Do Electric Heaters Dry the Air? [ANSWERED]

In broad terms, electric heaters do not dry the air out – but it will still make the room you’re in feel drier. It is because relative humidity (the humidity you feel) and absolute humidity are different things.

Some rumors have spread around that electric heaters dry the air out whenever you use them, which can make people a bit uneasy using them at all. But is it true? Do electric heaters dry out the air?

To explain why electric heaters make the air feel drier, we’re going to have to dip into science a little bit and explain the difference between relative humidity and absolute humidity.

Electric heater close up

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Why Electric Heaters Dry the Air

You are more likely to switch on your electric heater and any other heat source during winter when the cold air coming in from outside has a lower level of humidity. In other words, the air is lacking in moisture before you even switch on your heater.

Cranking up the heat might add warmth, but it doesn’t add moisture. In fact, adding heat to an already dry room causes what little moisture there is to evaporate leaving both you and your room feeling dry and dehydrated.

Electric heaters are no more to blame for dry air than any other heat source, but the problem of dry air remains so you’ll be glad to learn that there are several easy solutions for rehydrating your environment.

How to Stop Electric Heaters from Drying the Air

There is no need to suffer in dryness. Here are a few easy tips for adding moisture back into your environment:

  • Seal your home: A well-insulated home will prevent the cold, dry air outside from sneaking in and it will also save you money on heating. Caulk, spray foam, and weather stripping are great affordable solutions for quickly sealing any unwanted cracks and crevices in a draughty building.
  • Invest in a humidifier: Humidifiers add moisture directly back into the air replacing what is lost to evaporation. Just be careful not to overuse your humidifier as this can create dampness which can lead to the growth of mold and mildew.
  • Wet Laundry: Air-drying your clothes in a heated room will increase the humidity and make the air feel less dry. Dry racks are easy to assemble and inexpensive. Air drying your clothes also saves on electricity.
  • Bowls of Water: Dotting bowls of water around your home is probably the least costly way to increase moisture levels and if you add essential oils your house will smell amazing. However, bowls of water alone are unlikely to add a significant amount of moisture back into the air.

Adding moisture back into your home should make the air feel less dry when you turn on your electric heater on a cold winter’s day and you don’t have to break the bank in doing so. However, even with the increase of moisture in the air, you might still find yourself tackling another problem that can negatively impact your health: dehydration.

Do Electric Heaters Cause Dry Skin?

Not only do electric heaters and all other heat sources cause dry skin, but they can also be responsible for causing headaches and leaving your nose and throat feeling parched.

Adding moisture back into your home is a great first step in dealing with this issue, but chances are, it might not be enough.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Skin from Dry Air

Here are four easy tips for protecting your skin and body against dry air:

  • Hydrate regularly: When moisture evaporates from your skin the most effective way to replenish is to drink more water. Not only will this prevent your skin from drying out, but it will also hydrate your body and prevent unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue and dehydration headaches.
  • Moisturize: Applying the right moisturizer will lock moisture into your skin’s surface and prevent the discomfort of cracking and flaking. Everyone’s skin is different so finding a skincare routine that suits you might require a small amount of research, but skincare gurus like Hyram can guide you with fantastic tips and tutorials available for free on YouTube.
  • Take shorter showers: There is nothing more tempting than a long hot shower on a chilly winter morning but, unfortunately, the steam and hot water can seriously dry out your skin. Shortening your shower time, reducing the water temperature, and moisturizing as soon as you get out are all smart simple ways of lessening the dehydrating effects of your shower.
  • Switch off your heater at night: According to the India Times, sleeping with your heating on not only dries out your skin, but can also cause conjunctivitis, and allergies. Instead of cranking up the heat at bedtime, you might try using a warmer duvet, hot water bottle, or electric blanket as a safer and less dehydrating alternative.

Do Electric Heaters Remove Humidity?

If your problem is in fact the opposite of everything previously discussed in this article and your home has too much humidity, then you might be wondering if investing in an electric heater will be the solution to this problem.

Like with any other heat source, electric heaters will make the air feel drier, but as stated previously, electric heaters do not dry the air from a scientific perspective.

How Do Electric Heaters Affect Humidity?

When you introduce heat from an electric heater or any other heat source into a room with high levels of humidity, the heat will cause the moisture to rise from the ground and evaporate from your skin leaving your room feeling less damp and humid. However, without adequate ventilation, heating your room will not expel the moisture and it won’t resolve issues of dampness or mildew.

