Best Whole House Humidifiers | My Top 10 Picks

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What do creaking floors, dry scalp, and sneezing have in common?

Not much. Except for the fact that they can all be caused by dry air.

I can’t stress this enough: Dry air is probably the single most overlooked aspect of at-home wellness.

It costs Americans billions of dollars in damage to wood and electronics. More importantly, it’s the potential underlying cause of health issues ranging from simple respiratory problems, itches to more serious mold/mildew allergies.

Finally, it’s the one thing that you can change in your home right now that can affect how viruses travel through your space. This one is a biggie, and it seems it’s going to be for a while.

You’re probably here for one of these two reasons

You are either somehow affected by the poorly regulated air humidity in your home, or you’re a conservative buyer. I’d say it’s probably both.

This is the kind of problem most people will choose to ignore until it’s too late. Kudos to you for not making that mistake.

Who am I to talk about humidifiers?

I’m just a plumber who installed hundreds of these over the years and, more importantly, since I started this website, put together a massive database on home appliances.

This is the type of data that should interest you if you’re looking to find the best whole house humidifier for your money.

Here’s what I did specifically for this guide:

  • I reviewed dozens of humidifiers and analyzed all the relevant data I could find on the units
  • I made sure that the data is versatile to account for climate – my database includes ‘Dakotas’ in the winter and California in the summer
  • I compiled a database of the most popular whole-house humidifiers and rated them in 10 quality categories

What you’ll see in a minute is the fruit of those efforts combined with decades of experience.

For Those In a Hurry- My Top Picks at a Glance

If I had to imagine an average American home, think about their budget and needs, and then recommend one whole-house humidifier, it would be the Aprilaire 700 Automatic Humidifier. No doubt in my mind.

There are trade-offs in this industry – efficiency vs. price, coverage vs. even distribution, installation vs. upkeep, and many more. Aprilaire 700 is at the sweet spot in almost all of those categories.

The average American home was just under 2,700 feet in 2015.

Judging by the trend, I’d say that the number is close to 3K feet today. Even though the listed capacity of the Aprilaire 700 is 4,200 sq ft, I’d say that it’s the right fit for any American home over 2,800 sq foot.

Here’s why – unless your house is new and tightly sealed (we’ll talk more about what that means in a minute), you’ll want to go a level up from the listed coverage when choosing a whole-house humidifier.

Best Whole House Humidifier – My TOP 10

1 – Best Overall - Aprilaire 700 Automatic Humidifier

Aprilaire 700 Whole Home Humidifier, Automatic Fan Powered Furnace...
  • BUY WITH CONFIDENCE This humidifier was designed and...
  • BUILT-IN FAN pulls heated air directly from the furnace...
  • FULL COVERAGE up to 4,200 square feet in tightly built homes...

Specs:

Type: powered

Weight: 15.5 lbs

Size (H, W, L) : 18 x 16 x 11 “

Coverage: 4,200 square feet

Airflow capacity: 280 cubic feet per minute

There are four humidifiers in this series from one of the top brands – Aprilaire. I choose the 700M for the top spot for both statistical and subjective reasons.

What makes it better?

I already mentioned that this is the one humidifier that hits the most “sweet spots.”

It’s right up there with steam units that cost 3 or 4 times as much. It’s a robust system that’s easier to install than most humidifiers I’ve worked with.

Not that it matters much, but the design is sleek and modern, which is an exception in the industry, even with the top brands.

What could be better

You’ll need an adapter to attach the 6-inch flex to the unit and furnace gut if you want to use the humidistat that comes with the unit. In practice, I’ve seen people deciding to use the existing stat (when already present at the ductwork).

My verdict

In my book, if the only thing you could find “wrong” is an omission in the manual (the flex-to-unit adapter I mentioned above), you’ve got a winner on your hands.

Finally, at the current price point, Aprilaire 700M is a steal.

