Is the dry winter air getting you down? If so, a whole-home humidifier might be the perfect solution to help you be more comfortable inside your home. Read on to learn more about the various types of whole-home humidifiers, how they work, and what benefits they can provide.

How Whole-Home Humidifiers Work

Whole-home humidifiers are different from portable units. Portable units are fine if you simply need to humidify the air in your bedroom or any other room, but they won’t have much of an impact on the overall humidity level in your home since they can only pump humidity out into the surrounding area.

Instead of simply pumping out warm, moist air into a room, a whole-home humidifier works alongside a central HVAC system to circulate moist air throughout the entire building. Another difference is that whole-home humidifiers are directly connected to the plumbing system to ensure they always have a steady supply of water.

Whenever your heating system is running, the unit will constantly put out moisture. However, most units can also be connected to a humidistat, which measures the humidity level and will only signal the humidifier to run when the humidity drops below a set percentage.

There are three types of whole-home humidifiers: bypass, fan-powered, and steam. All three essentially work by releasing moist air into the ductwork system and then rely on the HVAC blower to circulate the moisture into every room.

Steam humidifiers can also be installed independently of the HVAC system and simply use their internal fan to pump out moist air, but this is usually only recommended for small areas since the unit can still only pump moisture into one area. As such, the unit will need to run much longer to raise the humidity level in the entire home.

Bypass Humidifiers

Bypass humidifiers are the most basic and least expensive type of whole-home humidifier. These units can be mounted onto the supply or return air duct, depending on the available room. However, they are always more effective when installed in the supply duct just after your furnace. The reason is that these units don’t produce any heat of their own and instead rely on the heat from the furnace to produce moisture.

A bypass humidifier will sit next to the air duct and is connected to the HVAC system by two pieces of flexible duct. Whenever your heating system runs, some air flowing through the ductwork is channeled into the humidifier. The warm air flows over a tray filled with water, which causes some of the water to evaporate. The moist air flows from the humidifier and back into the central ductwork.

Fan-Powered Humidifiers

Fan-powered humidifiers are very similar to bypass units and are installed similarly. The only real difference is that these units have an internal fan, which helps make them quite a bit more effective. Instead of relying on the air pressure inside the duct system to bring air into the humidifier, the internal fan sucks warm air in from the ducts and blows it over the water tray. This process enables them to produce quite a bit more humidity at a time than a standard bypass unit. A fan-powered unit works actively instead of relying only on the HVAC blower like a bypass unit.

As you’d expect, fan-powered units tend to be a bit more expensive and require electricity, unlike a bypass unit. However, fan-powered units are incredibly energy efficient. In most cases, the fan consumes about the same energy as a 25-watt lightbulb.

Steam Humidifiers

Steam humidifiers are by far the most effective units. Instead of relying on the heat from the furnace, these units use electricity to boil water and produce steam. Inside the unit is either a tray or canister filled with water that contains many electrodes. When the unit runs, it sends an electrical current between the electrodes. This current reacts with minerals in the water, which creates heat and causes the water to evaporate into steam.

The humidifier then uses an internal fan to pump the steam into the supply or return duct. The unit can also be installed to pump steam directly out into the surrounding area, which means it can work in homes without central heating.

While steam humidifiers will produce many more gallons of moisture per day than other units, they are also quite a bit more expensive and use more electricity. Another issue is that steam humidifiers don’t work all that well in buildings with hard water. As such, we usually only recommend them if you don’t have problems with hard water or your home also has a water softener.

The issue is that all of the dissolved minerals in hard water can quickly lead to limescale starting to coat the electrodes. Whenever hard water is heated, some of these minerals undergo a chemical reaction that turns them into compounds like calcium carbonate, which creates a hard layer that coats any surface.

If the electrodes become too coated in limescale, the unit won’t heat properly and thus will produce much less steam. You can still use a steam humidifier if your home has hard water, but the unit will require more maintenance and will likely not last nearly as long as it would otherwise. The unit’s effectiveness will also continue to decrease as it ages.

Benefits of Installing a Whole-Home Humidifier

Low humidity is a major issue during the winter and can create various problems for your health and your home and furnishings. Cooler air always has a lower moisture content, and constantly running your heating system dries the air out even more.

Dry air can impact your health and wellness in a variety of ways. Low humidity will dry out your sinuses, skin, and hair and worsen sinus or respiratory problems. This is precisely why many doctors recommend using a humidifier whenever you’re ill as it will help keep your mucous membranes from drying out.

Dry air can also lead to static electricity building up, which is why you typically get shocked more frequently in the winter. Not only that, but a lack of humidity can also damage your furniture and building materials. Both wood and leather are prone to cracking due to low humidity, and dry air can also lead to wooden floors beginning to warp. A whole-home humidifier will help prevent all of these issues so that you can breathe easier and prevent potential damage to your home and furnishings.

At HB Home Service Team, we install a range of whole-home humidifiers, and our technicians can help you decide which type and model best meets your needs. We also provide a range of other indoor air quality services, including whole-home air purifier installation and air duct cleaning, and we can take care of all of your HVAC and plumbing needs as well. To learn more about the benefits of installing a whole-home humidifier, or if you need any home service in Randallstown or Baltimore County, call us today.

HB Home Service Team

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