Monday, March 19, 2012

Humidifier failure

I'm allergic to dust.  Actually, when I was tested for allergies growing up, I was allergic to over 95% of what they tested for, so this is no surprise.  Most of the allergies are just a nuisance more than anything severe, and dust is no exception.  Sometimes I might have a little difficulty breathing, but nothing serious.

Recently, the girls and I have all had some nighttime coughing stuff going on and we just couldn't identify what was causing it.

We've had humidifiers in all of our bedrooms since the girls were born.  Recently we've had to replace them.  The stupid humidifiers came with filters that "never needed to be replaced".  The company was so sure of this they don't sell the filters as a stand alone product.  The problem with this is our filters started filtering poorly.  They got to the point of letting no water or moisture through AT ALL.  If I wanted to replace the filter I would've had to replace the whole unit.  I guess that's one way for the company to boost sales, but it didn't work with us.

Now, the girls have a frog humidifier in their room and we have an elephant in ours.  They are filterless, so no need to worry about changing them again either. 

The old humidifiers sat directly on our dressers and worked well - before they didn't.  The new ones couldn't be set directly on wood because they produce a cool mist, which could damage the wood finish if placed directly on it. They recommended not using a toel either.  The fan pulls air in from the bottom, so a towel restricts that air flow too much and results in very little moisture.  I found that out when I discovered a very wet towel under the humidifier.

Next, I placed a piece of plastic on top of the towel, and then set the humidifier on that.  The plastic was not thick enough to provide enough support, so the air flow was still limited.  I then replaced the plastic with the lid of a five gallon bucket which used to hold drywall.  This was sturdy enough to provide the required support, so our problem was solved. 

And then it wasn't.

It would appear our water is too hard.  Within days of getting the lid in place we started noticing a fine white dust on everything.  Furniture, flooring, clothes, everything.  According to the manufacturer's website, using a demineralization kit and purified water would alleviate the problem.  I tried it all and still the white layer grew larger.  We looked into a water softener, but the cost would not justify it unless we were planning on spending a long time at our current location.

I was perplexed.  Why had the other humidifiers worked?  Why had the one in the girls room worked for months without residue and the one in our room failed immediately?  We were getting water for them from different faucets so I tried getting all the water from the same one.  That should've had no impact as it's all the same water source, and it didn't. 

My sister-in-law was in town and made an off-hand comment about the white film resembling drywall dust.  As I lay in bed hours later it hit me.  There was still some drywall mud on the lids.  As the moisture settled onto it, the mud softened, spread thin, and dried.  The thinner layer of mud was then being sucked up by the fan, run through the humidifier, and coming out as a drywall dust vapor, which would then settle on everything.

After a VERY thorough cleaning of the bedrooms and replacing the drywall bucket lids with the little plastic things potted plants set on, the white stuff stopped.  The breathing fits are gone, as is the coughing.  I no longer wake up at night needing to use an inhaler and the girls are sleeping well again.

Life is good.  Perhaps I should've titled this user failure instead of blaming it on the humidifiers. 

1 comment:

Helene said...

I would've never suspected it myself so I can't blame you for being at a loss at first.

Glad to hear you finally figured out what was wrong and you're all back to breathing healthy again!