PROs:

  • Second to none in terms of precise, even humidity distribution
  • Coverage at the sweet-spot for most US homes
  • Manufactured in the USA
  • Direct humifying (built-in fan)
  • Dual-sensor technology used for the Automatic Humidifier
  • Solid value for money

CONs:

  • The wiring diagrams could be more detailed

2 – Best for Large Homes - Aprilaire 800 - high-end steam unit for large homes

Aprilaire - 800Z 800 Whole Home Steam Humidifier, Automatic Steam...
  • BUY WITH CONFIDENCE This high output steam humidifier was...
  • FULL COVERAGE up to 6,200 square feet in tightly built...
  • PURIFIED WATER NOT REQUIRED Electrode technology requires...

If price is not a key factor, if you’re living in a large house or if you simply want to be sure that the humidifier will do the job reliably, this is the unit for you.

It’s a high-end, US-made product that comes in two versions – one to be used as a standalone (fan-powered) and the other to be installed onto your ductwork.

They both work well, but the fan-powered option costs more.

Specs:

Type: steam

Weight: 34.5 lbs

Size : 7.13 x 10.13 20.88 “

Coverage: 6,200 square feet

Other features: dual sensors, digital humidistat, digital controls

Warranty: 5 years on defects in materials or workmanship (doesn’t cover the disposable steam unit, which you’ll have to be replaced occasionally)

Main features:

  • Allows you to choose from six output levels
  • Automatic humidifier (dual-sensor technology)
  • Electrode technology (doesn’t require purified water)

What’s better about it?

It’s one of the few steam models that’s, in my opinion, worth every penny. The duct-mounted version costs about 30% less than the closest competitor (in terms of performance).

The capacity is impressive, and the precise control over humidity distribution even more so.

With the listed coverage of 6,200 square feet, it’s the obvious choice for bigger homes.

What you typically see in this price range is a drop in user satisfaction rates. It’s only natural because a buyer who pays more expects more.

No drop in the stats with this Aprilaire.

Based on my database, it’s the only steam unit in this price range that consistently maintained a user satisfaction rating comparable or higher to that of cheaper units.

Intuitive controls

Finally, a combination of state-of-the-art sensors and a digital humidistat gives you unparalleled flexibility. To put it simply – the digital control system is set-and-forget.

It allows you to choose your desired humidity level, and the humidifier does the rest.

It measures the indoor humidity levels and the outside temperatures, adds moisture to the air, and then pumps the humidified air evenly through your home.

PROs:

  • Robust unit made in the US
  • Great coverage and capacity
  • Precise and reliable humidity distribution
  • Excellent warranty terms

CONs:

  • Costs more than most humidifiers
  • The installation manual could be more detailed
  • Reported problems with the steam canister in areas with low-conductivity water (very rare)

3 – AIRCARE HD1409

AIRCARE HD1409 Digital Whole-House Console-Style Evaporative...
  • Console-Style Humidifier for a Whole House Up to 4000 Square...
  • New Digital Humidistat Automatically Maintains Your Desired...
  • Digital Readout Displays Actual Humidity Level, Desired...

Specs:

Type: console, electric

Weight: 28.5 lbs

Size : 17.5 x 27 x 25 “

Coverage: 4,000 square feet

Capacity: 5 Gallons total, 2.5 per tank

Warranty: 2-year limited (the wick filter not covered)

Main features:

  • The humidistat is fully automatic
  • Cleanly designed, intuitive digital display
  • Automatic shut-off
  • Accurate refill indicator

How it got into the Top 10

If you read through the whole guide, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of console humidifiers. But I include them in my top 10, nonetheless.

For two reasons:

  1. Not all console-style units are created equal – with a few of them, I’ve seen a much lower incidence of the common issues
  2. In case you’re dead set on getting a console-style

If you know what to expect (and not expect) from a unit like this, you won’t be disappointed with the H12600.

The key phrase here is “if you know what to expect.”

If you want to experiment with higher settings (for whatever reason), this unit won’t do the trick.

