Some homeowners worry that their furnace is making their skin dry—but is your furnace really to blame?
Here’s the short answer: sometimes.
We say that because when a furnace heats air, it doesn’t remove water vapor (humidity) from the air that reaches your home. A furnace simply raises the temperature of the air, just like a stove heats water.
However, if you have what’s called an atmospheric furnace, then your furnace is actually partly to blame for your dry skin. But we’ll go into that a little later.
In this article, we’ll cover 3 explanations of what’s causing dry skin and how you can get rid of dry air in your home.
Let’s start with what’s really causing your dry skin...
The 3 biggest culprits of dry skin are leaks in your home, leaks in your ductwork and an atmospheric furnace. Let’s go into more detail about each problem:
First, it’s important to establish that cold air is dry air because cold air can’t hold much moisture.
So, your skin may be drying out because cold air is leaking into your home through cracks and openings and being circulated around your home via your furnace.
Where does cold air commonly leak inside a home?
According to energy.gov, you should inspect for cracks and gaps around the following areas:
But even if your home’s “envelope” is perfectly sealed, your furnace may be coming into contact with cold air through leaky ducts…
If there’s a leak in your return duct, cold (dry) air is entering your home.
If there are leaks in your ducts or on your return vents, like the blue arrow pointing down in the image above, that means your furnace is pulling in cold, dry air from your attic or inside walls and circulating it throughout your home.
Those spaces around the shell of your home are called unconditioned spaces because they’re not temperature controlled. If air from unconditioned spaces is entering your home, it’s causing your dry skin.
There are 2 kinds of furnaces: atmospheric and sealed combustion furnaces. If you have an atmospheric furnace, it’s drying out your home’s air. We’ll talk about atmospheric furnaces here, and sealed combustion furnaces in the next section.
An atmospheric furnace draws on the air inside your home to mix with the natural gas from the burner to create combustion.
Here’s why that makes your skin dry: For every cubic foot of air that enters the furnace, another cubic foot of air has to come into your home from OUTSIDE. That means more cold, dry air. Which means more dry skin.
Below are 4 ways you can get rid of dry air, starting with what you should try first:
That will prevent large amount of cold air from entering your home. If you still think cold air is entering your home, hire a contractor to inspect your home for leaks and air seal your home.
Next, you should make sure your ducts are sealed. According to Energy Star, a typical home loses about 20 to 30 percent of conditioned air to leaks, holes and poorly connected ducts.
Besides being a big waste of energy, that means a lot of dry air is getting picked up by your furnace and circulated throughout your home.
You’ll want a professional heating specialist to inspect your ductwork for leaks. They have the proper tools and experience to safely detect and repair duct leaks.
If you have an atmospheric furnace and are experiencing dry skin, you should consider a sealed combustion furnace. A sealed combustion furnace has a combustion chamber that’s sealed off from the rest of the house.
Here’s how it works: Instead of pulling in your home’s air for combustion, a sealed furnace has plastic tubes that pulls in outdoor air for the combustion process.
By drawing in air from the outside, a sealed furnace isn’t removing heated air from your home, so it doesn’t create a vacuum indoors that makes colder outside air rush in (remember: for every cubic foot of air that leaves your home, another cubic foot must enter).
In addition to eliminating that indoor vacuum-sealed furnaces are also safer than atmospheric furnaces because they reduce backdrafts and combustion vapor leaks.
Keep all of this in mind when shopping for a new furnace.
If you’ve tried #1–3 (or can’t invest in a new furnace) and still have dry skin, consider a whole-home humidifier.
A whole-home humidifier is installed directly into your heating and cooling system to control your home’s humidity levels. Its job is to maintain a perfect humidity balance, which provides optimum comfort.
BUT, before you even consider a whole-home humidifier, you should at least make sure your home is sealed and your ducts are sealed. Otherwise a whole-home humidifier would be like band-aid trying to fix a broken arm. You need to first go to the root of the problem, which is most likely a leaky home or leaky ducts.
After you fix those problems, your furnace won’t be pulling in dry, unconditioned air, so a whole-home humidifier will work efficiently and you’ll definitely notice better air quality in your home.
Contact MSP today to talk with one of our home heating experts. We fix leaky ducts, install sealed combustion furnaces and we can give you an honest estimate on a whole-home humidifier for your home.
We’ve been serving the Twin Cities area since 1918.