Do you the dryness you get from running your furnace in the winter?
You probably do because that dryness isn’t healthy.
Using a whole house humidifier can alleviate that problem.
This guide will cover the 6 best whole house humidifiers on the market. We will also give a nice buying guide and answer all the common questions about using these in your home.
Reviews of Whole House Humidifiers
Essick Air Aircare MA1201
Type of Humidifier: Evaporative – Console
Tank Capacity: 3.6 gallons
Area Covered: 3600 square feet
Runtime: 36 hours
This is our favorite humidifier. It is a console style humidifier that can cover a house that is 3600 square feet.
Console style means that it is portable and you can move it anywhere you want in your home. The 4 wheels make it super easy to move around too. You can even wheel it around on carpet. Also, you don’t need to worry about attaching it to your duct.
Anyway, the MA1201 has 4 different settings for the fan. It also has a thermostat and a lock button. The lock button is especially nice if you have small children that like to press buttons. They can really mess up the settings!
You can expect the water in the 3.6 gallon to last anywhere from a day to a week. This depends on the level you want and the amount of humidity in the air.
When you first use the unit it will take about a day to fully humidify your home. This is normal. It should run less as your house becomes more humid.
All in all, we really like this model for its small size and ability to completely humidify an entire house.
Aprilaire Model 500 M
Type of Humidifier: Bypass
Tank Capacity: N/A
Area Covered: 3000 square feet
Runtime: 0.5 gallons per hour
The Aprilaire Model 500 M is our top pick for a bypass humidifier. In fact, this is the top model in the category (our opinion). It doesn’t get much better than this.
Now, it’s a bypass model, which means it does not have a tank or fan. Instead, the water is hooked directly into the unit and then warmed up and pushed through the duct. This model has manual controls. However, you can purchase the Model 500 if you want a unit that has a digital thermostat.
The one downside with this unit is that the warranty is only valid if a certified technician installs the system. This is a little bit of a bummer, but the unit is fairly difficult to install. We would still recommend having a tech install it even if it had no warranty applications. Plus, you don’t have to worry about breaking anything.
Final verdict, you can’t go wrong with this unit. It’s literally the top of its category among HVAC professionals and a product we strongly recommend to our readers.
Type of Humidifier: Console
Tank Capacity: 3 gallons (each tank hold 1.5 gallons)
Area Covered: 3000 square meters
Runtime: 24 hours
Number three on our list is another console humidifier. This one is manufactured by Honeywell.
It isn’t too much different than the Essick Air one listed earlier. Though it does have enough differences that we feel justified placing it on our list.
First, this unit has two separate 1.5 gallon tanks for a total of 3 gallons. Separate tanks make it much easier to clean and maintain. We can’t complain about that. It also has indicator lights that turn on when the unit runs out of water. Nice.
Next, it has a humidistat, which is par for the course on these products. Nothing too special there. The wheels are nice and big, so you can easily move this around the home.
Perhaps the best part about this unit is how quiet it is. This has to be the quietest console humidifier on the market. You definitely want a quiet one because you can’t just hide these away in your closet or something. Unless you want a super humid closet for some reason.
We recommend this unit to anyone looking for a slightly lower capacity whole house humidifier. It’s quiet and easy to move. Check it out on Amazon by clicking the below link.
Type of Humidifier: Evaporative
Tank Capacity: 4 gallons
Area Covered: 1000 square feet
Runtime: 24 hours
The Vornado is a humidifier for a small apartment or a room in a house. We know this is a whole house humidifier article, but not everyone has a (big) home. We have to cater to smaller apartments too.
Anyway, this is a small evaporative humidifier. The tank capacity is 4 gallons and it only covers 1000 square feet. It also does not have a humidistat, which is slightly annoying. However, it will not oversaturate your home with moisture because it will turn off at a set point.
Evaporative humidifiers are nice because they blow out air that is slightly cooler than the room temperature. Keep in mind that this will not really affect the temperature of the room. It is nice if you sit near the humidifier because the air blowing in your face is cooler. A much better situation than a bypass system that might have warm and humid air… gross!
We recommend this humidifier for a condo or apartment. If you have a house, then purchase one of the above listed units. This one also has a 5 year limited warranty that we really like.