It’s not powerful enough to provide a reliable, even distribution of humidity at higher humidity settings. In a normal range, like 40-50%, it works just fine. Aprilaire is one of the few brands that do a good job with the console models, my two favorites being this unit and the Aircare MA1201 whole-house evaporative humidifier.

Note: Try to limit your humidity level setting to 50%. Beyond 50% mold formation becomes more of a factor, both for your home and (especially) for a console humidifier.

PROs:

  • Excellent value
  • Great design – the five options will work with most spaces
  • Easy to move
  • Great coverage, especially for console-style
  • Easy to set up, use and maintain
  • Solid warranty

CONs:

  • Most of the materials used are plastic
  • Noisy at higher settings
  • Reported on-arrival problems

4 – Best Budget Choice - AIRCARE 831000

AIRCARE 831000 Space-Saver, White Whole House Evaporative Humidifier...
  • Digital Controls with Auto Humidistat. The maximum run time...
  • Automatically Shuts Off When Desired Humidity Level is...
  • Trapmax Filter Technology with Protection

Specs:

Type: console

Weight: 14 lbs

Size : 17.5 x 12.5 x 22.5 “

Coverage: two versions available – 2,300 and 2,700 square feet

Capacity: 6 Gallons per day

Main features:

  • Digital control
  • Auto humidistat
  • Run time: max 70 h
  • Water capacity: max 6 gallons
  • Refill indicators

What’s so good about it?

It comes as no surprise that this Aircare is one of the most popular units out there, especially in the lower price range.

I say that because it’s not common to see an auto humidistat, automatic shutoff, and digital controls at this price point. And the 831000, well, it’s of the two most affordable options that are worth mentioning (we’ll get to the other in a minute).

The water tank capacity is a solid 5 gallons, which means you won’t need to add water as frequently as you would with similar models. At low to medium fan speeds, you’ll probably need a refill the water tank once every 18-24 hours. At those fan speeds, it’s also reasonably quiet.

There’s a list of things that could be better, but going into that here would be moot.

The important part is that none of the grievances I’d have about the unit are deal-breakers.

PROs:

  • Very budget-friendly (I avoid the word “cheap,” but it’s fair to say it is)
  • Good tank capacity for the unit size
  • Easy to install and run
  • Easy to clean
  • Low maintenance compared to similar units

CONs:

  • Not the best build, which is to be expected considering it’s one of the cheapest humidifiers out there
  • Noisy at higher settings
  • Probably not the most durable unit

5 – Honeywell Home HE360A

Honeywell Home HE360A1075 HE360A Whole House Humidifier, Light Gray
  • Powered flow-through humidifier
  • Easy installation and best choice for variable speed and...
  • Easy mounting on either warm air supply or return air duct...

Specs:

Type: powered, digital control

Weight: 18 lbs

Size : 10.25 x 15.25 x 14 “

Coverage: 4,200 square feet

Warranty: 1 year

Main features:

  • Proprietary design of the humidifier – flow-through (powered)
  • PerfectFLO system to optimize efficiency and water usage
  • Manual hydrostat/humidistat
  • Comes with a saddle valve

What I like about it

Honeywell is the one brand that I feel can give ApriAire and Aircare a serious run for their money in the long-term race for market dominance.

I personally love the brand, and it seems like I’m not alone. According to the ConsumerAffairs website, “Honeywell is a great, trustworthy brand.”

PROs:

  • Great bang for the buck
  • Very efficient – low power and water usage
  • Easy installation
  • Reliable humidity distribution

CONs:

  • Doesn’t come with an installation kit (it’s ordered separately)
  • Reported leaks (about 1.4% of the units according to my data)
  • The wiring diagrams could be clearer

6 – AIRCARE 696

AIRCARE 696 400HB Whole House Credenza Evaporative Humidifier for 3600...
  • New Digital Humidistat Automatically Maintains Your Desired...
  • Digital Readout Displays Actual Humidity Level, Desired...
  • Automatically Shuts Off When Desired Humidity Level is...

