As the weather gets colder, and heating systems are introduced, the air tends to dry out. This, in turn, might cause a certain degree of discomfort and even illness if not addressed.
A whole-house humidifier, integrated into your heating/cooling system could be the answer to the problem, as it re-introduces moisture into the atmosphere in the home.
Based on our research and comparisons, we believe the AIRCARE Digital Whole House Evaporative Humidifier is the best whole house humidifier currently on the market.
- Choosing a Whole-House Humidifier
- How Do Humidifiers Help?
- Types of Humidifiers
- Our selection of the 5 best whole house humidifiers:
Choosing a Whole-House Humidifier
There are different types of humidifiers on the market, and to determine the best whole house humidifier for your house, you would need to consider your situation and needs. You will need to take into account the size of your house, your current heating system, and how drastically the weather changes in your area.
The characteristics of a whole house humidifier will vary depending on the type of humidifier chosen. Where the water needs to be regularly refilled there will be a supply indicator. This means that to maintain a consistent and regular level of humidity in the home this indicator will have to be manually checked.
A humidistat will give you a reading of the moisture level in the home. Ideally, the humidity level should be maintained between 30 to 50%. Most whole-house humidifiers come with a manual/ automatic option. There is a simple switch option that can be set on installation. Obviously, the automatic option is preferable and hassle-free but must come with an outdoor temperature sensor.
There are other considerations to take into account before making your final choice. Do you go for ducted or non-ducted, steam, or an evaporative furnace type, sturdy durable steel construction, or synthetic model? Power efficiency and cost, cleaning, and maintenance are all features that have to be taken into account.
How Do Humidifiers Help?
The benefits of whole-house humidifiers are numerous. Have you noticed that as the cold weather approaches the coughs, sneezes, colds, and flu viruses also arrive? You start up the HVAC or heater to warm the house and this dries out the air, creating the ideal conditions for bugs, bacteria, and viruses to thrive.
Another common effect of drying the air with central heating is drying the nasal passages. The dry air can lead to irritation of the eyes, mouth, nose, and skin, and for those with breathing problems, the condition is exacerbated.
By adding moisture to the air through the humidifier for the whole house these problems are overcome. With moisture restored to the nasal passages and respiratory system even snoring has been known to be eased or even eliminated.
Wintertime is the time to moisturize. The dry air causes itchy, flaky skin, dry lips, and cracks. By humidifying your home you will ensure a comfortable and healthy environment, as it is said, “Healthy Air – Healthy You”. A further benefit is getting rid of those unexpected “shocks”.
Dry air and friction cause the buildup of static electricity which can unleash itself on you or a member of the family at any time. If your home is cold, a good propane heater will keep you warm and comfortable.
Timber or wood is an organic product that needs to be cared for and maintained. If wood dries out too much, it will tend to crack, warp or shrink. Wooden furniture, floors even musical instruments such as guitars, violins, and pianos will benefit greatly by the restoration of a balanced level of humidity.
Your energy bill will also benefit from introducing a whole house humidifier to the system. The moisture content helps to make the home feel warmer and increases the efficiency of the heating system.
Dry air makes the home feel colder and the tendency then is to turn up the thermostat. Moisture captures heat, warming the air, and requiring a lower setting. The resultant saving will be felt in the pocket. A cost-efficient and compact option to warm our home is a propane wall heater.
Types of Humidifiers
When considering humidifiers, the options can be overwhelming and confusing. For starters, we have to consider whole-house humidifiers versus portable humidifiers.
Whole House Humidifier vs Portable Humidifier
Portable humidifiers, also known as room humidifiers, are single units or stand-alone units that can be moved from room to room where ever they are required. These units add moisture only to the room in which they are situated, and are available in various sizes and types, from evaporative, vaporizers, or ultrasonic.
Whole-house humidifiers work with your home heating and cooling system and circulate moisture throughout the entire house. They usually work with the HVAC system and are installed between the supply and return air ducts. Here we also find different types such as steam, by-pass, or fan-powered.
