Top 5 Best Whole House Humidifiers (2021 Review, Built-In, Portable)

best whole house humidifier

Nothing is worse than having a home in a cold climate with super dry air.

Dry air can cause nose bleeds, itchy skin, static electricity, and even shrink your hardwood floors.

If you wake up in the morning with a parched mouth and throat—feeling awful—then you may need a device that will put moisture back into your home (and not just a single room). The main recommendation by the EPA is that we should strive to keep our homes indoor relative humidity between 30% and 50% to minimize health problems and for a comfortable environment..

There are two main types of whole house humidifiers that can fix the problems of dry air...

  1. Built-In & Ducted. These centralized HVAC humidifiers are installed onto the ductwork of your HVAC system, usually right next to your furnace or heat pump.
  2. Console. The console type of whole home humidifier is a portable free-standing humidifier that can humidify an entire home (much larger than desktop units) — and you can just plug it in a regular 120-volt outlet. 

The main difference between the two appliances is that the built-in whole house humidifier is connected to the HVAC ductwork and therefor can easily send moisturized air into each and every room. With console humidifiers, it is more difficult to humidify the entire home especially if there are multiple levels and rooms with their doors shut. I invite you to read my complete and detailed guide on the pros and cons of whole house humidifiers here.

Nevertheless, both types are very useful appliances that will increase and control your indoor relative humidity — keeping the problems of dry air at bay. In this guide, I will go over how to choose a whole house humidifier for your home as well as my top picks for the best whole home humidifier. 

Below is a quick list of my top picks for the best HVAC humidifiers. Keep reading to learn how to choose the best one, key buying criteria, and my complete reviews of each product.

Model:

1. AprilAire 800

2. AirCare Console

3. AprilAire 500M

4. AirCare Pedestal

5. AirCare 831000

Photo:

Aprilaire - 800Z 800 Whole Home Steam Humidifier, Automatic Steam Humidifier, Large Capacity Whole House Humidifier for Homes up to 6,200 Sq. Ft.
AIRCARE MA Whole-House Console-Style Evaporative Humidifier (Mini-Console)
Aprilaire - 500MZ 500M Whole Home Humidifier, Manual Compact Furnace Humidifier, Large Capacity Whole House Humidifier for Homes up to 3,000 Sq. Ft.
AIRCARE Digital Whole-House Pedestal-Style Evaporative Humidifier (Espresso)
AIRCARE Space-Saver Evaporative Whole House Humidifier (2,700 sq ft)

Dimensions (W x L x D):

10" x 21" x 7"

18" x 12" x 16.5"

16" x 13" x 10"

18" x 18" x 27"

12" x 22" x 17"

Type:

HVAC

Console

HVAC

Console

Console

Capacity:

12-35 gallons

2.5 gallons

12 gallons

3.5 gallons

6 gallons

Home Size:

up to 6,200-sf

up to 2,600-sf

up to 3,000-sf

up to 2,400-sf

up to 2,700-sf

Weight:

25-lbs

8.5-lbs

8-lbs

27-lbs

14-lbs

Warranty:

5 years

2 years

5 years

2 years

2 years

Our Rating:

Price:

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

Updated On October 15, 2021

We chose the AprilAire 800 because it a whole house humidifier that produces high quality steam to humidity your entire home. This high capacity humidifier can put out 12-35 gallons per day. It also uses a dual sensor system (indoor humidistat and outdoor thermostat) to control your indoor humidity with precision. AprilAire offers a 5-year limited warranty with this central humidifier.

Top 5 Whole Home Humidifiers

In a hurry? Check out our top 5 whole house humidifiers! Keep reading to discover more about our top picks.

  1. AprilAire 800 (best steam)
  2. AirCare Console (best console)
  3. AprilAire 500M (best evaporative)
  4. AirCare Pedestal (best pedestal)
  5. AirCare 831000 (best space saver)

Console Vs. Built-In Humidifiers (How It Works)

One of the biggest steps in picking the best whole house humidifier is the choice between a central (HVAC installed) whole house humidifier and a console humidifier.

