When shopping for a humidifier for the whole house (popular as whole-house humidifiers), you have two broad options – console and HVAC (furnace) models. Most people prefer HVAC models for several reasons, but mainly because you don’t need to worry about refilling a water tank once you’ve installed the humidifier. HVAC models are also easier to maintain.
However, in cases where an HVAC model is impractical (and there are many such circumstances as we’ll see a little later), a console humidifier could be your best option. These humidifiers are a lot more powerful than the standard humidifier, capable of serving an entire house. They also need slightly less maintenance than smaller humidifiers. But, most importantly, they are an excellent supplementary humidification option where the HVAC humidifier proves insufficient.
This guide seeks to help you pick the right console humidifier. In detail, we discuss the various console humidifier types, key factors to consider, and features to focus on when shopping.
So, with the reviews out of the way, it’s time to discuss the buying process. What do you need to know when shopping for a console humidifier? What factors should you keep in mind? We’ll start with a definition.
What is a Console Humidifier?
Console humidifiers are defines by two key characteristics. First, they are portable humidifiers, meaning that you can carry them from one room to another without much effort. Secondly, they are whole-house (read larger-capacity) humidifiers that can serve multiple rooms on the home.
The portable quality helps to distinguish them from HVAC humidifiers. HVAC humidifiers are permanently attached to the rest of the home’s HVAC system. In particular, they all attach to the home’s duct system, which they depend on to distribute humidity to the home’s individual rooms. As such, the HVAC humidifier is useless without the home’s ducting system. Also, they draw water from the home’s water supply system. They are also useless without this water supply.
Portable humidifiers, on the other hand, are independent. They don’t need the home’s HVAC system nor depend on the ductwork. They can pump out moisture into the home on their own. Also, they don’t need the home’s water supply. Instead, they feature independent tanks that are refilled when the water runs out.
The whole-house quality, meanwhile, distinguishes console humidifiers from the smaller room/personal humidifiers. Room and personal humidifiers are characterized by smaller tanks and average mist output rates because they only need to satisfy a small space’s humidification needs, typically up to 600 square feet. They are also smaller (in physical size) and lighter (in weight).
Console humidifiers have much larger tanks and much more powerful mist output rates because they need to meet the needs of larger spaces. Some can effectively humidify spaces as large as 4,000 square feet. They are also heavier (in weight) and bigger in physical size.
How to Determine if a Console Humidifier is Right for You
Not everyone needs a console humidifier. Sometimes, you’d be better off with HVAC humidifiers while, in some circumstances, a smaller room/personal humidifier would make more sense. You’ll know a console humidifier would be the best solution for your needs if you find yourself in any of the following situations;
- You’re a renter: If you’re a renter, you cannot install an HVAC humidifier. Therefore, if the humidification system pre-installed in the house isn’t sufficient, you have two options – ask the owner to improve/replace the existing HVAC humidifier or invest in a console humidifier.
- You need a humidifier for a large area: This may or may not go with the first point. Essentially, if you need to humidifier a larger space and an HVAC humidifier system isn’t a practical solution, a console-type humidifier would be an excellent alternative.
- You desire centralized humidification control: This often goes alongside point #2. You can always choose to buy multiple smaller humidifiers for each of your rooms. But, it makes humidification control hectic because you must set and control the individual humidifiers separately. A console-style humidifier significantly simplifies the job.
- You’re on a smaller budget: HVAC humidifiers, while cost-effective in the long run, are the most expensive of all humidifiers with regard to upfront costs. They are costly to buy and just as expensive to install. If you need whole-home humidification but don’t have the HVAC budget, a console humidifier would be a nice alternative.
Benefits of a Whole-House Console Humidifier
Console humidifiers come with multiple benefits over both HVAC humidification systems and the smaller room/personal humidifiers.
Compared to HVAC humidifiers;
- They are more affordable than HVAC humidifiers: Purchasing and installing an HVAC-style humidifier can cost in the range of $1,500. If this is beyond your budget, you can get whole-home humidification from a console humidifier for less than 10% of the cost.
- The portability is another major advantage: For renters, especially, you can carry the humidifier along when you move houses. Portability also means that you can move the humidifier to other home areas, perhaps the garage when you eventually buy a replacement humidifier.
Compared to room/personal humidifiers;
- They cover a much larger area: The typical room humidifier is designed to serve a standard 500-600 square-foot room. If you need to cover a much larger area, a console humidifier can effectively serve up to 6,000 square feet or more.
- More convenient humidity control: If you choose to have a small humidifier in each room, you need to set the humidification levels in each room separately. You also need to monitor and service the different humidifiers separately. A console humidifier saves you from the hectic work.
Drawbacks of Console Humidifiers
Despite the many advantages, however, console humidifiers also come with a few downsides. Two of the most critical challenges are;
- The need for regular maintenance: Yes, you don’t need to replace the water or clean the unit as often as with smaller humidifiers. However, unlike HVAC humidifiers, which are essentially maintenance-free, console models require moderate maintenance.