Specs:

Type: console, digital control

Weight: 23 lbs

Size : 15.5 x 28.25 x 23.75 “

Coverage: 3600 square feet

Warranty: 1 year

Main features:

  • Automatic digital humidistat
  • Digital display
  • Auto shut off
  • Features a refill indicator
  • Dual bottles for easier refills

Most of the entries on the best whole house humidifier list feature a similar design. That’s why I took the extra time to find a unit that would be a good fit for the more traditional homes (design-wise).

I found it in this credenza-style whole-house evaporative humidifier with a solid tank capacity.

What makes it better?

I don’t have personal experience with this model. Its inclusion on the list is based on the statistical modeling of the existing data on the market.

To put it simply – I have a mathematical formula that quantifies a range of quality aspects. When applied to this Aircare, the formula puts it at #6 among the best whole house humidifiers.

PROs:

  • Simple to assemble
  • Easy to use and clean
  • Good humidity distribution
  • Portable, easy to move

CONs:

  • Some people find it noisy
  • Reported on-arrival issues with the shut-off float
  • The credenza design is not for everyone
  • There are units in lower price ranges with similar performance stats – i.e. not top value for money

7 – AIRCARE MA0800 Digital Whole-House Evaporative Humidifier

AIRCARE MA0800 Digital Whole-House Console-Style Evaporative...
  • Digital Controls with Auto Humidistat
  • 3-Speed Motor with Quiet Nighttime Setting
  • Automatically Shuts Off When Desired Humidity Level is...

Specs:

Type: console

Weight: 8.5  lbs

Size : 12 x 18 x 16.5 “

Coverage: 1700 square feet

Warranty: 2 years limited

Main features:

  • 3-speed motor (low-nose night-time setting)
  • Digital controls
  • Easy-fill container
  • Auto humidistat
  • Auto shut-off
  • Unique single bottle design
  • 2.5 gallons capacity

What makes it better?

This AIRCARE is one of the best console-style evaporative humidifiers, especially in its price range, where it reigns supreme.

The version of this unit with the 2.5-gallon tank capacity is, in my opinion, the lowest price point that still allows you to get something that will still work well for smaller spaces (listed for up to 2,600 sq ft).

The 3,6-gallon tank has a listed capacity coverage of 3,600 sq ft.

In practice, I found that you’re better off not cutting it too close to the listed coverage area and your desired indoor humidity level.

So, if your home is somewhere on the “edges” of the listed coverage, I’d recommend going with a higher coverage unit.

PROs:

  • Light, easy to move
  • Solid humidity distribution
  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy to use and clean

CONs:

  • If it runs constantly, you’ll need frequent filter replacement
  • On the noisy side for such a small unit
  • I’ve seen owners reporting inaccurate humidity readings – the likely culprit here could be the fact that the sensor is pretty close to the unit

8 – AIRCARE Copper Night

AIRCARE Whole House Console Evaporative Humidifier for 3700 sq. ft,...
  • 5.4-gal. water capacity
  • Up to 3700 sq. ft. coverage
  • Up to 11.83-gal. daily output

Specs:

Type: console

Weight: 20 lbs

Size : 15.5 x 28.25 x 23.75 “

Coverage: 3700 square feet

Warranty: 2 years limited

Main features:

  • 4-speed motor (analog controls and digital display)
  • Adjustable humidistat
  • Automatic shut-off
  • Unique single bottle design
  • Solid 5.4 gallons of water capacity

What sets it apart?

This Aircare features a unique console design that will work for modern home designs if your plan is to install the unit in a visible place.

That’s the one thing that sets it apart from similar humidifiers in the 3.5-4K coverage range.

In my experience, units like these tend to be sub-par compared to central humidifiers unless the space is single-level. That’s not the case with this Aircare.

According to my stats, it’s right up there with the best its price range in terms of uniform humidity distribution.