I don't think there is any disputing within the home industry that nothing compares with central humidification systems that are installed on your HVAC ductwork. These machines can operate automatically, and send the right moisture to each and every room of the house (even if the doors are closed).

Nevertheless, these ducted humidifiers can be costly and difficult to install while a console humidifier can moisturize an entire home or large room and do a pretty good job (without the headaches). Here is how each humidifier type works:

1. Console Style

Console whole house humidifiers are a great option for some homeowners who don't want to break the bank. These large whole house humidifiers are appliances that you can put in a living room or hallway. And yes, they are portable humidifiers, but they are much bigger and heavier than the common desktop style humidifiers that most people have.

How much moisture can a console put out?

Console humidifiers can put out a whopping 3-7 gallons of moisture into your home each day. This is usually far less than a built-in whole house humidifiers, but it may be sufficient for a single level or for a moderately sized home, and it is considerably more than desktop humidifiers. If you have a large home, these console whole home humidifiers generally won't work well.

For these console humidifiers, you will have to refill the water tank pretty frequently. How often may be 1-2 times a day, or it up to a few days at most. The refill frequency depends on the size of the console humidifier, the dryness of the air, and the fan speed. Console humidifiers also have a wick that you will to change every 1-3 months.

2. Central HVAC Humidifiers

Built-in whole house humidifiers are literally screwed into the HVAC ductwork, usually right above or next to the indoor furnace or heat pump. These HVAC whole house humidifiers usually have a daily moisture capacity of around 10 to 30 gallons per day. These units are the best choice if you want to deliver humidity throughout the whole house.

There are three main types of central humidifiers:

Steam Type

Probably the highest quality type of home humidifier system is the steam type. Rather than sending liquid water down an 'evaporator pad', steam humidifiers super heats the water using a heating element or electrodes and turns the water into steam. For more details, you can read my complete guide on the best steam HVAC humidifiers right here.

With steam humidifiers, it is usually far easier to reach your desired indoor humidity level because the moisture output is much higher than conventional humidifiers. Steam whole home humidifiers are much more energy efficient and are less wasteful of water.

Bypass Type

The bypass type of central humidifier uses a 'bypass duct' which connects the whole house humidifier to the HVAC main duct, and it is likely the most common type of whole house humidifier. Bypass humidifier models do not have their own fan, so they can only work when the furnace or HVAC is actually turned on.

top best rated whole house humidifier reviews bypass

Bypass type whole house humidifier

The bypass duct siphons off some of the HVAC air flow, and this air goes through the humidifier which sends moistened air back into the main HVAC duct—and throughout the entire home. A small stream of water trickles down an “evaporator panel” or pad which is what gives moisture to the air when air blows over it.

The upsides to the bypass whole home humidifier system is that they are simpler humidifiers (no power or fan) and far less expensive than steam units. 

The negatives of these humidifiers is the necessity of a  bypass duct that needs to be installed (if there is room). These whole home humidifiers do not have high moisture output which may make it more difficult for you to reach your desired humidity. Basically, bypass humidifiers are less efficient than the fan-powered type or steam type.

I invite you to read my full guide on steam vs. evaporative built-in humidifiers here for more information.

top best rated whole house humidifier reviews

Fan powered type whole house humidifier

Powered Type

The powered type HVAC humidifier has it's own power supply and it's own fan. This home humidifier doesn't need the HVAC to be on for it to be running. It is more efficient than the bypass because less moisture is lost since it doesn't have to pass through the coil and heat exchanger (like the bypass type). A powered fan type of humidifier can send about 1 gallon more moisture into the air in a day than the bypass type. The downsides are that the fan-powered type is more expensive and will be costlier to repair.

You may want to check out my complete guide on how whole house humidifiers work here.

6 Important Buying Factors

Purchasing the right whole house humidifier that is sized correctly for your home is crucial, but it isn't the only buying consideration. The cost of whole home humidifier systems varies widely, from less than $200 to upwards of $1500 (cost & labor). Here are a few of the most important buying factors:

1. Size of Home

The size of your home is going to be a crucial factor in your central humidifier decision. Both console and HVAC humidifiers will give you the manufacturer recommendation for the maximum home size.

