Are you sick of getting up in the morning with dry skin, chapped lips, and a sore throat? Do you reach for oil and lip balm over and over again throughout the day? If so, you might need a humidifier for the whole house.
A humidifier can not only make you feel better, but it can also help your health in many ways and keep your house from getting damaged.
In this piece, I’ll talk about how important a whole-house humidifier is and why it’s a must-have for any homeowner who wants to improve the quality of the air inside their home and their health as a whole.
So, kick back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of whole-house humidifiers.
Understanding Whole-House Humidifiers
A whole-house humidifier is a device that is hooked up to your heating system and adds moisture to the air in your home.
It is a common addition to a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system and can help keep the air at a comfortable level of wetness, especially during the colder, drier months.
Types of Whole-House Humidifiers
There are different kinds of whole-house humidifiers, like bypass, power, and steam humidifiers, but they all do the same thing, which is to add water vapor to the air in your home.
- Bypass Humidifiers: Bypass humidifiers use the airflow generated by the furnace’s blower fan to distribute moisture through the ducts into a home. They connect to the return section of the air handler or furnace and only operate when the furnace is running. They are ideal for smaller to medium-sized homes and have very quiet operation.
- Power Humidifiers: Power humidifiers, also known as fan-powered humidifiers, have their own fan to distribute moisture through the ducts into a home. They put more moisture into the air than bypass humidifiers and are ideal for larger homes.
- Steam Humidifiers: Steam humidifiers use electricity to boil water and create steam, which is then distributed through the ducts into a home. They are the most expensive type of whole-house humidifier but are the most effective at adding moisture to the air.
How Whole-House Humidifiers Work
A whole-house humidifier is hooked up to your home’s duct system.
When it’s on, it adds moisture to the air in your whole house.
A distribution tray helps spread the humidity throughout your home, and the thermostat lets you change how much humidity there is.
Benefits of Whole-House Humidifiers
Whole-house humidifiers can save you money and energy because when the humidity level is higher, you can lower your thermostat and save money on your electric bill.
They may also help you stay healthy by making it less likely that you will get a cold, the flu, or a respiratory disease.
They may even make it less likely that you will get an infection.
Proper Operation of Whole-House Humidifiers
To get the best humidity levels, a whole-house humidifier needs to be used correctly.
Humidity levels must be set based on the room’s temperature, and if they are too high, condensation can build up in the air system, which could lead to mold growth.
Whole-house humidifiers can be a good option, but they are not air purifiers, so your home’s air may still have many irritants in it.
Components of Whole-House Humidifiers
Whole-house humidifiers need water and a way to receive the water, which is usually an evaporator pad.
The water drains into the air, which makes it more humid inside.
Some humidifiers have a solenoid water valve assembly that shuts off the water supply when the humidity level hits a certain level.
When to Use Whole-House Humidifiers
During the colder, drier months, it’s best to use a whole-house humidifier to keep the air at a comfortable amount of moisture.
They can help stop dry skin, static electricity, and damage to wood floors and furniture.
The Health Benefits of Whole-House Humidifiers
Whole-house humidifiers are becoming increasingly popular as people realize the numerous health benefits they offer.
Dry air can cause a host of health problems, including dry skin, irritated eyes, and respiratory issues.
Whole-house humidifiers work by adding moisture to the air, which can alleviate these symptoms and improve overall health.
One of the most significant benefits of whole-house humidifiers is their ability to ease respiratory problems.
Dry air can exacerbate asthma and allergies, but adding moisture to the air can reduce symptoms and make breathing easier.
Additionally, humidifiers can help prevent the spread of viruses and germs by keeping the air moist, which can reduce the risk of infections.
Whole-house humidifiers can also improve skin health by preventing dryness and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
And, they can help reduce static electricity, which can be particularly beneficial for those with sensitive electronics.
Overall, whole-house humidifiers offer numerous health benefits that make them a worthwhile investment for any home.
