Status: 07.12.2023, 19:38 PM
By: Leon Schmitt
Burning eyes, hoarseness, headaches, skin irritations: Humidifiers can help with dry air in the home. But what do you need to consider? The Regional Council of Giessen gives tips.
Fulda - When there is a lot of activity in general practitioners' practices in autumn and winter and sick leaves pile up, there is talk of the so-called flu wave. The health insurance company DAK recently spoke of the highest sickness rate in Hesse for seven years, as reported by fuldaerzeitung.de.
Air in the home too dry: tips for a better indoor climate
You don't always have to deal with the real flu (influenza) or the coronavirus, but there is a sharp increase in colds every year. Do the viruses feel particularly comfortable in the cold season?
"You can actually say that, because in winter there is generally less humidity," explains Holger Lehnhardt from the Regional Council (RP) Giessen in Hesse. On its homepage, the RP Giessen, which is responsible for occupational safety, gives tips on how to literally not sit on dry land at work or at home during the cold season.
It has now been proven that there is a direct correlation between humidity and the activity of cold viruses. "At healthy humidity, viruses outside the body die within minutes," reports Lehnhardt in the RP's advice article. According to the information, a critical value is about 40 percent. If this is not reached, the viruses are "able to survive for several hours".
"They adhere to the finest droplets, which are distributed in large quantities in the room by coughing or sneezing, for example," it says. Very small droplets float through the room like dust and can be inhaled by other people. "These aerosols packed with viruses sometimes lead to entire families or even large parts of a workforce lying down within days," reports the RP expert.
In addition to viruses, there is another phenomenon that increases the risk of infection in dry conditions. "More humid air is able to bind a greater amount of dust." The rule is: the drier, the more. "This dust irritates the eyes and respiratory tract as well as the mucous membranes, which already suffer from the dry air."
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Evaporators, evaporators, nebulizers: the differences between humidifiers
But what can be done about air that is too dry? It's obvious: the air needs to be humidified. At first glance, the range of humidifiers is confusing: Mist fountains, air washers, evaporators, evaporators, diffusers, atomizers and even certain houseplants that release a lot of water into the air are advertised. And all of them – if you believe the descriptions – improve the indoor climate in an excellent way. "If you take a closer look, the selection is essentially reduced to three common device types," explains the RP expert.
Evaporator devices, for example, consist of a water container with an insert made of fine-pored material. "This insert sucks up water by means of capillary action, which evaporates on its very large surface area." A fan blows the resulting moist air into the room. The power consumption is usually low, as is the maintenance effort. Household products can be used for descaling. Contamination (e.g. by legionella) usually does not have to be expected with these devices. Caution when buying: The blower should be as quiet as possible. This is because evaporators have to run for a long time until the humidity increases noticeably.
"Evaporators work on the same principle as a kettle," says Lehnhardt. In a container, water is converted by heat into water vapor, which humidifies the room air. "These devices are also largely harmless from a hygienic point of view, but they consume a lot of electricity. On the other hand, success comes faster than with evaporators." One important safety feature should be taken into account: the evaporator should automatically switch off when there is no more water in the tank.
Vaporizers work like kettles. They heat the water, which then evaporates in the room. © Robert Günther/dpa
The third common variant is water nebulizers. In this process, water is set into a high-frequency oscillation by ultrasound. The finest droplets are released from the water, forming a veil of mist. "This mist provides good air humidification with low power consumption." The disadvantage: Fog is also a good means of transport for germs and limescale. "If the water is not changed regularly, there is a risk that microbial contamination will develop. The germs can get into the air with the mist and be inhaled." If water with a high lime content is used, for example, a white lime film can form on the furniture near the appliances.
Buy a humidifier? First test the humidity with a hygrometer
The price range for humidifiers is very wide, depending on the type, performance and design. While small ultrasonic nebulizers are offered for less than 20 euros, you can easily pay 400 euros for high-quality evaporator models. Before making a purchase decision, the humidity should definitely be measured on several days, preferably in different weather conditions. Common hygrometers are commercially available for about ten euros. Most of the time, they measure humidity along with temperature. (Source: RP Giessen)