Most console whole house humidifiers will be rated for homes in the 2,000 to 3,000 square foot range. Built-in whole home humidifiers are usually in the 2,500 to 6,000 square foot arena.

Also, instead of pushing the limit for a console whole home humidifier, it may be a better choice to get a smaller unit but multiple humidifiers such as one for each home level.

2. Budget

The budget is another key buying consideration with central home humidifiers. There is a significant price difference between HVAC humidifiers and console humidifiers.

Adding up the cost of installation is a big factor

When you factor in the cost of the HVAC humidifier such as all of the installation materials, and the professional labor cost — it can be several times more expensive than the console. As an example, the AprilAire 800 steam humidifier, when you consider the cost and labor, may total more than $1,500.

With console humidifiers, you can get a decent model for a home up to 2,500-sf at less than $250.

3. Water Capacity (Gallons)

Another important consideration after choosing the type of humidifier is the water capacity. Console whole house humidifiers have the lowest capacity, and usually put out only 3-7 gallons of water per day.  As you can imagine, delivering the desired humidity throughout a large home with a console humidifier can be a difficult task.

In contrast, furnace whole house humidifiers can deliver anywhere from 12 to 30 gallons of water per day. Of course, the down side is that HVAC whole house humidifiers are more difficult to install, and the overall cost can be much more mainly due to the labor.

4. Thermal Envelope of Home

The thermal envelope is basically how well your home is insulated and air-sealed. If you have old single-paned windows, poor attic insulation, leaky air ducts, and lack of external wall insulation — it is going to be harder to humidify your home (as well as heat it).

How well insulated and air-sealed is your home?

If you have an older and leakier home, you may need to get a whole home humidifier that has a higher capacity, or you may need more than one humidifier.

5. Runtime

Runtime is the amount of time a console humidifier will run prior to having to fill it again with water. HVAC humidifiers don't have this issue because it is directly connected to the home's water supply.

With some portable whole home humidifiers, you will need to fill it up 2-3 times a day if you use it continuously or on a high speed setting. With other humidifiers, you may only need to fill it up every few days.

6. Ease of Filling

Some console humidifiers are also easier to fill up with water than others. There are humidifiers with removable water tanks where you can remove it and take it to the sink to fill it up. But even if it doesn't have the removable 'bottle style', you can always buy a pitcher to make it easier to fill it up.

The weight of the unit can also be a factor if you just want to lift it up to a sink and fill it up. Some humidifiers can be more than 20-lbs which can make it more challenging to lift it and fill it for some users. Also, some humidifiers have tiny water spouts which can make it frustrating to fill it.

Safety Considerations

Even though whole home humidifiers provide a lot of health benefits, they can also turn against you if it isn't properly maintained. Probably the biggest hazard of humidifiers is the mold risk, and the second is the possibility of water damage. Here are a few safety considerations when you buy a whole house humidifier:

1. Mold Inside Console Units

The biggest hazard with console humidifiers is mold growth. You may be running a console humidifier for quite a while without realizing there is mold growth inside the machine. The easiest way to prevent mold growth in a console humidifier is to regularly treat the water tank with a tablet/liquid bacteriostatic treatment.

A bacteriostatic liquid is an anti-microbial agent that will kill and prevent mold growth in the water tank and on the wick.  Since it inhibits mold and mildew growth, it should also make the unit run better and extend the life of the wick. If you want to learn more about preventing mold, you can read my complete guide on whole house humidifiers and mold right here.

Regular Cleaning And Wick Changes

Besides a bacteriostatic solution, you should also clean the humidifier regularly as specified by the manufacturer. For most humidifiers, you can clean it with a white vinegar solution. You don't want to use bleach because it can damage the humidifier and may release it into the air. You will also need to change the wick at least every heating season, but possibly as often as every 1-2 months.

2. Excess Moisture & Mold With HVAC Humidifiers

One of the biggest risks with ducted humidifiers also has to do with mold, but it is usually external to the humidifier (not inside it). With central HVAC humidifiers, it is pretty easy to over-humidify your home, especially if you have a high capacity humidifier. And if you don't control the humidity level properly based on the outdoor temperature, you may release far too much moisture into the home.

