What Are the Different Types of Whole House Humidifiers?
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How to Choose a Whole House Humidifier

How to Choose a Whole House Humidifier

Winter not only means frigid air outside, but it also means dry air inside due to lack of humidity. That dry air can give you a scratchy throat and scratchy skin. It can also damage your floors and furniture. Not to mention those occasional jolts of static electricity. One important way to solve those problems is with humidifiers, which add moisture to the air. Portable humidifiers can be placed in specific rooms, but whole house humidifiers remove the dryness throughout the house. We will discuss what to look for in a whole house humidifier here.


The first thing to factor in is what size whole house humidifier you need. This is a function of two things:

  • Home size. This is stated in cubic feet and calculated by multiplying square footage by ceiling height. If your home is 3,500 square feet and the ceiling height is nine feet, your cubic footage is 3,500 x 9, or 31,500 cubic feet.
  • Building envelope. This is a function of the draftiness of your house. Older homes tend to be draftier as they were built less efficiently. Also contributing to draftiness or lack of draftiness is the quality of the insulation and window efficiency.

Types of Humidifiers

There are three types of humidifiers. The first two – steam and evaporative humidifiers – distribute moisture via your furnace’s duct system.

  • Steam humidifiers store water in a canister. When it detects low humidity, it electrically boils the water into steam, which is then distributed through your house via the duct system. If the water level drops below the heating element, a low water cutoff will automatically turn off the humidifier
  • Evaporative humidifiers add moisture to the warm, dry air coming out of your furnace via a direct water line that constantly supplies water to a humidifier pad. As the warm air blows across the wet pad, it evaporates the water and absorbs it. There are two types of evaporative humidifiers:
    • Bypass humidifiers redirect furnace air through a bypass duct. This type of humidifier can be installed on either the supply or return duct. If you do not need the humidifier running, you just close the bypass damper. 
    • Powered humidifiers use a fan to pull water across the pad, which allows for a better distribution of moisture than a bypass humidifier. Powered humidifiers connect to the supply side ductwork.

So, what are the pros and cons of steam vs. evaporative humidifiers?

  • Steam humidifiers are much more efficient, converting up to 90% of the water they use into humidity, compared to only 20% to 30% for evaporative humidifiers. This allows steam humidifiers to provide more consistent levels of moisture.
  • On the other hand, since evaporative humidifiers use little to no electricity, they are much less expensive to operate than steam humidifiers, which rely on electricity.
  • Self-contained humidifiers are the third type of humidifier system and are the only option for homes that use radiant or ductless heat. They use a fan to circulate air.

Contact Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric for Whole House Humidifiers

The indoor air quality professionals at Ravinia Plumbing can help you determine the size and type of humidifier that is best for you, and then install it. We’ve been in business since 1928, and we’ve made a name for ourselves as one of the most trusted and reliable plumbing, sewer, heating and air conditioning, and electrical companies in Chicagoland. Contact Ravinia Plumbing today to schedule an appointment for indoor air quality services.

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