The Whole House Humidifier: Everything You Need to Know

By Catsup and Mustard
hand reaching out for humidifier

Ever since COVID-19 became part of the new normal, there is no such thing as a sole flu season anymore. Every season is flu season — and it hits harder than usual.

On top of that, the changing weather isn’t helping. The drastic changes during the winter and summer season can affect humidity control in your home, which is a big factor when it comes to flu transmission. Proper humidity levels (between 40 to 60 percent) reduce the transmission of viruses at home.

One of the best ways to improve your home’s humidity levels is to use a whole house humidifier.

Most homes use a small and portable humidifier to add moisture to the air in the room when needed. They are affordable means to improve humidity levels but aren’t ideal if you want to improve the humidity of your entire home. This is where you’ll need a whole house humidifier (also known as a central humidifier) to upgrade your home.

What’s a Whole House Humidifier?

A whole home humidifier is often attached to your house’s HVAC system, which provides a constant flow of moisture to each room. There are different types of whole house humidifiers (which we’ll list down later), but they achieve the same result: add vapor to the air in your home.

Also called a furnace humidifier, this humidifier is connected to your home’s duct system. When you turn it on (some models open automatically), the humidifier adds a controlled amount of moisture to the air that is pushed or pulled by a fan into the duct system and is distributed throughout your home. You can control the amount of humidity with a humidistat, which measures the air’s current moisture levels.

There are three types of whole house humidifiers:

  • Drum humidifiers. This whole home humidifier requires a connection to the water supply and electrical power. The water fills a tray while the drum partially turns in the tray. As the drum rotates, the water emerges into the drum’s center as water vapor. Hot air from the humidifier passes through the drum and introduces moisture to the air.
  • Steam humidifiers. These humidifiers connect to your home’s electrical system and water supply. They heat up the water until it becomes steam. Once the humidifier has turned water into steam, it injects the vapor into your house’s heating ducts.
  • Moisture or flow-through pad humidifiers. This type of whole home humidifier requires no electricity and has no moving parts. The water moistens an evaporator pad, which causes the hot air from the furnace to flow over the pad. It picks up the moisture and adds a stream of air throughout your house.

When Should You Use a Whole House Humidifier?

Ultrasonic cool mist humidifier

When it comes to air quality at home, like humidity, temperature or some other aspect, every person has their comfort preferences. So there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to maximizing your home’s comfort levels, as well as how you can improve the humidity at home for your health.

There are, however, some signs that your home’s air is too dry and requires improvement:

  • If you often have a scratchy or sore throat, suffer from itchy eyes/dry skin or get nosebleeds, it could be an indication that your home’s air is too dry.
  • If your wood cabinets or hardwood floors warp and contract, your home is overly dry. Check for cracking on the paint walls, too.
  • Dry air in homes also increases static electricity, which you can feel when touching doorknobs or furniture or in your clothes.

What are the Benefits of a Whole House Humidifier?

A whole home humidifier integrated with your HVAC system maintains healthy humidity levels throughout your house. Apart from this, it offers other benefits such as:

  • Better health and comfort. Adding moisture to a dry home alleviates problems with allergies and other skin problems. Healthy humidity levels also make you less susceptible to colds and reduce symptoms of asthma. Some studies show that a humidity level of 40 percent or higher drastically increases the effectiveness of flu virus inoculations.
  • Automatic humidity control. With both HVAC and portable whole house humidifiers, they can automatically control humidity levels.
  • Home protection. Proper humidity levels prevent your cabinets and hardwood floors from warping, as well as keep your paint from chipping and cracking on the walls. Reducing the dryness in the air also protects your electronic devices from electronic discharge, which can cause serious damage.
  • Low maintenance. Another big pro for using a whole house humidifier is its low maintenance nature. Some humidifier types only require a change of filters once a year. A good wipe down can also get rid of the dirt stuck in the humidifier. So, tick off your humidifier from the home maintenance list.

How Much Does it Cost to Install a Whole House Humidifier?

The price range of a whole house humidifier is $200 to $1,500 when installed.

Most homeowners spend $600 to $1,500 for steam humidifiers whereas others spend $200 to $700 for evaporative humidifiers. If you want to install the humidifier yourself, you could spend $320.

A few key factors in the cost of a whole home humidifier include:

  • Humidifier type. Steam humidifiers are the most expensive types of whole home humidifiers. If you need to add wiring and a circuit to your home, the cost can be five times higher compared to the other humidifier types.
  • Quality and brand. Honeywell, White Rodgers, Skuttle, Emerson and Aprilaire are some of the best whole house humidifier brands backed by warranties of five or 10 years. They are more expensive compared to “knock-off” brands, but the latter offers only a warranty of one to three years. Most major HVAC brands — Goodman, Trane and Carrier — also manufacture whole house humidifiers with warranties that last up to 10 years.
  • Ductwork or furnace access. Humidifiers are rated per square foot, which usually reaches up to 4,500 square feet.

In terms of installation, the cost factors include:

  • Who installs it. A professional handyman service will cost less than hiring a plumbing/HVAC contractor.
  • Time of the year. If you hire an HVAC contractor during the mid-summer or mid-winter season, their service will cost more compared to off-seasons. If you hire a handyman, spring is their busiest season, so their costs will be higher.
  • Ductwork or furnace access. The difficulty level of the installation, as well as its location, will also affect the cost.

Are Whole Home Humidifiers Worth It?

With the flu season being extended due to COVID-19 and more people staying at home, any investment towards the improvement of your home’s air is worth the price. Apart from reducing your risks for flu, having better air quality decreases your risk for dry skin and allergies, as well as improves your home’s floors.

So yes, a whole house humidifier is worth it.

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