What is a Whole House Humidifier and Why Get One?
If you’re plagued by dry, itchy skin, frequent sore throats, constant congestion and regular nosebleeds, you might be a victim of a surprisingly common problem. As Healthline reports, dry air in the house can cause a host of problems, including increasing your chance of asthma attacks, triggering allergies and making you more susceptible to illness. The effects of dry air on your house are none too pleasant either… if you notice your wooden furniture is splintering, your plaster is cracking, and your paint is peeling, it could very well be the lack of moisture in your home that’s causing the problem. Given how common a complaint dry air is, you’d think someone would have come up with a solution… and you’d be right. Humidifiers can replenish some of that vital lost moisture to your home, re-hydrating your skin, clearing your airways, protecting your sinuses, weighing down the pesky allergens, improving your immunity … the list goes on. Basically, if you want the best health for you and your home, a humidifier is your quickest way of getting it. Convinced? Then let’s take a look at some of the different options available.
Whole House Humidifiers vs Room Humidifiers
Let make one thing clear… a whole house humidifier is by no means your only option when it comes to humidifiers. Room humidifiers are a great option in open plan houses, or if you don’t want to waste energy on unused rooms. That said, the host of benefits that come hand-in hand with a whole house humidifier are unparalleled, making it by far the superior choice when it comes to keeping your whole house (and family) in tip-top shape. In layman’s terms, a whole house humidifier is a unit that is usually hooked up to your HVAC system (although some manufactures also offer more portable devices). It works by diverting the dry air in your house through a water pad in the humidifier. As the air passes through the humidifier, the water on the pad evaporates into vapor, which then gets blown back out of the humidifier’s air ducts, filling the room with re-moistened air. A room humidifier, on the other hand, is a small, freestanding device that’s plugged into a standard power outlet. A standard room humidifier will humidify around 530-650 square feet, but remember… its benefits can’t pass through walls and doors. As Luma Comfort notes, if you live in an open- plan environment, this mightn’t be a problem. If you live in a standard house, don’t expect to feel the benefits of the room humidifier past the particular room it’s set up in. When deciding whether you want to plump for a whole house humidifier or a room humidifier, don’t so much consider what they do (essentially, they both to the same job, they just come at it from different angles). Rather, consider what it is you need… if your house is large and has a conventional layout, you’ll likely get the most benefit from a whole host humidifier. If your house is small, open- plan, or if you don’t want to bring the whole family into the humidity party, a single room unit might be enough.
The Positives of a Whole House Humidifier
- Intelligent – Whole house humidifiers typically offer both manual and automatic settings. Set it to manual, and you can set and adjust the humidity to your preference. Set it to automatic, and the humidifier will automatically adjust its setting to deliver the optimal humidity level in its programming. The humidifier is an incredibly intelligent machine: in the long, hot days of summer, it will automatically lower the humidity. During the short, cold days of winter, it will raise it again.
- Low Maintenance – As The Spruce notes, whole house humidifiers require minimal effort to keep them in tip-top shape. If you turn the humidifier off, the water valve closes automatically, eliminating any chance of water hanging around, and reducing any chance of mold or bacteria developing. To prevent limescale forming, the distribution tray will collect any hard water particles and simply flush them away. The only real effort on your part will be to replace the water pad once a year.
- Quiet – Unlike the comparatively noisy single room humidifiers, whole house humidifiers are blissfully quiet… as they run off your existing fan power, they don’t create any additional noise, meaning you can leave them running all night without disturbing your dreams.
- Energy Efficient – The only thing evaporation needs is water- with no requirement for electricity, whole house humidifiers are one of the most energy efficient appliances on the market. As an added bonus, humidifiers won’t just not use your electricity, they may actually help you save it. Dry air has the strange effect of making you feel colder than you would otherwise… if you find yourself cranking up the power on a regular (and unseasonal) basis, it could very well be the quality of air inside, rather than the temperature of the air outside, that’s to blame. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, for every degree you turn up your heating, 4 percent gets added to your energy bill…. take those figures and apply them over the course of a year, and the costs soon starts to rack up. Eliminating dry air by installing a humidifier is not only good for your health, it’s also pretty darn good for your bank balance.
The Negatives of a Whole House Humidifier
There might be a silver lining to every cloud, but equally, for every silver lining there’s a cloud. Whole house humidifiers might have a list of benefits a mile long, but there’s a couple of considerations to bear in mind before you invest in one. First up is its strength: as Luma Comfort notes, pop a room humidifier in your bedroom, and while you may not feel its benefits in your lounge, you’ll sure as dammit feel it while you’re sleeping. A whole house humidifier, on the other hand, may be effective throughout the whole house, but it’s overall effect in individual rooms is going to be less (imagine the difference between 2 tbsp of frosting on a cupcake, and 2 tbsp of frosting on a 3- tier cake, and you’ll get the picture).