If you notice condensation on your windows, that is probably the biggest indicator that there is too much moisture. This excess moisture can lead to mold growth around the home such as on the walls, on the roof sheathing and joists in the attic, and around the window trim, baseboards, and door trim. You should always be monitoring the indoor relative humidity with a simple $10 humidistat.

3. Water Damage

Whenever you have a home appliance that uses water, there is a risk of flooding or water damage. With console humidifiers, you are risking a limited amount of water such as a 3-6 gallons (the size of the water tank). But with central humidifiers, it can cause significant water damage if there is a leak since it is connected to the plumbing.

This is even more true if the whole house humidifier is installed in an attic where the leak can trickle down to the lower levels. So if you plan on installing an HVAC humidifier in an attic, finished basement, or on a main level — I highly recommend installing a water alarm. Water alarms will make an audible sound if it detects water on the ground (or in the HVAC pan) and some can even be WiFi connected so you get an alert on your phone.

What Are The Benefits?

There are some significant health and environmental benefits to having an adequately humidified home during the cold season. If you have ever woken up with a scratchy throat, itchy eyes, itchy skin — you know how bad dry air can be. Here are a few of the benefits of buying a whole house humidifier:

Reduces Flu & Viruses

There are numerous scientific studies that show how dry air facilitates the transmission of viruses and other pathogens. For example, the amount of moisture in the air affects the airborne survival and transmission of the influenza virus.

The basic idea is when someone is sick they release tiny droplets that can travel much farther in dry air. In properly humidified air, these tiny droplets are more likely to just fall to the ground than to get dispersed around a large area. Also, in dry air, it is more difficult to clear airborne viruses from your nasal passages.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is the plague of homes in cold climates. Dry air can even result in winter itch or winter xerosis which can produce an itchy sensation all over the body.  It can get so bad that the occupant may think they have poison ivy or some other malady. Having the proper humidification during winter (30-50%) can relieve dry skin problems and make your entire body feel more comfortable.

Save On Energy Bill

When your air is drier, it actually feels cooler. So when you add humidity to your home, the air holds more heat, and you feel warmer. This means that you can turn down the HVAC temperature and still feel comfortable.

It is estimated that for every one degree that you turn down the HVAC temp, you can save 3% on your energy bill.

Static Shocks

Static electricity shocks can be a frustrating problem in a home with dry air.  Drier air is more likely to result in a buildup of static electricity, and since air moisture is a natural conductor --- static shocks are the result. Adding humidity to the indoor air will help prevent static electricity shocks.

Protect Wood & Furnishings

Dry air can shrink, warp, and crack your home's interior wood. Whether it is your wood flooring, furniture, cabinets — it can damage these precious objects.

Dry air can also cause damage to costly musical instruments. And even your books, paintings, and pictures aren't immune from the hazards of dry air.

Installation & Maintenance (Console)

Installing a console type of whole house humidifier really isn't difficult at all. You simply fill the water tank, turn on the unit, and set the desired indoor humidity. There are usually different fan speeds you can select as well. Here are a few installation and maintenance considerations:

Where to place it?

The best place to put a console whole home humidifier is in a central location. If you have a three level home, you would want to put it on the second level, and preferably towards the middle. You also want to keep it at least 6-inches from the walls to avoid any kind of moisture damage and to maximize air flow.

You may want to also consider placing the humidifier near a return vent for your HVAC system. The return vent is the one or two large rectangular vents which serves as the 'intake vents' for your HVAC system. So when your furnace or heat pump turns on, it will suck in the humidified air into the return vent and send it out throughout the entire home.

Refilling The Water Tank

One of the biggest downsides with console humidifiers is the continuous need to fill up the water tank. When the tank goes dry, your home goes dry. And with some consoles, it can be a pain to fill it up with water.

You may want to consider buying a large plastic pitcher to make it easier to fill it up. Also, some consoles have 'water bottles' that you can separate from the unit so you can fill it up at the sink.

Bacteriostatic Solution

A bacteriostatic treatment is an anti-microbial liquid or tablet that you can insert into the water tank to prevent mold and mildew growth. Mold sometimes grows in the humidifier or water tank that you may not be able to easily see. Needless to say, a humidifier that spews out mold spores into your indoor air is the last thing somebody wants.