For more information:
Discover Health Benefits of Humidifiers
Benefits and Types of Whole-House Humidifiers
Benefits of Whole-House Humidifiers
Whole-house humidifiers can help homes in many ways.
They add wetness to the air, which can help relieve dry sinuses, bloody noses, and cracked lips caused by dry indoor air.
Humidifiers can also help relieve the signs of a cold or other breathing problem.
Children and people with asthma or allergies may find it easier to breathe when the humidity is higher.
This is especially true when they have a respiratory infection like a cold.
Humidity can also help stop flu and stop people from snoring.
Automatic Humidity Control
Whole-house humidifiers control the humidity in the whole house automatically.
They work with the home’s HVAC system to make sure that every room has the right amount of moisture.
Unlike small humidifiers, which can only humidify one room at a time, this one can humidify a whole house.
Whole-house humidifiers also cost more than portable humidifiers when you buy them.
But they add value to the home and make it more appealing to owners, especially those with asthma or allergies that are very bad.
A whole-house humidifier can help around the house by adding moisture to the air.
Houseplants that like water might get healthier, and wood floors or furniture might last longer.
Humidity can also keep wallpaper from breaking and stop static electricity from building up.
Also, putting in a whole-house fan can make people feel warmer at lower temperatures, which can save up to 4% on heating bills for every degree the thermostat is turned down.
Whole-House Humidifiers versus Portable Humidifiers
There are several ways that whole-house humidifiers and portable humidifiers are different.
Whole-house humidifiers are put in your furnace’s blower system and get water straight from your water source.
They are part of your home’s HVAC system and can add moisture to the air in the whole house.
They have a humidistat that lets you set the level of humidity you want in your home, and they release water until the relative humidity in your home hits that level.
Whole-house humidifiers are usually more expensive than portable ones, but you only have to set them up once and then forget about them.
They are quieter than the heater itself and are easier to keep up than portable humidifiers.
On the other hand, portable humidifiers stand alone, have their own water source, and plug into regular electrical outlets.
They are easy to use and can usually humidify one to two rooms.
Larger units can add enough moisture to the air to keep several rooms warm.
Portable humidifiers need to be cleaned and refilled every day since they are not tied to plumbing.
High-quality compact units are usually more expensive than whole-house humidifiers, and they need to have their own blower system.
Choosing and Installing a Whole-House Humidifier
Types of Whole-House Humidifiers
There are three main kinds of whole-house humidifiers: bypass, fan-powered, and steam.
Each type adds moisture to the air in a different way.
- Bypass Humidifiers: Bypass humidifiers are passive systems that rely on the furnace to humidify the air. Hot air from the furnace goes through a water channel inside the humidifier via a duct bypass, turning the water into moisture to circulate through the home.
- Fan-Powered Humidifiers: Fan-powered humidifiers use a fan to blow air through a wet wick or filter, which adds moisture to the air.
- Steam Humidifiers: Steam humidifiers heat water to create steam, which is then released into the air.
There are also self-contained humidifiers that don’t need to be connected to a heater and use a fan to move humidified air around the room.
Console Humidifiers versus HVAC-Compatible Humidifiers
There are two types of whole-house humidifiers: console humidifiers and humidifiers that work with HVAC systems.
- Console Humidifiers: Console humidifiers are freestanding and evaporative, meaning they use a fan to pull water from a tank into the air.
- HVAC-Compatible Humidifiers: HVAC-compatible humidifiers are connected to the home’s hot air ducts and cold air return and can either work with or independent of the heating/cooling system.
Choosing the Right Whole-House Humidifier
When picking a whole-house humidifier, it’s important to think about the type of humidifier, the size of the house, and the HVAC system that’s already in place.
- Type of Humidifier: Steam humidifiers are generally the most powerful and are often used for large homes, while bypass humidifiers are ideal for homeowners who already have high humidity in their home or live in a humid climate. Overall, steam humidifiers outperform evaporative types because they can provide more consistent levels of moisture, but they will cost more money.
