What Is a Whole-House Humidifier?

Humidifier dispersing humidity into a home.

In the Carbon Valley and surrounding Colorado communities, it can get cold enough to turn your furnace on in October and keep it on until April. That is seven months of heated air!

Cooler air holds less moisture than hotter air. That means when it is cold outside, the relative humidity is generally low as well. For the human body, dry air can cause increased allergy symptoms and other respiratory problems. For the house or office, dry air can draw moisture out of materials, such as wood floors, furniture, pianos, and walls.

The most effective way to treat your building is to add a humidifier to the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Different installation types can be used depending on the location of your furnace to ensure the best performance from your whole-house humidifier.

Adding a whole-house humidifier controls how much moisture is added so you feel comfortable but ensures that the humidifier shuts off so that too much moisture is not added. Other than routine seasonal maintenance, whole-house humidifiers need little attention. Humidifiers can also help you save on energy costs as warm, moist air feels more comfortable, and the thermostat can be turned down a few degrees without a loss of comfort.

How Humidifiers Work 

There are different types of whole-house humidifiers available for a home or business. Each whole-house humidifier uses the same method to deliver humidity to the air through the ductwork connected to the furnace. They require water to create humidity, a water collection medium such as an evaporator pad or cartridge, airflow through the medium to create evaporation, a water control valve, and a humidistat device to control the humidity level.

Humidifier Types

Here are the different types of humidifiers:

Steam: These are the most efficient type of whole-house humidifiers. There are several different types of steam models available. Some models require filtered water, and some require a cartridge with electrodes that need to be replaced after the heating season. Steam whole-house humidifiers can cover up to 5,000 square feet. Since they use steam and do not require a bypass, they can be installed in tight quarters as well. Steam whole-house humidifiers work extremely well with multi-stage and variable-speed furnaces. Steam whole-house humidifiers do not need the furnace on to run. Since they create their own heat, a properly installed unit is able to work by itself.

Fan Powered: These use a built-in fan which pulls in heated air directly from the furnace through the humidifier and can be used in buildings up to 2,750 square feet. These models work better than bypass humidifiers in tight quarters and are more efficient at adding humidity to the heated air. Powered humidifiers also work better with multi-stage furnaces.

Bypass: These are offered in a traditional flow through or water saving model, and they traditionally can be used in buildings up to 2,500 square feet. These models can be mounted on either the warm air supply or the return air side of any forced air furnace. The traditional flow through model would need access to a floor drain, while the water saving model does not.

Humidifier Comfort

Humid air feels warmer than drier air at the same temperature for most people, making them feel more comfortable when the air outside is cold. This allows the owner to adjust the thermostat down and saves money on utility bills without sacrificing how comfortable they feel. Keeping the air humidity level the same during the heating season keeps the air you breathe healthier as well. Whole-house humidifiers can help with dry skin, itchy eyes, chapped lips, snoring, and dry throat, and they can reduce sinus problems.

Humidifier Facts

Fifty percent of all illnesses are caused or aggravated by poor indoor air quality (IAQ), according to The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). A study cited by Kimberly-Clark Corporation found that for every ten workers, poor indoor air quality caused an additional six sick days per year.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) states poor indoor air quality can cost businesses up to $168 billion annually. Medical care and absenteeism contribute significantly to those costs.

Employers can increase workforce performance by roughly 10 percent by implementing indoor air quality solutions, according to the DOE.

During winter months, a whole-house humidifier set at 35 to 45 percent can reduce the transmission of viruses and the flu by 30 percent.

A whole-house humidifier can save up to 4 percent in heating costs.

Humidifier Energy Efficiency

According to ENERGY STAR®, a steam whole-house humidifier saves $47 to $49 per year on electricity over a traditional whole house bypass and fan-powered humidifiers. Assuming you keep your building between 30 to 60 percent relative humidity, the thermostat can be reduced a couple of degrees without losing any comfort, which can save up to 5 percent on your total bill for your furnace utilities.

Humidifier Maintenance 

Properly maintaining your humidifier is a major key to its operational success. Make sure the water and power are off to the humidifier before servicing. Change the water panel at least once per season. Make sure the orifices are clear of debris. Make sure the supply and drain lines are clog-free. Make sure the humidistat or thermostat is operational and calling for humidity when the furnace is running. Ensure the solenoid valve is functioning properly. Visually inspect the water lines to make sure there are no leaks. For certain steam models, make sure to change the cartridge after the heating season. Ensure that at the end of the heating season, the humidifier is properly shut down to prevent mold and algae buildup. 

Humidifier Lifespan

Depending on how often it is used and how well it is maintained, the lifespan of a whole-house humidifier can be 15-20 years with proper maintenance and inspections. Most manufacturers offer a 5- or 10-year warranty on parts and a one-year warranty on labor. After about 20 years, the parts can be hard to find and/or expensive. Newer models tend to be much more efficient at adding humidity to the building and more energy efficient, especially the whole house steam humidifiers.

We Can Help Maximize Your Comfort

Ready to improve your comfort at your Erie, Colorado, home? Carbon Valley is here with the solutions. Let us install and service your whole-house humidifier. Call us at 720-370-8747 or request service online.

Need HVAC Service?

Contact the experts at Carbon Valley Heating & Air.

Call us at 303-833-4466!