Wood Burning Fireplace in Harrisonburg, VA updated

Do you heat your home with a wood burning fireplace (or another combustion appliance)? Do you run a humidifier because the fireplace dries out the air?  Is your skin dry all winter? These are common issues that come up this time of year, but there is a problem.

You may be surprised to hear this, but a fireplace does not dry out air, it actually causes humidity problems if not managed properly. The dry air problem in your home is caused due to air leakage problems. A fireplace dumps gallons of water into the air through the process of combustion (burning wood). A home using a wood burning fireplace for heat that does not have a dedicated fresh air make-up probably does have a dry air issues, if it is sized right. As the fire burns the oxygen from the air, the house begins to suck in makeup air from outside – the very dry cold outside air. You may also have humidity problems in other parts of the home due to bad air circulation.

There is no need to run a humidifier in the home, you should instead install a fresh air supply to the fireplace.  If one room in the house is suffering from dry air, it is because that room is the major source of air leakage (make up air) for the fireplace.  You should find the source of the air leakage and seal up the house (but only after installing adequate make up air for the combustion appliance). This can be done by having a BPI certified professional perform a blower door test and duct leakage test on your home.

You can control the humidity in the other rooms of your home by moving the air around the house using jumper ducts, leaving doors open, ceiling fans, or running a whole house ventilation system.

While we have been told for years that we need a humidifier in cold weather because our homes get too dry – that is not the case in our mixed humid climate. There are very few days a year that the interior humidity of a home would require any help if it were air tight with a dedicated fresh air make up system, on those days burn a fire, cook some soup, or run your clothes dryer.

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