- Size of Home: Choosing the right size whole-house humidifier for your home is important to ensure that it provides the right amount of moisture without creating a moist environment that breeds dust mites and mold, and triggers allergic reactions. To determine the humidifier size you need, first measure the square footage of the room. Manufacturers usually specify the recommended room size for their models, so pay attention to the square footage range mentioned on the box or product web page. The humidifiers in Consumer Reports’ ratings are organized by the room size or area they’re intended for, from personal humidifiers that can humidify up to 25 square feet to consoles for 1,000 square feet or more.
- Existing HVAC System: If you’re looking for a whole-house humidifier, consider the size of your home. Furnace humidifiers might be an option, but they require more significant investments as they humidify the whole house.
Top Whole-House Humidifiers
Here are some of the best whole-house humidifiers to choose from:
- Best Overall: Aprilaire 500 Whole-Home Evaporative Humidifier
- Best Bang for Your Buck: AIRCARE 831000 Whole-House Evaporative Humidifier
- Best for Large Homes: Aprilaire 800 Whole-House Steam Humidifier
It’s also important to think about the humidifier’s size if you want a device with all the bells and whistles that can humidify your whole house and save you money in the long run.
People often say that home humidifiers do more than they actually do, so buy a bigger unit than you think you need.
Maintenance and Safety of Whole-House Humidifiers
Installing a Whole-House Humidifier
Putting in a whole-house humidifier is a great way to make your home more comfortable and improve the air quality during the cold, dry winter months.
But you need technical understanding and skill to do it.
Here are the steps to putting a humidifier for the whole house:
- Turn off the water and drain the pressure from the lines to prevent spills.
- Cut a hole into the return air duct and mount the humidifier unit on the hole.
- Connect the humidifier to a supply line.
- Run a new copper cold-water supply line from the water heater to the humidifier.
- Connect a drain line from the humidifier to the existing drainpipe on the heat pump.
- Have a licensed electrician run a new electrical line from the furnace to the humidifier.
Whenever possible, the humidifier should be put on the return air duct, because it works much better there.
It is also important to keep the unit level so that water goes down the drain and not out the sides.
Also, you must have a licensed professional worker install the humidifier because doing so requires technical knowledge and skill.
Maintaining a Whole-House Humidifier
Maintaining a whole-house humidifier is important to make sure it works well and gives the home the right amount of humidity.
Depending on the type of humidifier, there are different ways to take care of it.
For a Furnace-Mounted Whole-House Humidifier
For a whole-house humidifier that is attached to the furnace, a reservoir or drum-style humidifier uses a pan with a float that holds water that evaporates off a spinning drum or panel wick.
The flow-through drip-style humidifier drips water onto a special pad that lets air move through it, picking up moisture and bringing it into the home.
To take care of a whole-house humidifier that is attached to the heater, the first step is to turn off the power and stop the water flow.
You should take apart the humidifier and clean all of its parts with a mix of water and vinegar or bleach.
Depending on what the maker says, the evaporator pad should be changed or cleaned.
Every year, you should also change the water panel.
After making sure that all of the parts work, the humidifier should be put back together with a clean or new evaporator pad.
For a Steam-Style Humidifier
Less work is needed to take care of a fan that works with steam.
Even if the heater isn’t on, these humidifiers can add moisture to the air by heating water with electricity until it boils and making steam.
The fan in the system picks up the steam and sends it through the home’s vents.
Even when the furnace isn’t going, these humidifiers can add moisture to the air.
They are the most expensive type of central humidifier, but they are less likely to grow mildew or mold, control humidity more precisely, and need less upkeep.
Keeping Humidity Levels in Check
In addition to cleaning and maintaining the home on a daily basis, it is important to keep the humidity levels at a healthy level.
The best amount of humidity is between 30% and 50%, but never more than 60%.
A humidistat on a whole-house humidifier lets you set it to the amount of humidity you want in your home.