Cleaning & Wick Replacement

Console humidifiers also require regular cleaning. And if you don't use distilled water (probably won't since these units are big), mineral deposits will build up on the unit and the wick. The mineral buildup means you will need to change the wick at least every 1-3 months. Cleaning the console humidifier with a vinegar solution will also be needed (don't use bleach).

Refilling The Water Tank

One of the biggest downsides with console humidifiers is the continuous need to fill up the water tank. When the tank goes dry, your home goes dry. And with some consoles, it can be a pain to fill it up with water.

You may want to consider buying a large plastic pitcher to make it easier to fill it up. Also, some consoles have 'water bottles' that you can separate from the unit so you can fill it up at the sink.

Buy A Humidistat

You can purchase a cheap $10 humidistat to monitor your indoor humidity levels. In addition to the humidity sensor on the console, monitoring the humidity with a separate humidistat is highly recommended. The EPA recommends to shoot for a minimum of 30% indoor humidity and a maximum of 50%.

Too much humidity can be just as bad as too little humidity, and overly high moisture will fog the windows and lead to mold growth.

Installation & Maintenance (Built-In)

For the HVAC whole house humidifier, the installation is much more of a challenge. In general, installing an HVAC humidifier isn’t for a homeowner with little or no DIY skills. On average it will take at least a few hours to  install a whole house humidifier onto ductwork and possibly longer. Below are a few installation considerations:

Wiring & 220V

With some units, you will have to install the humidifier into the furnace wiring and tie it into your thermostat. With other humidifiers, very little wiring is required. HVAC home humidifiers are installed at the furnace (or heat pump) on the supply or return side.

For higher powered central humidifiers, you will probably need to hook it up to a 220-volt circuit if you want it to run at full capacity. This means you may need to route a new 220-volt line to the HVAC utility room or attic — and install a disconnect. If there isn't an existing outlet by your heat pump or furnace, you may need to wire a new outlet to plug in the humidifier.

Ductwork

For bypass or fan-powered humidifiers, you will need to will have to cut into the ductwork, and the humidifier will be inserted into the circular cut and fastened with some screws.

Drainage

All central HVAC humidifiers need drainage. You will need to know where you are going to drain the humidifier if you purchase a bypass, powered, or steam humidifier. Does your utility room already have a floor drain? You can then send the humidifier water to the floor drain.

If you don’t have a floor drain, you may be able to send it to an existing sump pump or to a condensate pump. The condensate pump (which may be right next to the furnace already) or the sump pump will send the water to the outside or possibly to a utility sink.

Control Options

Controlling a whole house humidifier is usually a 'set it and forget it' affair, but there are a few things to consider such as the outdoor temperature and even connecting it to a smart thermostat.

Auto Mode

Pretty much all whole home humidifiers have an auto mode where you can set the desired humidity level. The humidifier will turn on and off as the humidity reaches that level and drops below it. The possible downside is the 'swing' may be too low, and even if it just drops one percent in humidity it may cause the humidifier to 'short cycle' — turning on and off too often.

Fan Speeds

With console humidifiers, there are usually between 1-5 fan speeds which are independent or work together with auto mode. If you have issues with the noise level of the console unit, you can set it to a lower fan speed. But if you want a faster degree of humidification, you can set it to a high fan speed.

Humidistat

All humidifiers have a humidistat which is basically a sensor for indoor relative humidity. You can control the humidistat setting to let's say 45% indoor humidity, so the whole house humidifier will keep pumping moisture into the air until that 45% level is hit—then it will automatically turn off.

Outdoor Temperature Sensor

Some central humidifiers such as the Aprilaire 800 humidifier also have an outdoor temperature sensor (in addition to an interior humidistat) which helps it regulate indoor humidity to an even greater degree.

The indoor humidity isn't stable since it is based on the outdoor temperature. If the temperature suddenly drops outside, but you keep the indoor target humidity at the same level — then this may cause a large increase of indoor moisture. This is because when the outdoor temperature drops, the air naturally becomes drier. When the outdoor temperature drops, you need to reduce the indoor humidity target.