PROs:

  • Light and easy to use
  • Good humidity distribution even in multi-level homes
  • Value for money
  • Portable, easy to move

CONs:

  • Materials – most of the unit is plastic
  • Some people found it to be noisy
  • The fan speed does not adjust to humidity

9 – Great Choice for Small Homes Aprilaire 500

Aprilaire 500 Whole Home Humidifier, Automatic Compact Furnace...
  • BUY WITH CONFIDENCE This humidifier was designed and...
  • FULL COVERAGE up to 3,000 square feet in tightly built homes...
  • AUTOMATIC HUMIDIFIER with dual sensors to monitor and...

Specs:

Control type: automatic, whole house

Weight: 7.6 lbs

Size : 13 x 11 x 16 “

Coverage: 3000

Warranty: 5 years limited

Main features:

  • Dual sensors & digital controls
  • Robust water capacity for a unit of this size – 12 gallons a day
  • Max airflow: 200 cubic feet / minute

What sets it apart?

If you live in an open-space concept home of up to 3K square feet, this unit will do just fine. It belongs to the same series from Aprilaire that dominates the list

It had similar stats in all the major quality aspects that make a good whole-house humidifier, but at a much lower price point and without the bulk of the bigger units.

PROs:

  • Made in the US following strict quality standards
  • Accurate humidity distribution
  • Easy installation and precise instructions
  • Exceptional value for money

CONs:

  • Occasional report of the water supply overshooting the distribution tray
  • I’ve seen reports of higher humidity readings than the actual ambient levels (I must say that I’m not surprised by this because I’m not a fan of the Model 60 humidistat that it comes with. It’s not a deal-breaker, it just means that there’s a chance you’ll need to monitor the humidity with a separate humidistat)

10 – Honeywell Home HE280A

Sale
Honeywell Home HE280A2001 HE280A Whole House Humidifier, White
  • Water-saving technology uses 30% less water than standard...
  • Easy mounting on either warm air supply or return air duct...
  • Flow through design helps keep unit clean of microorganisms...

Specs:

Type: central

Weight: 12.97 lbs

Size : 22.9 x 19.8 x 1.7 “

Coverage: 3000

Warranty: 1 year limited

Main features:

  • Water-saving systems
  • Unique design (flowthrough) aimed at lowering maintenance costs
  • Proprietary system for optimizing energy and water usage

What makes this Honeywell so good?

I have to admit that I like to see a bit of competition, especially in markets dominated by one or two brands (which is the case with humidifiers and Aprilaire/Aircare). It’s good for the marketplace – competition almost always means better products and higher standards.

That’s why I rooted for Honeywell models to find their way into the Top 10 – to be clear, the results are quantifiable and I can’t do anything to influence the picks one way or the other. I just rooted for Honeywell, that’s all.

Having said that, this unit really did bring the goods. Head-to-head, its results are comparable to Aprilaire 500 (as far as I could tell, they even share the same pad).

In some aspects, it was even superior :

  • Value for money (it costs a bit less but performs similarly)
  • Noise levels – one of the quietest units out there
  • Easier to install

PROs:

  • Very quiet compared to models in its power range
  • Great value for the price
  • Precise humidity distribution
  • Small unit – great for tight spaces
  • Fairly simple installation

CONs:

  • Not the best built – most of it is plastic
  • I’ve seen an occasional case of the system not generating enough pressure for the switch
  • I’ve seen cases of the bypass shutoff not fully closing in warmer water (not a common issue, but deserves a mention)

Reference Information on Whole-House Humidifiers

Now that we went over my picks for the best whole house humidifiers let’s move on to the reference part of this guide. We’ll look into what makes a good humidifier, types, what to aim for when it comes to indoor humidity and how it all fits together.

Basic questions answered

To choose well, you’ll need a good grasp of the basics. Let us start there.

The HOWs, WHYs & WHATs

So, what is a whole-house humidifier?