This should be between 40% and 45%.
Then, the central humidifier will let out water until the relative humidity in your home hits the level you want.
Comparing and Troubleshooting Whole-House Humidifiers
Precautions to Minimize Harmful Effects
To keep a whole-house humidifier from doing too much harm, it’s important to use it right and keep the humidity at the right amount.
One should only run the humidifier when the heater is on, and before buying a whole-house humidifier, they should think about air sealing the house.
It is also suggested that portable humidifiers be used in each room and that they be cleaned every couple of days to avoid problems caused by too much wetness.
Common Issues and Solutions
Common problems with whole-house humidifiers include mold and bacteria growth, a musty smell, and cooling issues.
You can avoid these problems by cleaning the water trays, evaporator pad, and drum on a regular basis and rinsing them with clean water or a 10 percent bleach solution.
If you smell mold, these are the parts of the humidifier that need to be cleaned and sanitized the most.
If the humidifier gives off a musty smell, it means that mold has grown in the system.
The best thing to do is to plan to clean and cleanse the ducts.
You can also avoid these problems by cleaning the trays, evaporator pad, and drum on a frequent basis.
If your whole-house fan isn’t working, it could be because the airflow isn’t right.
You can try changing or cleaning the dirty filters and making sure the damper is always open when the humidifier is running.
Manual versus Automatic Humidifiers
With a manual humidifier, you have to know the temperature outside hours in advance and change the humidity every day to match.
Automatic humidifiers for the whole house have a sensor that reads the temperature outside and changes the humidity level for you.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
To fix common problems with your whole-house humidifier, you can do easy things like clean the parts, keep the water level at the right level, and use distilled water.
If you have trouble with your humidifier that isn’t simple, you should call customer service or a professional to help you fix or replace it.
Whole-house humidifiers can be helpful, but if they are not used correctly, they can also be dangerous.
To limit the harm, it’s important to take measures and use the humidifier the right way.
Mold and bacteria growth, a musty smell, and problems with air flow can all be avoided with regular cleaning and upkeep.
Whole-house humidifiers that change the humidity level for you can make the process easier.
If you have any problems, you can follow the steps for fixing them or get help from a professional.
Buying a whole-house humidifier is a great way to improve the health and happiness of your home as a whole.
It can make your skin less itchy, lower your risk of getting a lung infection, and even keep your furniture and floors from getting damaged.
But it’s important to remember that a humidifier isn’t an answer that works for everyone.
You should think about how big your home is, what kind of humidifier you want, and your own tastes.
Do your study and talk to a professional before you buy a humidifier to make sure you get the right one for your needs.
Also, make sure to keep your humidifier in good shape to stop bugs and mold from growing in it.
In the end, a whole-house humidifier can be a good addition to your home, but you should think carefully about the choice.
By taking the time to think about your choices and keep your humidifier in good shape, you can enjoy a comfortable and healthy living space for many years.
So go ahead and buy a humidifier.
You’ll feel better knowing you’ve taken a big step toward making your house healthier and happier.
Looking for a new Humidifier?
Choosing a gadget can be very difficult if you know nothing about the technology.
Some will pay for features they do not need while others may not consider what they really want.
So I created this quick, newbie guide to help you focus on what is really important to you:
The Best Humidifier (For You!)
Links and references
- “Whole House Humidifiers: How to Choose, Install, and Maintain Them” by Mark J. Donovan
- Building America Solution Center technical notes on humidity control
- Bob Vila’s guide on the best whole-house humidifiers of 2023
- Popular Mechanics’ list of the best whole-house humidifiers in 2022
- The Spruce’s list of the best whole-house humidifiers of 2023
Optimizing Home Comfort with a Humidifier
Mastering Moisture Control: Humidifiers 101
Moisture & Allergies: Humidifier FAQs
Healthy Skin: Humidifiers for Dry Skin
Improving Indoor Air Quality with HVAC Humidifiers