If there isn't an outdoor temp sensor, you will have to try to anticipate the outdoor temperature and manually adjust the humidity level.

Smart Thermostat

You may be able to control your HVAC humidifier with a smart thermostat. And there is a possibility that you can even program it to adjust the humidity levels based on the outdoor temperature.

But even if the smart thermostat can't adjust it in conjunction with the outdoor temperature, a smart thermostat will allow you to set alerts and control the humidifier through the thermostat or even a phone app.

Our Reviews Of The Best House Humidifier Systems

Aprilaire - 800Z 800 Whole Home Steam Humidifier, Automatic Steam Humidifier, Large Capacity Whole House Humidifier for Homes up to 6,200 Sq. Ft.

Home Size:

up to 6,200-sf

Dimensions (w x h x d):

10" x 21" x 7"

Capacity:

12-35 gallons a day

Sensor:

Indoor & outdoor

Weight:

25-lbs

Warranty:

5 year limited (void if DIY install)

My Rating:

The AprilAire 800 is my overall top pick for the best whole house humidifier and suitable for homes up to 6,200-sf. AprilAire is the industry leader in humidification — even the original inventor of the evaporative whole house humidifier.

Unlike most other humidifiers, this AprilAire humidifier system is a steam generator which is a higher quality moisture than through evaporation. This steam whole house humidifier can put out a grand total of 11.5 to 34.6 gallons of water per day — and with 6 different levels of steam output. The AprilAire 800 comes with pretty much everything you need for the installation including the valves, a 6-foot steam hose, 10-feet of drain tubing, and the sensors/controls.

No Cleaning Needed

One huge plus of this steam humidification unit is that there is no cleaning needed after each season. All you have to do is replace the canister once each year which also replaces the electrodes. Cleaning evaporative whole house humidifiers (and changing the 'pad') can be a hassle, and I have seen numerous poorly maintained humidifiers in my home inspector career. Humidifiers that are 'covered' in white mineral deposits.

Dual Sensors

Unlike almost all evaporative whole house humidifiers, the AprilAire 800 comes with dual sensors to control the unit. This means it comes with an outdoor temperature sensor and an indoor relative humidity sensor. This allows the steam humidifier to control the steam output automatically without any human input — set it and forget it. One big problem if the humidifier doesn't sense the outdoor temperature is that it can lead to far too much moisture in the home — leading to possible mold issues.

Water Filtration

The AprilAire 800 doesn't work well if you have a whole house water filter. In fact, it degrades the steam output, and the humidifier needs a degree of hardness for it to work properly (3 to 35 grains). So if you have a whole house water filter, you will probably need to plumb it to the main water line prior to the whole house water filter.

240-Volts For Max Capacity

If you want to get the absolute maximum steam output from your AprilAire, you will need to run it on a 240-volt dedicated circuit. This means that you may need to run a new 240V line from your electrical panel to the humidifier. 

Potential of High Electric Bill

If you live in an arid state such as Utah or Colorado, your electric bill may increase significantly with this unit due to its high load. Just be aware that there is a cost to get a high quality steam output, and that it will increase your power bill. How much depends on the size of your home, the overall sealing of your home (and ductwork), and other considerations.

Warranty

The AprilAire 800 comes with a limited 5-year manufacturer warranty, but apparently if you don't use a licensed contractor to install this system —it voids the warranty.

Pros
  • High quality steam output (12-35 gallons a day)
  • Dual sensors to automatically control steam output (outdoor temp + indoor humidity)
  • No cleaning needed (just replace canister yearly)
Cons
  • Possibly high electric bill
  • Must connect to 240V for highest capacity
  • Professional install required to keep warranty

AIRCARE MA Whole-House Console-Style Evaporative Humidifier (Mini-Console)

Home Size:

up to 2,600-sf

Dimensions (WxLxH):

18" x 12" x 6.5"

Capacity:

2.5 gallons

Weight:

8.5-lbs

Warranty:

2 years limited

My Rating:

AirCare is the leader of console whole house humidifiers, with a huge line of humidifier products. My top pick for the best console type of whole house humidifier goes to their MA0800 console style model. Console whole house humidifiers have a much greater capacity than normal desktop humidifiers, and are usually rated for large spaces like 2,000-sf and up.

