Want to know the pros and cons of whole house humidifiers?
Central home humidifiers are a great way to add moisture to a home when it is too dry.
In this guide, I will go over...
- The benefits of whole home humidifiers
- Downsides of a portable units
- Maintenance requriements for humidifiers for HVAC systems
- The advantages of whole home humidifiers connected to the air ducts
Let's get started with this guide!
What Is A Whole House Humidifier?
A whole house humidifier is a moisture-giving humidifier not just for a room, but rather for an entire home. There are two main types of whole home humidifiers...
Portable Whole Home Humidifier
These humidifiers are free-standing products that will inject controlled humidity to your entire home. They are not connected to ductwork, and are frequently called pedestal style humidifiers.
These are basically your small humidifiers (the type you would see on a desk) but on steroids. The portable whole house humidifiers are generally rated for homes up to around 2500 square feet.
HVAC-Installed Whole Home Humidifiers
The HVAC inline whole house humidifiers are installed on your ductwork, right next to your furnace or indoor air handler. Depending on the humidifier, they are usually installed before or after the furnace filter, and newer humidifers have powered fans that circulate moisture into the duct system.
Most of these humidifiers will turn on automatically when the furnace or heat is turned on --- and are automatically controlled with a humidistat (basically a thermostat but for humidity).
Whole House Humidifiers Vs Room Humidifiers
The main difference between whole home humidifiers and room humidifiers is size. Room humidifiers are much smaller products that have less than a gallon water tank.
Pedestal whole home humidifiers are generally rated for homes up to around 2500 square feet and inline furnace humidifiers are good for homes up to around 5000 square feet. For larger homes, more than one can be installed.
What Are Whole House Humidifier Pros?
Undoubtedly there are some big advantages to having a central home humidifier. During the cold season, the air can become uncomfortably dry. Who wants to live in the Sahara desert, really?
Here are some of the top pros of owning a whole house humidifier…
Pro #1. Automatic Humidity Control
With both portable and HVAC whole house humidifiers --- the biggest benefit is that they automatically control indoor humidity and keep it at a comfortable level.
When it is cold outside, and the heat is turned on, the air is naturally drier. This dry air tends to exacerbate allergies, dry skin, creaking floors, and is just not comfortable.
Whole home humidifiers have humidistats so you can set the desired humidity in your home, say 40% --- and the central home humidifier will pump out moisture until it reaches 40% relative humidity.
According to Stanford, when indoor humidity rises above 50%, there is an increased likelihood of mold and bacterial growth. And with the automatic control of a whole house humidifier, this isn’t something you will need to worry about.
Read Also: The Best Whole House Humidifiers (Review)
Pro #2. Low Maintenance
This pro is largely for HVAC inline whole home humidifiers. With the ducted humidifiers, you basically just have to change the evaporator panel (filter) once a year, and at that time, it's also a good idea to give it a good wipe down to get rid of any mineral (scale) debris.
The maintenance is almost non-existence except for this once a year evaporator panel change. These panels are typically in the $10 range, and can be swapped out in a minute or two.
That’s about it. Once a year, you will have to do a few minutes of maintenance for the rest of the year.
With portable whole home humidifiers, the maintenance is more of an ongoing thing. It is generally recommended to clean a portable humidifier every two weeks and to also add an anti-microbial agent to the basin.
Besides this two week cleaning schedule, you will also have to regularly fill the basin with water. How often depends on the size of the basin, and how often it is used.
Read Also: The Best Washable HVAC Filters (Review)
Pro #3. Easy Installation
This benefit is mainly for the pedestal style whole home humidifier. A furnace central humidifier is definitely more work since there is a water line, electrical connections, and cutting ductwork.
However, with a pedestal humidifier, there really isn't much too it. You just place it in a central home area, fill the basin with water, plug it in, set the desired humidity --- and that's it.
Pro #4. Indoor Air Quality
Having a properly humidified indoor air environment has proven health benefits as mentioned by the Mayo Clinic. The ideal indoor humidity is in the 35% to 45% range.
Adequate moisture has shown to reduce allergies and other respiratory conditions. Moisture rich air in the 35% to 45% relative humidity level has shown to reduce the incidence of chapped lips, sore throats, dry skin, and sinus irritations.
Besides the health issues, it just makes the living environment much more comfortable, and can also help preserve wood floors, wood furniture, and other home products.
There is also more research coming out relating low humidity levels and increased prevalence of the flu virus. In this research from Yale, they found that mice were much more likely to have hindered immune system responses to Influenza A when exposed to a low humidity environment.
Read Also: How To Prevent Mold In Air Conditioners
What Are Whole Home Humidifier Cons?
Like any home product, there will always be a few downsides for a homeowner to consider in regards to whole home humidifiers….
Con #1. Expense
The upfront expense of a furnace whole home humidifier range from the $150 and all the way up to $800 for high quality steam humidifiers. And if you hire a competent contractor to install the humidifier, you can add another $250 to $500 on top of that.
As a total, it will probably be in the $300 to $1,200 to buy and install a whole house humidifier --- depending on quality and type. If you have an DIY skills, a humidifier for the whole house can be installed in the 2-3 hour range. With most home humidifiers, you will have to buy some additional supplies to install them, and “install kits” are available on Amazon.
However, for portable whole home humidifiers, the cost is generally much less because there really isn't an install cost because you don't have to attach it to the furnace. You will simply have to assemble it, fill the basin with water, and plug it in.
Con #2. Mold & Mildew
As I addressed earlier, HVAC inline whole home humidifiers require very little maintenance, though portable units require frequent cleaning and water changes.
The downside of humidifiers is that if you don't properly maintain them, mold and mildew can grow in your HVAC system or inside the portable humidifier.
Since I have mainly done home inspections in the Northeast USA, I can't even count the number of times I have opened up a furnace to discover mold growing on the inside. Frequently, it is a result of a whole home humidifier add significant quantities of moisture into the system and at the same time rarely changing the furnace air filter.
Dust is a food source for mold, so when you combine excess moisture and dust --- mold can take root.
Even for portable whole home humidifiers, you will still want to clean the unit on a two week schedule and preferably add some type of fungicide to the basin.
Read Also: Does UV Light Kill Mold?
Con #3. Hiding HVAC Air Leaks
A furnance central humidifier may just mask a bigger problem of home air leaks. This is more of a problem with older homes when the building codes were less advanced.
Many times during my home inspections I discover disconnected air ducts, or ducts with large holes or missing tape. If your air ducts are leaky, then the low humidity may have more to do with the unsealed air ducts than anything else.
A poorly insulated and air-sealed attic may also be a big culprit—especially for older homes.
Read Also: Steam Vs Evaporative Whole House Humidifier
Are Whole House Humidifiers Worth It?
In short, there are pros and cons to whole home humidifiers, and you will have to come to your own decision on whether it is worth it for your home. In my opinion, it is definitely considered an upgrade to new home buyer when looking at a home --- so it definitely won't hurt you when it comes to sell.
Sometimes my clients even ask me if the home has a whole house humidifier since they are so popular.
Besides increasing the marketability of your home, the benefits of having better quality air through decreased allergies, chapped lips, dry skin, and creaking wood floors may make it worth your while to buy one.