It’s the type of humidifier designed to change the moisture levels in your whole house.

It might sound like it’s self-evident, but I’ve seen these confused with single-room humidifiers.

How do they work?

A whole-house humidifier works by adding moisture particles to the air in your ductwork or by pumping moisture straight into your home. The former is installed on your ductwork or furnace and the latter are standalone.

As the air enters your home through the HVAC system, a portion of it goes to the humidifier. The forced air absorbs the extra moisture and the “re-joins” the rest.

The added humidified air results in a higher moisture level in your whole house – the desired humidity should ideally be somewhere close to 45%.

What’s inside a whole-house humidifier?

If you open a humidifier, you’ll find either a vaporizer pad, a steam system, or a rotating drum that is used to distribute water throughout your home.

When the humidifier is on, water continuously runs down the humidifier pad. It’s then collected by the rotating drum or sprayed into the device, depending on your model.

What kind of maintenance do they require?

If you used a one-room unit in the past, this is probably one of your pain points. With a good whole-house humidifier, mold and mildew are not much of an issue, especially if you go with duct-mounted models.

In single-room units, it takes no more than a few months for mold to grow, causing more harm than good. With the best whole house humidifiers, it’s a once-a-year maintenance job.

What is the best whole house humidifier to buy?

Steam-based is the best type of whole house humidifier – for two main reasons: efficiency and sheer power.

On average, an evaporative humidifier requires 12-14 liters of water for a liter of water vapor.

With steam, the ratio is pretty much 1:1 – a gallon of water will give your one gallon of steam.

Do they really work?

Yes, whole-house humidifiers definitely do work.

Do whole-house humidifiers cause mold?

Like any device that adds moisture to the air inside your home, overusing them can cause excessive moisture and result in molding.

However, if you follow the guidelines and stay within the healthy range (35-50%), you’re not likely to see any mold forming.

What is the average cost to install a whole-house humidifier?

The average cost of installing a whole-house humidifier is $562 if you’re using a professional to do it for you. If you’re doing it on your own, that cost can go down to $150.

Types of Whole House Humidifiers

I’ve seen this subject approached from many different angles, each more confusing than the last.

So, let us get some clarity here by explaining it using simple language.

If you ask me, only central humidifiers meet the strictest definition of “whole house.” But, you’ll also see standalone units included in the “whole house” group.

So, let’s try to be as precise as possible here.

These are the groups of humidifiers included in this guide:

  1. Central units (bypass, powered, and steam)
  2. Standalone units (pedestal and console)

The latter is self-explanatory. For the former, you as the potential buyer should be interested in the three top-level groups – (fan) powered vs. bypass vs. steam.

Bypass whole house humidifier

Bypass is the most common of the three types of whole house units.

What you have here is a passive system that works by blowing air through a water-saturated filter. The main difference is that it’s an extra unit installed apart from your HVAC – typically on the return side of the unit via a bypass duct.

The advantages:

  • They cost less
  • No power needed

The downsides:

  • They’re harder to install
  • Requires for the furnace to be on
  • I’ve seen more cases of mold developing in the units

Fan powered humidifier

Unlike the bypass duct, it doesn’t require any additional vent-work but mounts right to the side of the HVAC.

Installation is simple – you cut a hole in the side of your HVAC unit and attach the humidifier unit right onto it. The fan then forces moist air into the HVAC system and evenly into your whole house.

The advantages:

  • More efficient
  • Better performance – higher output
  • Can work independently (without the blower running)
  • More flexible (in terms of the type of heating it works with)
  • Simpler and cheaper installation

The downsides:

  • They cost more
  • More complex systems
  • Bigger and heavier
  • Need a separate power outlet

Steam

Steam humidifiers are in a category of their own and are less common in American homes.

People install these in particularly large houses or if the system is structured in a way that doesn’t allow a bypass duct or a fan-powered unit to do a good job.

The capacity of a steam humidifier is much higher and goes over 6,000 square feet.