Next up: control. Room humidifiers allow you a tighter control on the humidification process than whole house humidifiers. Room humidifiers generate humidify by one of several different methods, including evaporation, vaporization, and ultrasonic vibration. Whole house humidifiers, on the other hand, work by one process and one alone: evaporation. As evaporation works best at high temperatures, manufacturers usually suggest setting the humidifier up to run on warm water rather than cold. If you don’t, or can’t, you’ll need to run the furnace more frequently in order to supply the necessary heat by air instead. End result: all the lovely health benefits of moist air are going to be ruined by the stress of a pretty hefty heating bill.
And finally: installation. Unlike room humidifiers which are basically just “plug-in and go” devices, whole house humidifiers need a bit of extra work to get them set up. First of all, you’ll need to modify your HVAC system, which, if you haven’t done it before, can be a tricky business. Unless you’re an expert DIY’er, you may need to call on the services of a contractor… something that doesn’t always come for cheap.
Types of Whole House Humidifiers
Bypass Humidifiers- As bypass humidifiers lack an in-build fan, it may take a little longer to humidify your house than some of the other options available. If your house is on the petite side, this makes a great option. If not, you might want to consider a more powerful beast. Steam Humidifiers- Steam humidifiers work by boiling water electrically and releasing the resulting steam through air vents. As they don’t rely on the furnace for power, they make for some of the most efficient (both in terms of cost and productivity) humidifiers on the market.
Evaporative Humidifiers- Evaporative humidifiers are the smallest type of model available and can be purchased as either a portable device or one that requires HVAC hookup. Great for small spaces, this option is also a good choice if you have a young family: unlike some of the other options available, evaporative humidifiers don’t use heat as part of the process, making it a safe option if you have small kids running around the place.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Whole House Humidifier
- Coverage – The first thing to think about when choosing the right whole house humidifier for your requirements is the amount of coverage you’ll need. Choose an option without the power to cover your whole house, and you’re unlikely to get the full range of benefits. Conversely, choose a humidifier that covers too large an area, and you risk introducing too much moisture into your home. Additionally, remember that the more powerful the humidifier, the higher the price… choose one that’s too powerful for your needs, and not only will your risk introducing mold, you’ll also be throwing away a lot more of your hard-earned cash than you need to.
- Maximum Output Per Day – As with everything, you need to make sure you read the small print when you buy a whole house humidifier. As noted by Humidifier Mentor, one of the most important things to check is the maximum output per day (which basically translates to how much moisture the device is capable of pumping out on a daily basis). Don’t just assume that the higher the output, the better it will be: overbuy and you risk bringing too much moisture into your house (a quick-fire way of introducing mold). Equally, under-buying will have too insignificant an impact on your home’s moisture levels to give you the desired benefits.
- Size – Before handing over your credit card, make sure your at- home arrangements are equal to the size and weight of your new investment. If your HVAC system isn’t up to the task of handling the size of humidifier you plump for, you could be facing some serious issues (and a lot of wasted money) down the line.
- Compatibility – If your house is getting on in years, don’t invest in a new humidifier without first checking your furnace is up to the job. Equally, if your house is heated by radiators rather than air ducts, you’ll need to double check your choice of device is suitable, as most humidifiers aren’t compatible with that kind of heating system.
- Warranty – Always be safe, not sorry. Whole house humidifiers are a big investment; the last thing you want is to find you’re not covered if things go wrong (as they sometimes will – water and movable parts can often equal a pain in the proverbial). Be sure to buy a warranty with enough scope to offer fully comprehensive cover.
- Ease of Use – Whether you want to pay for some of the added extras that come with some humidifiers is, of course, up to you. If you don’t mind spending a few extra dollars, there are two features in particular that are well worth the investment. Firstly, look for a humidifier with programmable capability and with an easy to read display… trust me, it’ll make your life a lot easier. Secondly, having a humidifier with a permanent memory will let you store your preferred choice of humidity levels without running the risk of the device losing the setting every time there’s a power cut.
Why You Should Invest in a Whole Home Humidifier
Still in doubt as to whether a whole house humidifier is worth the investment? Then let’s recap on some of the key benefits.
- Improved Health – Minimizes the risk of bacteria, viruses and fungi developing. Eliminates dust mites and reduces the occurrence of respiratory infections, asthma and allergies.
- Increased Comfort – Increases feeling of comfort in very dry climates by achieving the optimal level of humidity.
- Preservation of your House – Ensures the longevity of your home fixtures and fittings by reducing the chance of structural damage such as warping, cracking and peeling.