How to dehumidify the air in your room with the aid of an electric heater:

  • Use a dehumidifier: Dehumidifiers work by drawing air from a room and cooling the moisture until it condenses into small water droplets which are collected in an inbuilt container. Dehumidifiers reduce humidity and can prevent dampness and mildew from setting in. Note: If you overuse a dehumidifier it will cause the air to dry out completely.
  • Ventilate: By installing air vents or opening windows and doors to allow moist air to escape you will significantly reduce the levels of moisture in your home. This should work particularly well in conjunction with your electric heater but it’s worth noting that, although this will reduce the risk of dampness, the loss of heat through open windows and doors does not make it the most cost-effective solution.   
  • Say goodbye to your houseplants: If you live in a poorly ventilated home with high levels of humidity, then houseplants are not your friend. Plants emit moisture into the air which inevitably increases the humidity. If you love your houseplants and don’t want to say goodbye, placing them by an open window or swapping them for dessert succulents like cacti might be your best option.

Do Electric Heaters Affect the Air?

Electric heaters do not dry the air, but they do affect the feeling of dryness in the air.

The most important thing to consider when purchasing an electric heater is the humidity level already present within your environment and what steps you are willing to take in conjunction with heating to regulate the level of moisture in the air to your liking.

What Is Relative Humidity?

Generally speaking, relative humidity is defined as the term for the ratio of partial pressure of water vapor to the saturated vapor pressure of water at any particular temperature.

In simpler terms it is:

The amount of water vapor and air vs dow much water vapor the air can hold at a certain temperature without it turning back into liquid water.

Because the air does have a limit to how much water it can hold before it becomes liquid water again. This is what causes clouds, and the rain cycle.

So, relative humidity is what you can feel with your senses. Hot air can hold a lot more water vapor without it turning back into water than cold air, which can explain why colder places around the world don’t tend to have such dry air. (Think the cold, soggy areas of the US versus the hot, dry areas)

Next, we need to understand what absolute humidity is.

What Is Absolute Humidity?

This one is simpler to wrap your head around; absolute humidity is the total amount of water in a given area. That’s it.

Finally, understanding these two, we can answer:

Why Do Electric Heaters Not Affect Humidity But Make The Air Feel Drier?

Putting these little facts together, we can figure out why people might think electric heaters dry the air out:

  • Electric heaters heat the air up
  • Hot air carries more water vapor than cold air
  • Because the hot air decreases the relative humidity, it makes the air feel drier but doesn’t change the amount of water in the room overall.
  • Therefore, people think it’s drying the air out when in reality, it’s not.

How Low Can Relative Humidity Get Before It Gets Bad?

Now, there is a reason that people may get worried about ‘dry air’, even if it has more to do with relative humidity and less to do with there actually being less water in the air.

In short, we can suffer some ill effects if the relative humidity falls below thirty percent. Some of these issues can be:

  • Chapped lips
  • Coughing/aggravating lung conditions like asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and those prone to nosebleeds
  • Itchy or flaky skin
  • Dry eyes
  • Sore throats
  • Colds or other illnesses

The reason for this is that a low humidity level dries out your mucous membranes – especially in your nose – which is one of your body’s primary defense mechanisms, which makes it easier to catch colds and other illnesses.

With warm air carrying water vapor much easier than cold air, humidity might be the real reason that some of us were told we’d “Catch our death of cold” in the winters.

But it’s not just bad for you – it can do some damage to your home and your belongings too if the air becomes too dry. This might include:

  • Wooden furniture or wooden floorboards cracking
  • Electronics getting damaged by static shock
  • Paint chipping
  • Wallpaper splitting

So, whilst your electric heater doesn’t dry the air out in terms of absolute humidity, you still might want to take some action so your relative humidity doesn’t become a problem.

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What Can I Do To Increase My Relative Humidity?

There are a couple of things that people recommend you do if you’re worried about relative humidity, especially if you have to use an electric heater throughout the winter months.

Some of the commonly found advice include:

  • Buy a humidifier – these little gadgets add filtered water to the air as a fine mist. It can both help with your dry skin and eyes, but also adds a few small degrees in temperature
  • Put bowls or pots of water around the place – place containers of water around for natural evaporation. (You could even add a little essential oil for a nice scent around your home)
  • Buy an aquarium – looks pretty, but most of them are also heated and therefore will evaporate and add a little moisture to whatever room it’s in
  • Hang wet clothes inside – sounds strange, but hanging wet clothes inside may help increase the effectiveness of an electric heater as well

What Do I Do To Offset Relative Humidity?

If you’re one of the people who suffer from dry air – either by the itchy skin, dry eyes, or a lung condition, then there are a couple of things you can do yourself, as well as the above tips to add moisture to the air:

  • Make sure you keep sipping hot fluids. Can be soups, teas, or coffee – but keep your nose and throat hydrated
  • If you suffer from itchy skin, always keep a natural moisturizer on hand during the winter months. If it’s particularly itchy and painful, your doctor can prescribe some extra strong moisturizers.

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In conclusion, electric heaters don’t dry out the air in the sense of changing the amount of water in the air, but it does make the air feel a hell of a lot drier.

If this bothers you, then systematically adding moisture to the air through humidifiers or adding natural sources of water to evaporate into the air should go a long way to solving your problem with that, and if you suffer medically from dry air, ensure you keep drinking hot fluids and moisturize regularly.