Whole-house humidifiers have a larger capacity as they supply consistent and controlled moisture levels throughout the entire home. Room humidifiers have a smaller capacity and will be effective only in the room where they are installed.
The maintenance on a whole-house humidifier is minimal, and may only need an annual service inspection during the summer months, or when the HVAC system has a regular check-up. The large capacity units are hooked up to the homes’ plumbing system and water is fed directly to the unit as required. A portable humidifier has a reservoir that needs to be monitored and refilled, sometimes on a daily basis.
The whole house humidifier is out of sight, out of mind, and silent as it is built into the homes’ ducting system. The room humidifier needs to be positioned somewhere, does make a certain amount of noise from the fan and bubbling water, and could be irritating to some people.
The portable humidifier is less efficient and the cost to supply one room can exceed the cost of the whole house humidifier as it consumes less energy in controlling the entire building.
Overall the whole house humidifier is a better option than the portable humidifier as it is more efficient, more cost-effective, and maintenance-free. This does not mean that the room humidifier does not serve a purpose.
Portable humidifiers could serve to supplement the whole house system where a person is sick or suffering from a respiratory condition. People who are not homeowners and are renting can’t afford the expense of a whole-house humidifier and won’t be able to take it with them when they move on.
The whole house humidifier has an additional advantage over the potable version in that it purifies the air. Through the ducted air system, it removes smells, dust particles, and allergens, improving the air quality, keeping it fresh, moisturized, comfortable, and healthy.
There is yet another very important decision to make, and that is steam versus evaporative whole house humidifier. These are the two main types of whole-house humidifiers, steam producing a warm mist while evaporative produces cool mist.
Steam vs Evaporative Whole House Humidifiers
The steam humidifier uses a very simple technology by placing two electrodes in water to heat it until the water releases steam, much the same principle as your kettle. The steam then enters the ducting and is push through the house by the fan along with the heating.
Evaporation is the process of water turning into water vapor and occurs in nature every day as water from rivers, dams and pools are drawn back up into the atmosphere. In an evaporative whole house humidifier, this process is achieved by passing water over an evaporator panel, much like a large filter, and blowing air over it.
As the water evaporates its fed into the ducting of the HVAC and circulates through the house, providing the required humidity. A humidistat, a sensor on the principal of the thermostat, will switch off the humidifier when the required level of moisture has been reached.
When making a direct comparison it would appear that the better option would be steam over evaporative for your whole house humidifier.
The steam humidifier produces 1 gallon of steam from 1 gallon of water, compared to the evaporative humidifier needing on average 14 gallons of water to deliver 1 gallon of steam. The quality of the vapor is also better from steam than from evaporative models.
Maintenance of the steam humidifier is simply replacing the electrodes once a year, there are no pads or filters that need to be cleaned as with the evaporative units.
Many wonder about the difference between steam versus evaporative whole-house humidifiers. Quite simply, steam produces more warm misty steam and they are generally more accurate and efficient.
Our selection of the 5 best whole house humidifiers:
Below take a look at the 5 best whole house humidifiers, based on the requirements we discussed previously.
The console unit is ideal for the smaller home and can supply an area of up to 2600 sq ft. The Aircare is digitally controlled and comes with an automatic humidistat. The humidistat will automatically switch off the humidifier when the desired moisture level is reached or if the water reservoir is empty.
The motor has three-speed settings and a quiet Nighttime setting. There are indicators for checking filter and water refills and comes with an Easy-fill bottle.
The AIRCARE Evaporative humidifier is an attractive, unobtrusive, and easy to use addition to your home. Some important things to remember with a console or portable units is that the level of humidity will be greater the closer you are to the unit.
For this reason, you may want to move it to the bedroom at night, and remain assured that the humidistat will control your comfort level and the Nighttime setting will further ensure a restful sleep.