This humidifier has a capacity of 2.5 gallons (they also have a 3.6 gallon model) and is rated for homes up to 2,600-feet. Unlike other whole house humidifiers, this unit has a pretty easy bottle system so you can remove it for the filling. It comes with four settings --- low, medium, and high speed settings --- and an auto mode.

Short Cycling

One downside of this unit is the auto mode is very sensitive. Unlike most HVAC systems, there is a non-existent swing mode setting for the humidity levels. This means that if you use auto mode and set it to 37% — once it drops one percent the unit will turn on for maybe a minute and then turn off again. The 'short cycling' in auto mode can get annoying quickly.

Filter Changes

You may be able to just clean the filter with water and vinegar rather than constantly buying new filters. The filters used to cost around $6 a piece, but now they are priced at more than $30 for a set of two. Depending on how much you use the humidifier, it may get pretty expensive to always be buying new filters. Also, if you add a liquid bacteriostatic treatment into the water reservoir for each filling, this should help prevent mildew or mold growth — and it will keep the filter in better shape (hopefully extend the life).

Pros
  • Up to 2,600-sf homes
  • Reliability from leading manufacturer AirCare
  • Auto mode and three fan speeds
  • Easy to fill water bottle (and also removable)
Cons
  • Short cycling in auto mode (may get annoying)
  • May have to buy new filters too often (depending on usage)

Aprilaire - 500MZ 500M Whole Home Humidifier, Manual Compact Furnace Humidifier, Large Capacity Whole House Humidifier for Homes up to 3,000 Sq. Ft.

Home Size:

up to 3.000-sf

Dimensions (WxHxD):

15-5/8" x 13" x 10-1/4"

Capacity:

12 gallon a day

Weight:

8-lbs

Warranty:

5 year limited (void if DIY install)

Price:

$$$$$

My Rating:

Needless to say, AprilAire is the industry leader in whole house humidifiers. In my view, the follow up winner after their steam unit (Model 800) is the 500M. There is also a second model 500MZ that comes with some parts that you need for the installation.

The 500M is their rugged and time-tested whole house humidifier that uses evaporation for their humidification machine. Basically, water gets dripped onto a 'pad' or evaporator panel, and when the furnace is on, it sucks in the moist air through a small bypass duct and then throughout the entire home.

The 500M is significantly less expensive than the 800 model, but it is also more 'hands on' and low tech. This model is suitable for homes up to about 3,000 square feet, and it can put out up to 12-gallons a day of moisture. It comes with a 5-year limited warranty with a professional installation (you can't do a DIY install and keep the warranty).

Single Sensor

Probably the biggest downside (and one reason it is cheaper) is that it comes with a single humidistat sensor. Unlike the 800, this doesn't come with an outdoor temperature sensor, so it doesn't adjust the humidity level automatically.

You will need to anticipate the swings of outdoor temperature so you can adjust the humidistat accordingly. If you fail to adjust it, you may get way too much moisture inside your home if the outdoor temperature suddenly drops.

Wastes Water

Of course, all humidifiers waste water to one degree or another, but some customers find the low tech water valve frustrating. Basically, the water valve does not adjust its output based on need — the volume of water into the humidifier will always be the same even if less is needed.

You may also notice a drop in your water supply pressure with the installation of the humidifier.

Install Kit

The second model 500MZ comes with some parts for installation, but you shouldn't expect it to come with everything. You can expect to make a few trips to the hardware store.

Pros
  • Significantly less expensive than steam units
  • Model 500MZ with 'installation kit' has most of what you need for install
Cons
  • Missing outdoor temp sensor so you must adjust manually
  • Doesn't module water based on humidity so wastes water

AIRCARE Digital Whole-House Pedestal-Style Evaporative Humidifier (Espresso)

Home Size:

up to 2,400-sf

Dimensions (LxWxH):

18" x 18" x 27"

Capacity:

3.5 gallon

Weight:

27-lbs

Warranty:

2 year limited

Price:

$$$$$

My Rating:

If you are looking for a whole house humidifier that isn't an ugly eyesore (and won't break the bank) — then the EP9800 is for you. This console humidifier by AirCare is a pedestal style unit that functions as a humidifier and a table. It has a 12" x 12" tile on the top which is replaceable with a ceramic tile of your choice that matches your decor.

