Whole House Humidifiers
It’s winter and it’s freezing outside. But the furnace is operating at peak efficiency and you are quite comfortable inside. Except the air is really dry. Your skin is cracking. Your throat is scratchy. And you might even get the occasional static electricity shock. Not to mention potential damage to floors and furniture caused by the dry air.
These issues can all be resolved by installing a whole house humidifier that adds moisture to the air. Here are some tips on buying a whole house humidifier.
Types of humidifiers
There are three types of whole house humidifiers:
- Evaporative humidifiers add moisture to the dry air coming out of the furnace by using a water line to supply water to the humidifier pad. As the warm air blows across the pad, the water evaporates and enters the home. There are two types of evaporative humidifiers:
- Bypass humidifiers redirect air through a bypass duct between the supply and return ducts.
- Powered humidifiers connect to the supply side ductwork and use a fan to pull water across the pad.
Evaporative humidifiers use very little electricity, but are not very efficient, converting only 20% to 30% of water into humidity. Also, your furnace needs to run for these units to function. Evaporative humidifiers will install for around $400 to $800.
- Steam humidifiers store water in a canister. When humidity is low, the humidifier electrically boils the water, converting it into steam, which is distributed through your ducts. While these humidifiers do not need the furnace on to run, they use much more electricity. They also are significantly more expensive than evaporative humidifiers, installing for as much as $1,500.
- Self-contained humidifiers are for homes without ductwork or that use radiant heat. They operate independently of a furnace, using a fan to circulate air.
Sizing depends on two things:
- The size of the space, as measured in cubic feet (square feed multiplied by ceiling height)
- Older homes generally will have more draft than newer homes as they may not have double-paned windows, the best insulation, etc.
Your HVAC contractor can help you determine the appropriate size.
There are several convenience features that may drive up the price, but that you might enjoy.
- Low water cutoff will automatically turn off a steam humidifier if the water level drops below the heating element.
- Automatic humidity preset allows the humidifier to keep the humidity level you preset.
- Overflow protection uses a valve to prevent the unit from overflowing by shutting water off at the desired level.
- Mounting frames make it easy to install the humidifier on existing ductwork.
- Corrosion resistance. Some humidifiers are enclosed in corrosion-resistant housing that can extend the life of the humidifier.
- Reversible side panels allow installers to place the unit in the best possible location.
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