I’d put it like this – while the former two types are accessories, a steam humidifier is a potent autonomous appliance. While it does require air movement, it can “tell” the furnace to start, then pump some steam, and raise those humidity levels evenly throughout the whole house.

Not that you’d want to, but these things can easily reach humidity levels of 60% if you did.

In terms of maintenance, these are pretty user-friendly. You’ll only need to change the console part once every 11-13 months.

Dual sensors set and forget

If you see that a unit features dual sensors, that’s a massive plus in terms of convenience. It means that it will monitor both the moisture of the air inside and the outdoor temperature and adjust to both.

It’s a set-and-forget system that will allow you to regulate the indoor humidity without tweaking the unit every day.

If you have the option, go with dual sensors.

Note about portable units

I’m not a fan of portable units. Because they don’t really come close to powered or steam in most aspects that matter. I did include a few of these on the list because, for some homes, a pedestal style or a console humidifier might be the only option.

The two types of standalone portable units are console-style and pedestal-style evaporative whole house humidifiers – which industry is lingo that refers to shape and size.

Digital whole house console style evaporative humidifier

A digital whole house console-style evaporative humidifier can have a decent capacity (in the 3-7 gallons of moisture) and regulate the indoor humidity of a small, one-level house.

These might be a space saver, and you don’t need an installation kit to get it running. Still, it simply is no match for a bypass humidifier (let alone powered or steam), so I decided to include these in the list of best whole house humidifiers.

The Verdict

Every time I’m asked to make a recommendation, I assess if the location can accommodate a powered or a steam whole house humidifier. If the answer is yes, I go with one of those two (depending on the budget and the coverage area, of course).

I’m mentioning space here because the powered units require more of it. Simply put, there are cases when a bypass will be the only option.

With all other things equal, for an average home, I’d go with a powered unit. The two main reasons being:

  1. I’ve seen mold developing in the air handlers of bypass units
  2. I have a heat pump, and bypass doesn’t pair well with those. They’re dependant on air temperature and work better with gas-fired furnaces because they develop higher temperatures

I did my best to diversify the picks in the list of best whole house humidifiers because no one choice will work for everyone.

Your final choice will depend on factors like coverage area (square feet of your home), current humidity level, the space you have for the water tank, desired humidity levels of the air in your home, outdoor temperature, etc.

Other Classifications

There are other sub-types that we could go into here, but they wouldn’t serve our purpose of getting clarity on what’s important.

One such classification that you might see mentioned is based on how the water particles are dispersed. Speaking in those terms, you have four main groups of whole house humidifiers: drum style, disc wheel, mist spray, and flow-through humidifiers.

As I said, going into greater detail about each of these is beyond the scope of this guide. By that, I mean that you don’t need to know about it to choose well.

Additional Considerations

Installation is pretty simple for most of the models we listed here. Given, of course, that you have some experience with appliances.

If you’re considering a bypass, powered, or a steam whole house humidifier, you’ll want to make plans for the drain.

If the point of installation already has a floor drain nearby, you’re good to go. If not, you can send the drainage to the pump (sump or condensate).

Your HVAC as a factor

If you don’t have a forced-air HVAC installed in your home, you’ll have to go with a portable unit (pedestal or console humidifier).

For best results in a large home, you’ll want to place the humidifier units strategically and then add standalone fans behind the units to help the particles distribute evenly.

If you have a forced-air HVAC, you can choose either of the humidifier types we talked about above.

Hiring vs. DIY installation

Unless you’re going with a console-style, the installation will take some DIY savviness and goes beyond a typical homeowner job.

Tip: If you’re going to be installing it yourself, make sure to check if an installation kit comes included.

It can take 4-5 hours to install the more complicated furnace units, depending on how much wiring work is involved.