This whole house humidifier doesn't need to be installed on your ductwork, and it is rated for homes up to 2,400 square feet. It has a 3.5 gallon capacity which you fill up on the side, and it contains a wick filter that needs to be changed every 1-3 months.

One cool feature with the EP9800 is that there is a dry out indicator. This means that if it detects your water level is almost gone, it will run the humidifier at low speed until the filter is totally dry, and then it will turn off.

Refilling With Water

Unlike a furnace-connected whole house humidifier, this pedestal style unit must be consistently refilled with water. Some customers have complained about the difficulty of filling it through its small funnel, and you may need to take off the top to do it easily. If you use this humidifier all day, you can expect to fill it with water at least 2/3 times a day.

Filter Changes

Also, instead of changing the filter annually like with a HVAC humidifier unit — you will need to change the filter every 1-3 months. If you live in an arid state like Utah or Colorado, you should probably expect to replace the filter every 30 days.

This is an expected and regular cost with whole house humidifiers, and you may also want to buy some bacteriostatic treatment to prevent mold growth.

Pros
  • Pedestal style so you can use it as a stylish table
  • Not too heavy so you can move it to where you want it
  • Auto dry out sensor (will turn off unit when water runs out)
Cons
  • Regular filter changes
  • Need to fill with water 2/3 times a day
  • Noise may be annoying at higher speeds

AIRCARE Space-Saver Evaporative Whole House Humidifier (2,700 sq ft)

Home Size:

up to 2,700-sf

Dimensions (HxWxD):

22.5" x 12.5" x 17.5"

Capacity:

6 gallons

Weight:

14-lbs

Warranty:

2 years limited

Price:

$$$$$

My Rating:

You may think I'm biased towards AirCare, but they make some of the best console whole house humidifiers. This model is the AirCare 831000 and it is a compact humidifier that can still put out a hefty amount of humidity. This 'space saving' whole house humidifier is rated for houses up to 2,700-sf, and it even includes caster wheels on the bottom which makes it easy to move around.

With the 6-gallon capacity, AirCare says that it can run for up to 70-hours, though that may be only on low speed. The unit has 3 fan speeds, and it features a refill indicator and a check filter indicator to help you stay on top of maintenance. The 6-gallon water reservoir is really easy to clean which is important to prevent mold, and the whole thing is easy to put together—no tools needed.

Plastic Materials

One downside is that the humidifier is made out of cheap materials, but that is why it costs less than $150. The float switch is also poorly designed and is prone to breaking. The float is the switch that turns on/off the humidifier based on the water level. If your float switch breaks, you may have to source a new clip to hold it in place — or you may have to DIY a fix with wire or tape.

Maintenance

Like all other console whole house humidifiers, the biggest negative is the constant filling up of the water reservoir. If you use it continuously, you likely will have to fill it up 2/3 times a day — depending on the fan speed that you choose. There is also the possibility of mold growth on the filter and reservoir, but that problem can be mitigated with liquid bacteriostatic which should kill any mold.

Pros
  • Up to 2,700-sf homes
  • Caster wheels for easy moving room to room
  • Low water and check filter  indicator for maintenance
  • 6-gallon capacity
Cons
  • Cheap plastic materials
  • Poorly designed float switch (prone to breaking)

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Arie Van Tuijl

Arie Van Tuijl

I am a licensed home inspector in two U.S. states and the founder of Home Inspector Secrets. After performing hundreds of inspections, and seeing thousands of house defects, I realized people would love to have an online resource dedicated to home maintenance. I write detailed home guides and product reviews sprinkled with inspection tips. You can read my bio here.

About Home Inspector Secrets

Home Inspector Secrets is an online resource for owners, buyers, and sellers to understand all aspects of home maintenance. We have detailed home guides, product reviews, inspection advice, and much more.

Other Home Guides

Looking to learn more about home maintenance? Check out our other informative home product reviews and guides!