avoid pressure loss. The unit can be started up in the winter, but if that damper is still closed, you’re not doing any good. I’ve even seen this in multi million dollar homes.

Water line turned off

Same here. If I had a dollar for every time the water line was turned off…

Powered unit unplugged

Some units use the power from the HVAC unit fans while others have separate fans to move air over the water panel. If your unit has an internal fan, you need to plug it in. The plug isn’t an extra decorative accessory.

RH set to 35%

On a large interstate, you might see a speed limit and a minimum speed. The minimum speed is to prevent slow moving cars from going so slow that they become dangerous to other faster moving vehicles. What if you only drove everywhere at the minimum posted speed? That would be silly, right? Why do so many people set their humidifiers to the minimum required humidity? As soon as your RH hits 35%, the unit will shut down. The setting you put your humidifier at is the highest RH the home will reach so set your unit as high as possible without creating condensation on windows. 35% is a minimum threshold for wood floors.

Cold water input

We discussed this previously. Having your hot water connected to your humidifier will greatly increase its efficiency because hot water evaporates faster. It’s not a deal breaker if cold water is already connected. At the very worst you’ll use a lot more water, so don’t lose sleep on this as long as you have a blower controlled unit.

Blower controlled unit

You should be able to humidify the home when the home is dry, not just when the home gets cold.

Outside thermostat

We’ll talk about this more in the next post, but your unit will want to humidify more when the temperatures rise outside. This allows the unit to safely add humidity at differing amounts based on exterior temperatures. This is an important, and not expensive addition to your humidifier.

Unit turned off

Your unit might be turned off! Have you checked?

Trusting that number on your thermostat

Digital units on newer hvac thermostats have an RH number displayed. Sometimes this is a reading, but more often it’s a setting and people will think it’s a reading. Know the difference. Get a separate hygrometer to know the RH of your home.

This is the second post in our 2 part series on humidifiers. Read the first article here. Check out our guide to humidifiers here

Bryan is the regional manager for our Northern store locations and has been with The Master’s Craft for 10 years.

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