Type of Humidifier: Evaporative Console
Tank Capacity: 5.4 gallon
Area Covered: 3,700 square feet
Runtime: 24 hours
Next on our list is the Aircare H12-400HB. This is another evaporative console humidifier that can moisturize your entire home.
We like this one because of its large size and tank capacity. Furthermore, it has three fan settings you can choose. These range from the lowest fan setting, which is extremely quiet. The highest fan setting sounds like a truck in your home. In other words, it’s loud. A bit of a disappointment, but common with humidifiers.
The choice is yours. Just remember that a higher fan setting will humidify your home in a shorter amount of time.
This unit is also a console humidifier, which means you can easily move it around your home. Plus, it looks great. It’s not that white or slightly off-white color that you commonly see. Not a fan of off-white plastic, but that’s just me. I know some people love it.
Aprilaire 700 Automatic Humidifier
Type of Humidifier: Bypass with fan
Tank Capacity: N/A
Area Covered: 4200 square feet
Runtime: 0.75 gallons per hour
Last on our list is the Aprilaire 700. This is a bypass filter, but it has a fan attached to it.
The fan helps push the humidity through your ductwork so you can operate this without having your furnace turned on. This is definitely a big advantage over the other units listed.
However, you do need to install this in the proper location. There is much debate on whether to install this on the supply or return side. Some opt for the supply side because it forces the moist air through the filter, which makes it much cleaner.
Others recommend putting it on the return side because it the fan is not strong enough to push it all the way through the filter and furnace.
Really, the difference isn’t that great (I’ll probably get flamed for saying that. This is a big debate in the HVAC industry). The manufacturer recommends putting it on the supply side for the extra filtration.
Anyway, this filter is nice. It works great for bigger homes. Keep in mind that the 4200 square feet number assumes a relatively compact home. If you have a sprawling home with miles (ok. not that much) of ducts, then you might have to bump that number down.
What really sets this unit apart is the automatic digital humidifier control. You can simply set it and forget it.
You don’t have to worry about waiting to feel uncomfortable and then turning off the furnace. Just choose a humidity setting that you want and forget about it. It’s super simple and part of the reason that this unit made our list compared to the other thousands of humidifiers out there.
Reasons to Use a Whole House Humidifier
Using a whole house humidifier has a few benefits that we love. This section will go into detail on three of those benefits.
Reduces Flu Virus
I actually just discovered this while researching this article. Using a humidifier will reduce the ability of the flu virus to spread through the air. Basically, the virus gets caught on the moisture particles and can’t move. This makes it immobile. Cool.
This reason alone is good enough to make it a worthwhile choice for a home.
This is probably the biggest benefit to having a humidifier. You just feel so much better because of your improved health. It’s like when they put batteries into the Energizer Bunny or something.
I mean, I hate getting a dry throat during the winter from running the heat. A humidifier definitely helps with the whole dry throat and cracked skin. It’s definitely more effective than moisturizer.
Anyway, if you notice you constantly have a dry throat and dry skin, then purchasing a whole house humidifier is a sensible decision.
Furthermore, you can further your healthy living lifestyle by purchasing a whole house water filter for your home. That’s a whole another discussion though.
Another benefit is that these are energy efficient compared to a small unit that only works for one room. This is the same concept as using central air conditioning as opposed to individual wall units in every room.
It’s just much more efficient to have one “central” humidifier in your home. Plus, it is less maintenance and upkeep having to maintain a single unit.
Get one unit. For the price of one unit, you can buy a console unit that cools your home. Seems like a smart decision to me.
Source: EnergyStar Market Report
Types of Whole House Humidifiers and How They Work
Now, you might think that whole house humidifiers are easy and come in a one-size-fits-all type package.
These units have 3 different categories. It can also be divided into 3 other categories. This gives you a lot of different options. The following list will help you when browsing the different listings.
These are one of the most common types of humidifiers you will find on the market. Basically, they work by having the warm air from the hot air duct pass through a panel that stores water. A bypass system does not have a fan, which means they must rely on the furnace to push humid air through the home.
These units are usually, but not always, cheaper than a fan powered unit. They also experience less breakdowns because they do not have a fan, which is just another moving part that can breakdown.
Some of these units do not have a drain. Instead, they recycle water through the home. This makes them extremely efficient.
