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Dry eyes due to radiator in my apartment?

taagam Member Posts: 7
Hi everyone, I know many people here are very experienced with steam radiators so I thought I'd ask about my problem on this forum.

I have a steam radiator in my apartment unit and it has been giving me dry eyes in the morning when I wake up.

My radiator looks like this https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/jbubier/es390second copy/anjanette/Images/heat brochure Mandelle North.jpg

I wanted to ask experienced users here how they avoid this problem.

Unfortunately, I have no control over the shutoff valve because it doesn't make a difference which way it is facing, it always remains on if the entire building's heat is on.

Also, I was wondering if these tricks that I am doing are safe.

1. placing a towel on top of the radiator and a wet towel as well.
- I was wondering if this is a safe practice, Can I got to bed while I have a towel on top of the radiator? Can I also place a wet towel on the radiator so there can be some humidity in the air?

2. can I place a small metel cup with water in it above the radiator so that the water evaporates if there is low water in the areas around the radiator? Is this safe? Can it be a plastic cup?

3. buying a small electric humidifier. Would this solve the problem?

Are these tricks safe to do? can I do these while I am not in the apartment or while I am sleeping?

Thanks in advanced for your replies and I would appreciate if someone experienced can share their experience with steam radiators and dry eyes.



  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,276
    It doesn't have to be a steam radiator to give one problems with dry eyes -- it's the lack of humidity, and pretty much any heating system will do that.

    Steam does have some plusses though! Yes indeed you can put a soggy towel on the radiator and leave it there all night. I used to do that decades ago when I was in college and the dry heat killed my singing voice (OK guys, don't laugh... too hard...). Works like a charm. Perfectly safe, and if you get a nice big one it will go all night.

    I wouldn't use a plastic cup. Some plastics melt or deform. But a nice metal pan -- say a bread pan or something of the sort -- works too. But not as well as the towel...

    I find most electric humidifiers are noisy -- but they do work. A towel is cheaper...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,517
    What Jamie said is good advise. I have a lot of sinus problems year round and dry winter air doesn't help. I have an Emerson humidifier, what I would call a tabletop model and we run it in the bedroom in the winter with the door closed. It's quiet, has 3 speeds, easy to clean , easy to fill. When it's really dry out you have to fill it every other day.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,670

    As usual Jamie is spot on.

    Dry air in the winter, in my experience, comes primarily from a drafty building. The more air that leaks through the building, the dryer it will be. My 150 year old house with steam heat and running a humidifier putting out 14 gallons a day was dryer than a house my dad built in 2006 with forced hot air and no humidifier. His house is very tight and mine is basically a 2 story tent.

    All heating systems dry the air the same amount because relative humidity drops as you warm the air. This is why when you have an ice cold drink on a hot humid day it gets condensation on the can or bottle. The damp air gets close to the cold surface and as it cools it can no longer hold the same amount of water.

    Now if you take that same air and warm it back up, because you removed some water it will now be dryer. That's how dehumidifiers and air conditioners remove humidity, by cooling the air and essentially squeezing the water out of it.

    If you take 10F air that has a relative humidity of say 50% from outside and warm it up to 70F it will now have a relative humidity of 5%. Even a small percentage of that air leaking in will cause your house to become very dry.

    This is also why the air off of the radiator drys your eyes. That hot air is significantly lower in humidity than the cooler air in the room. Once it cools, it will be the same as the rest of the room.

    Sorry for the huge reply.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • mrtsrdr
    mrtsrdr Member Posts: 1
    edited December 2020
    @ChrisJ Thank you for your huge reply, you saved me from a frustrating question inside my head :blush:
  • SlowYourRoll
    SlowYourRoll Member Posts: 187
    i'm not a doctor, but the fact that you're only experiencing dry eyes in the morning suggests that there's more to this than just the radiator. i used to suffer from dry eyes before seeing an eye doctor. i won't get into the medical stuff he went over with me cause i'm not qualified, but the stuff i will pass on was (1) i needed to drink more water, and (2) i needed to buy one of those microwaveable dry eye masks that sell for about $15 on Amazon, and use that for 5-10 minutes every morning.

    as far as my indoor comfort in winter, i bought one of those cheapo humidity/temp monitors on amazon for under $10 and with that and a couple steam humidifiers i keep my humidity around 30-40. doesn't just help with my eyes, keeps my breathing easier, don't get sinus headaches from dry air anymore, i even used to get nosebleeds some times in winter and that no longer happens, my skin doesn't dry out and get itchy anymore in winter. maybe some are more sensitive than others to it, but i'm definitely an unhappy camper when the indoor humidity gets down to 20 in winter.
  • jhrost
    jhrost Member Posts: 57
    My problem is dry cracked hands. I do put the pan of water on top of the radiator, but in my case only wearing latex gloves at nite keeps my hands from cracking.

    Does your heat stay on all nite, or is it set back and turned up again in the morning?

    If you have drafty windows, especially single pane, that could create a drier and draftier interior. They do sell kits that allow you to use some tape and a hairdryer to adhere a clear plastic film over the whole window. In warmer weather you just take it off, although you have to be careful taking off the tape so it doesn't lift the paint. In this era of covid however, they are actually telling you to open windows , which are probably going to create even more dryness and draftiness . When you consider that you are always using harsh hand sanitizers it makes it even tougher for those of us who have dry skin in winter. I guess you have to make your own risk assessment. The only sure fire cure is moving to a warmer climate.