Want to save energy? Just add water.

by Ron Rothenberg, 4 Buyers Real Estate

An often-forgotten energy saver is plain old water, added to your home’s air.

Humid air will feel warmer on your skin than dryer air, partly because it slows the evaporation of sweat from your skin As they love to remind you repeatedly in Phoenix, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

In the past, our house maintained a pretty comfortable relative humidity of about 30%, in the winter. We had two teenage boys who would take long showers and we’d run the dishwasher every other day and had lots of plants that would add water to the air and keep our humidity at a reasonable level during the heating season..

This year, we renovated our bathroom and added a vent fan. Plus, the boy who was the longest showerer left for the Air Force, so we’re using the dishwasher less, too.

When we had a taste of winter last week and started using a lot of heat it got very dry around here. Though the thermostat was set exactly where it was last year, I felt chillier, my skin was drier and itchier and my throat felt scratchy.

I wasn’t surprised when I measured the relative humidity and found it at an extremely low 11%..

Adding humidity to your home’s air shouldn’t be a complicated affair. There are good reasons why you shouldn’t go out and get a whole house humidifier or add a humidifier to your home’s heating system. More is not always better, and you don’t want the relative humidity to be too high, save over 45%, since that will promote mold and dust-mite growth and create condensation on windows and other cold surfaces.

I got a simple vaporizer out of the closet, the one we used to aid breathing when we were sick and filled it with water, set it up on the first floor of the house and switched it on. Within a few hours the relative humidity has risen into the low 30s, and the entire house, including the upstairs, was much more humid and comfortable without resorting to raising the thermostat.

A vaporizer doesn’t cost much, as little as $15, and does a nice job of adding some germ- and mold-free water to your air. You’ve got to clean it every few days, but the effort is worth it – you’ll get a net savings on energy. Your savings on moisturizer and throat lozenges are just an added bonus.