Fan Powered Humidifiers
Fan powered humidifiers work by having the fan push the humidity through the ductwork. These can operate without the use of the fan, which means that they can pump more humidity through your home.
They usually cost a little bit more money than a bypass system, but not much. You can hook these directly up to your duct without much extra work. Also, they use less water than a bypass system.
We’d recommend a fan powered unit if possible. Just keep in mind that they do cost marginally more than a bypass unit.
Evaporative humidifiers are definitely the fanciest ones on the list. These work by heating water to a boil and then using a fan to push the humidity through the ducts (or just blowing it into the room).
What makes them fancy is that you can easily control the amount of humidity that you want in your home. You can even use them when you don’t want to run the furnace or air conditioning.
Unfortunately, they are more expensive to operate because they require electricity to boil the water. Only get one if you can handle an extra 20% or so to your electric bill.
Console humidifiers aren’t really a type of humidifier. Instead, they are just an installation method.
You don’t attach a console humidifier to the ductwork. You literally just wheel it into the room and turn it on. The fan blows humid air into the room. These are usually evaporative humidifiers.
The fans are also super powerful. One console humidifier, depending on the model, can moisturize an entire 3500 square foot home.
Things to Consider Before Purchase
There are a few things you should know and consider before running out and purchasing a whole house humidifier. This section will cover some, but not all, of those factors.
This is the most important factor for most people. Most units cost around $100. Some a little less and some much more than $100.
It’s a good starting point for a basic system though.
The monthly upkeep cost is another one that a lot of people forget about. These things do cost money to maintain. If you already have a tight budget, then we don’t recommend using one. They just add too much money to the monthly electric bill.
You want to make sure that you purchase a unit that can cover your entire house. This shouldn’t be an issue if your house is under 3500 square feet, which is most of you. However, just make sure that the humidifier you purchase can provide for all the square feet in your home.
This is important for people that price tag shop. Looking for the model with the lowest price will usually mean purchasing one that covers the least amount of square feet. A big problem if you live in a bigger house.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Do they cause mold?
Yes. They add humidity to the home, which can result in mold. However, these aren’t the humidifiers of the 1980s. These things are high-tech and smart, but not sentient (yet).
They automatically turn off when it gets too humid, which prevents most mold.
In other words, you don’t have to worry about living in a rain cloud with this. You get just the right amount of humidity in your home with these.
Can I adjust the amount of humidity?
Yes. Remember, it takes time for you to feel the effects, it’s not instant. You can even set the humidity level like a thermostat and the system will adjust.
Cool stuff. It saves energy and keeps your home at an optimal level.
What is the ideal humidity level for my home?
This depends on your personal preference. Most homeowners find somewhere between 35% and 60% humidity a comfortable range. I agree with that. Over 60% is like living in a swamp.
Trust me, I live in Florida.
Will this affect my air conditioning or heat?
No. It will just add some moisture to it. Most people think it feels better and it has some nice effects on the skin and lungs.
We recommend using one. You might want to try a small unit in a room before investing in a whole home unit.
Can I use a humidifier in the summer/winter?
Yes. You can use these as long as the humidity is low in your home.
Air conditioners are dry, but furnaces are even drier. You can use this in the summer and the winter depending on where you live.
Florida homeowners use these during the “winter” to fight the dryness caused by running a heat pump. However, they are much more common in areas that actually get cold.
Will I get more bugs in my home?
It depends. If you use this during the dry and warm season, then you will get bugs.
Bugs are attracted to the moisture because they need water for their exoskeleton (my biology degree is useful). This is just something that you have to be aware of before purchasing one of these units.
In the winter you shouldn’t have an issue with bugs… unless you live in Florida.
Where should I install it?
This depends on the unit. Generally, you install a bypass unit on the supply duct. However, consult your owner’s manual for the best location to place one of these.
Where do I buy replacement filters?
You can find them on Amazon. Some hardware stores might have them as well. Amazon will definitely have them though.
Why can’t I use a bunch of room humidifiers?
You can. It’s just much more inefficient and you have less control. Think of it like this. Would you rather use three separate space heaters or a furnace?
You’d rather use a furnace. The same applies to a whole house humidifier. Fortunately, these are much easier to install than a furnace.