Installation basics

How to install a whole-house humidifier:
  • Choose a spot for the installation (supply or return side of the furnace)
  • Choose a location and cut out a hole in the ductwork
  • Insert the humidifier unit and secure it in place
  • Connect the drain to a condensate pump or an existing floor drain
  • Connect the wiring as the manufacturer instructions
Downsides of installing it yourself

If we’re talking about the non-ducted units, you can go ahead and install them yourself. “Install” is not really the right word here; it’s more about choosing a place for it and turning it on.

Ducted units are a whole different story – you’ll need to:

  • Know your way around electricity and wiring,
  • Be experienced reading manuals
  • Have all the essential tools

If you do tick all these boxes, you’ll also need to be aware that you might void your warranty.

This is a quote from Aprilaire warranty terms (which is pretty much the industry standard):

“This limited warranty is void if defects result from failure to have this unit installed by a qualified heating and air conditioning contractor.”

Type of controls

User-friendliness of the controls is one of the quality aspects I asked my featured experts about when choosing the best whole house humidifier.

Granted, it wasn’t a decisive factor, and I didn’t give it as much “weight” as effectiveness, but it is a part of the equation.

That means that there are units with manual controls that found their way to the top, but I prefer digital controls. They do cost a peg more but will make your life easier and give you more precise control over the humidity levels in your home.

Choosing the right size

Intuitively, choosing the size or space capacity seems easy enough. It’s listed right there in the specs.

In reality, it’s a bit more complicated because you have to factor in how tightly your house is sealed. In my experience, the listed rate of a humidifier is applicable for tightly sealed homes.

From what I’ve seen, this is the single most common reason behind bad experiences.

That’s why we’ll take a moment here to go over “air leakage.”

Which of the following three groups does your home belong to?

#1 – Tight seal – relatively new house (no older than 20 years), energy-efficient, R-38 or higher rating for the attic insulation, windows, and doors are sealed with minimal leakage. No fireplace.

#2 – Medium seal – an older house (20-40 years) with the air seals updated at some point (wrapped windows and doors).

#3 Loose seal – an old house (45+ years) with minimal or no wrapping around the windows and doors and a traditional fireplace.

If you live in a loosely sealed house, you probably won’t b satisfied with the humidity regulation – even if you go get the good whole house humidifier for the square feet.

That’s why I’d recommend going a size up to offset the air leakage.

The more air you let out, the more moisture goes with it, and you’re left thinking that your humidifier unit isn’t doing its job.

FAQs about Whole House Humidifiers

Which humidity level should I use?

The relative humidity levels in most homes should be between 30% and 50% for the summer, spring, and fall. This is where the setting should be at codisation (initial setup).

However, come wintertime, the temperatures drop will call for re-adjusting because high humidity at low temperatures can damage window sills and walls:

• When the temperature is between 0 and 10 degrees, the desired humidity level is about 20%
• Add some moisture to the air and go up to 25% when the outdoor temperature is at 10-20 degrees

The rule of thumb here is to check the setting as soon as you notice condensation on your windows.

How much do they cost?

Cost of the unit

The cost of a whole house humidifier is in the range of $100-1,200, depending on the type:

  • A drum unit will cost $100-150
  • Flow-through/powered – $120-250
  • Steam – $400-1,200

Cost of installation

The installation cost will also vary on the style/type of humidifier you choose. Non-steam styles will always be cheaper to install, steam type falls somewhere in the middle of the installation cost range, and central humidifiers will cost the most to install.

I can’t give you precise ranges here because the rates will vary state-to-state, town to town – for reference purposes, the total cost (labor and material) will likely be in the $100-200 per hour range.

On average, the installation will take 2 to 4 hours for the less complex models and 4 to 6 hours for a high-end whole house steam humidifier.

Takeaways – From One Conservative Buyer to Another

It took me about a year to gather the data for this guide, and I’m dedicated to keeping it updated with new information as it arrives.

I don’t mean to be cocky but I sincerely believe this guide is the one resource that you want to have handy when choosing a whole house humidifier, be it today or some point in the future.

Stay smart and savvy.

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