filters furnaces Humidifiers Maintenance

Guide to Whole Home Humidifiers 


A whole-home humidifier is one of the lesser-known parts of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. They’re attached to the ductwork near your furnace and are often forgotten there. They are considered add-on items, and not every homeowner will choose to buy one when they get a new furnace.

However, you should strongly consider a whole-home humidifier. They can significantly increase your home comfort, and even save you money. Choosing the right type of whole-home humidifier and maintaining it properly is key to getting the most from your humidifier. In this guide, we’ll outline everything that you need to know about humidifiers, including the benefits, types, and maintenance needed.

Benefits of Whole-Home Humidifiers

If you’re missing a whole-home humidifier, you might wonder why you should add one at all. Do they really offer benefits that you’ll find important, or that will really make a difference in your comfort? We think so. Here are some benefits you should know about:

  • Beat winter dryness: In the winter, stale and dry air sucks the moisture out of your skin quite literally. You may find that your skin, throat, nose, eyes, and more feel drier in the winter, even uncomfortably so. If you find yourself reaching for the moisturizer once the cold air arrives, then it’s wise to invest in a whole-home humidifier. You may even notice that static cling is reduced when your air is properly moist.
  • Improve your winter comfort: Dryness isn’t the only thing that can interfere with your comfort in your home over winter. Dry air actually holds less heat, so you will feel colder and your furnace will work harder if you don’t have a whole-home humidifier. When you do, heat will stay in the air with the extra moisture, so you may be able to keep your home set to a temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, but feel as if it was set higher.
  • Reduce your heating bill: With that reduced thermostat setting comes the benefit of saved energy. When you can set your thermostat lower, you’re doing your part to reduce energy consumption, and you can also keep your utility bill lower. Whole-home humidifiers can save you money.
  • Protect your furniture: Speaking of saving money, consider how much you spent on your prized furniture and home finishes, like quality hardwood flooring, wood furniture, and pianos. Those expensive pieces of furniture will all last longer and see less damage in a home that has properly humidified air. Otherwise, the lack of moisture in the air draws moisture out of the wood. This can lead to cracking, brittleness, and other damage that may shorten the life of your furniture. If you are finding that your hardwood floors creak more in the winter, or your home’s interior doors don’t seem to fit quite as well, it could be due to the air being too dry.
  • Improve your health: For some people, having dry air in the winter is a health issue. Those with respiratory conditions will benefit from more moist air entering their lungs instead of dry air. Allergies, asthma, and other lung conditions can be affected. You may find that you’re more comfortable and that it is easier to manage your symptoms. There are health benefits for everyone, not just those with conditions where moisture levels affect them. If you suffer from more nose bleeds in winter, or notice blood on your pillow in the morning, it may be because the air in your home is too dry. With humidified air, you may even catch colds left often during the winter.   In fact, believe that properly humidifying the air may be key in limiting the spread of COVID-19 indoors.
  • Protect your furnace: Your furnace is the real heart of the home, pumping out heat to keep you comfortable. When you have a whole-home humidifier, it is easier for your furnace to put heat in the air, as the moisture helps maintain the heat. It may also have an overall longer service life, so you get more from your investment.

If you are interested in a whole-home humidifier for your home, contact us to learn more.


Types of Whole-Home Humidifiers

Once you’ve decided that you want a whole-home humidifier, which type do you choose? There are three basic types of whole-home humidifiers and several different brands and models to choose from. Here is a general outline of the three types of humidifiers:

  • Drum Humidifier: The oldest type of humidifier, drum humidifiers are rarely installed today. They have a humidistat, a tool that senses humidity. When the humidity level drops below your desired level, the humidifier pumps water into a reservoir or a drum. The water in the drum passes over a belt, which warms the water and makes it evaporate into the air. That air is used by your furnace to disperse heat, so as it moves the heat through your home, it also moves the humidity. Drum humidifiers are cheap, but they are not as effective as other kinds and they require the most maintenance, as we will discuss in detail below. Because drum humidifiers require a reservoir of standing water, they provide a place for bacteria growth. That is another reason that we don’t recommend them.
  • Flow-Through Humidifier: In general, these humidifiers work by passing water over a vertical pad. They are also sometimes called “by-pass humidifiers” because they by-pass some air from the furnace back over the pad. Through the process of evaporation, the air in the furnace will pick up humidity from this pad as it passes over it. It will then be spread through the home. If you have heard of people getting vastly different results from flow-through humidifiers, that is because there are actually three different kinds:
    • Basic: The simplest flow-through humidifiers will constantly pump water over the pad. They tend to be wasteful, as the water is drained after only one pass over the pad. If you’re concerned about your water bill, this is not the type of flow-through humidifier for you.
    • Advanced: Other flow-through humidifiers are more advanced so that you get more consistent humidity and waste even less water. They have motors that control how much water or mist is applied to the pad and may close the by-pass to prevent air from passing over the pad when humidification isn’t needed.
  • Steam Humidifier: This last type of whole-home humidifier is the most advanced. It too has a humidistat to sense the humidity in your home and turns on when things are too dry. Instead of using the heat from the furnace, the humidifier creates steam, which is easily absorbed as humidity in the air. A steam humidifier does not need the furnace to be on, just the fan. Therefore, it can provide humidity more consistently, throughout the year.

What about the brands and models? It depends on your specific budget and needs from your whole-home humidifier. We suggest you talk to the experts at Comfort Plus ClimateCare to get a recommendation on the best model of whole-home humidifier for you. The same goes for sizing, there are different sizes of humidifiers meant to serve different sized homes.

Whole-Home Humidifier Tips for Maintenance

When you’re choosing a whole-home humidifier, it is wise to know what kind of maintenance needs it will have. Each of the three types have different maintenance needs that you will need to manage to keep it doing its job.

Drum humidifiers have the largest maintenance needs, which may be one reason few homeowners purchase them anymore. The drum or basin of water needs to be emptied monthly. Then, the belt or pad needs to be changed once per year. Unfortunately, the water sitting in the basin is likely to get foul unless you stick to this maintenance schedule very carefully. It is not uncommon for us to find drum humidifiers that are creating mould spores and undermining the air quality of the home they are in, simply because they are not being cleaned diligently.

Flow-through humidifiers can be partly maintained by the homeowner. While the appliance will still need inspections and repairs from the professionals, you can clean or replace the water pad once per season by yourself. However, that is not the case for steam humidifiers. These can cause burns and would be very dangerous for a homeowner to attempt to maintain by themselves. The canister on the machine needs to be looked at by a professional on a yearly basis.

Keeping your home comfortable is our number one priority. With a whole-home humidifier, you can keep your home comfortable while also saving money. Contact us today to learn more about humidifiers and how they can help your family.