It is recommended that the filter and unit be cleaned every three days, most people get away with a weekly clean. The filter should only need to be replaced annually.
Aprilaire is the pioneers in evaporative whole-home humidifiers, since 1954.
The 500 model has many impressive features. It has up to 3000 square feet coverage with a 12 gallon per day capacity. Optimum humidity is achieved through an automatic humidifier having two sensors. The sensors monitor and respond to both the relative humidity indoors as well as the outside temperature.
Digital control shows humidity level and lights indicate humidifier running, Water Panel needs changing, and when a service is due. A Blower Activation switch sets the humidifier to run continuously or only when the furnace is running.
The operation is fairly simple, as water is piped to the top of the humidifier into a distribution tray. The water from the distribution tray is gravity fed over the Water Panel evaporator, where dry hot air from the HVAC is moved through this panel. Evaporation takes place and the resulting vapor is circulated through the house.
This product has a good reputation and is well supported by the manufacturer.
This Powered flow-through humidifier from Honeywell is a neat and compact, light gray unit. It offers multi-stage and variable speed systems and looks after a house of up to 4200 square feet.
The flow-through design is ideal for keeping it clean and keeping maintenance costs to a minimum. An installation kit is sold separately, and unless you are a capable handyman, it might pay to get a professional to install this unit for you.
The unit comes with a manual humidistat, but Honeywell does have an automatic version available to make this more hassle-free. Ensure that you connect to the cold water, not hot water supply. If your area has “hard” water you may need to replace the filter during the cold season as calcification occurs.
This humidifier, from the same stable as the White console version we reviewed earlier, now presents as a 3700 square feet Copper Night. This very attractive unit, which looks more like a piece of furniture, will be a great addition to the home. With a 5.4 gallon capacity and a daily output of 11.83 gallons, this AIRCARE will provide all the comfort you need in a larger home.
This humidifier features a four-speed motor, analog controls, digital display, and adjustable humidistat with auto shut-off. The fill tank has a 2.5-gallon capacity and the cabinet also holds 2.5 gallons giving a total 5-gallon capacity. Depending on outside temperature this unit will run for 2- days before needing a refill.
Humidifiers for cold-weather comfort are always the main feature but don’t forget about the quality of the air you breathe, this is where the air purifier comes into its own.
The Coway Airmega has a bright LED ring on the front of the unit giving you a real-time readout of the quality of the air in your home. The Smart Mode feature automatically adjusts to the environment and will select the appropriate fan speed dependent on the quality of the air. This makes it a very energy-efficient unit.
The Airmega draws “dirty air” from two sides, pushes this air out through the top after having passed through the filters. The pre-filter will catch larger particles such as hair, animal fur, and dust to protect the Max2 filter.
This is the filter that does the real work, having a combination of activated carbon and a True HEPA filter. This will capture 99.97% of air particles 0.3 microns, as well as pollens, pollutants, and allergens. 99% of fumes and volatile organic compounds are also removed.
On the top of the console are the filter indicators telling when cleaning or replacement is required.
How does a whole house humidifier work?
Whole-house humidifiers add water vapor in the form of steam or mist into the air in your home through the normal central ducting system This vapor can be produced either by electrodes or by blowing hot air over a vaporizing filter.
Do whole-house humidifiers really work?
They really do relieve the symptoms of dry nose, lips, and mouth, dry itchy skin, and they definitely make winter feel more comfortable.
How much does a whole-house humidifier cost?
Depending on the type, the total cost with installation can range from $600 to $1600 or more. Portable or room humidifiers are much cheaper.
Do whole-house humidifiers cause mold?
Yes, it is possible, especially in poorly ventilated areas such as the attic.
Humidifiers offer many benefits in most environments. In extremely cold and dry regions a whole-house humidifier is a must and there are plenty of options to suit your requirements and your pocket.
Keep warm and stay healthy.
This article was last updated on March 9, 2021 .