- Sitting water challenges: Water that sits in any container for more than a day can be a breeding ground for mold, bacteria, and other germs. Unlike HVAC humidifiers that rely on running water, console humidifiers let the water sit in the tank, sometimes for a day.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Console Humidifier
Console humidifiers come in different designs, shapes, and sizes. They also vary in prices and features. The following are vital considerations to help you pick the right one;
- Steam or evaporative
Console humidifiers come in two main choices – evaporative or steam. Evaporative console humidifiers depend on a wicking system to generate mist. The wick (which also doubles up as a filter) draws water from a tank. Air from outside the humidifier is forces through the wet wick, breaking down the water particles into fine mist, which is then dispersed into the home (often with the help of a fan). The mist is delivered at room temperature.
Meanwhile, steam console humidifiers heat water to evaporation in a tank and pump the vapor out of the unit and into the home. The mist is, therefore, warm. These humidifiers consume more electric power, thus higher energy bills. However, they are valuable supplemental heat sources.
- Tank capacity (in gallons/liters)
Tank capacity is vital for two reasons. It gives you a clue on how much space the humidifier can serve. Secondly, it determines how long the humidifier can run continuously on a full tank. Remember that it’s strictly prohibited to refill a humidifier when plugged in and in use. Therefore, if you need a longer run time, you must get a bigger tank.
Fortunately, console humidifiers have massive tanks. Most of them have tanks larger than four (4) gallons, which is at least four times the standard humidifier tank size. Some, however, have tanks as big as 7+ gallons.
- Maximum output per day (in gallons)
Another critical metric is how many gallons of moisture the humidifier van pump out over e 24-hour period. Why is this important? Because you need to deliver/add a certain amount of moisture per square foot to achieve desired humidity levels.
Ideally, you need to add a gallon of moisture (not water) for 300 square feet or 12 gallons for a 3,600 square-foot home every 24 hours. If you’re shopping for a humidifier for a larger space, make sure to choose one with a higher maximum output.
- Fan and fan speeds
As we mentioned earlier, some evaporative humidifiers have come in-built fans that help draw air into the unit, push moisture out of the unit, and disperse the mist throughout the home. Steam humidifiers typically don’t have fans, though.
It’s important to (1) determine whether you’d like a humidifier with a fan system and (2) determine the key features you want in the fan. For instance, how powerful a fan do you want? Also, do you want an adjustable fan with a range of speed options? If so, how many speed levels do you want?
A warranty is an everpresent feature in all great humidifiers. If the model you’re looking at doesn’t have one, then it’s best to look elsewhere. Some even have return policies where you can send the unit back in exchange for a new one in case of certain malfunctions.
Two vital determinants of a worthy warranty are the length of the warranty and parts/damages covered. A great warranty is long enough (many manufacturers offer 3-year+ warranties). Also, make sure it covers as many eventualities as possible.
- Extra features
A few extra/convenience features to consider include design, ease of installation, digital display, indicator lights, auto-shut-off, and adjustable humidity settings. You also want to look at certifications, simplicity of controls, the presence and type of filters, presence of castor wheels, the presence of a humidistat, and noise levels.
The noise level is particularly crucial. Great humidifiers are as quiet as possible. You want it even more peaceful if you intend to use it at night. Anything less than 50 decibels on the low setting is considered good enough.
Maintaining a Console Humidifier
Console humidifiers must be properly maintained for optimal performance and to extend their useful lives. Consider the following maintenance tips;
- Rinse the tank regularly: Ideally, you want to empty the unit and rinse the tank with fresh water daily. But, since some console humidifier tanks are designed to run continuously for longer, make sure to rinse it at least every two days.
- Deep-clean every week: Switch off the humidifier, unplug it from the electrical socket, and take it apart. Then, soak the parts in diluted vinegar and tank in bleaching agent (both for 30 minutes). Then rinse with freshwater and leave to dry before reassembling the unit.
- Change the filters as recommended: The user guide will tell you how often you need to replace the filters. Usually, it’s once every two weeks. For reusable filters, you may be asked to wash them every time you deep-clean the humidifier.
- Avoid tap water: Tap water contains minerals in large quantities, some of which may be unhealthy for you. Moreover, mineral buildup in the humidifier can accelerate and cause leaks. Instead, use distilled water or demineralize the tap water first.
- Console vs. Furnace Whole-House Humidifiers, which is better?
It depends on the circumstances. Furnace humidifiers don’t require refilling and are virtually maintenance-free. But, they are more expensive and are only an option for homeowners. Console models are a more practical option if you’re a renter or on a lower budget.
- How Much Do Console Humidifiers Cost?
This, too, depends on several factors, including the size, design, and manufacturer. However, most console humidifiers are priced in the $90-$150 range.
Let’s begin with an in-depth review of six of the best console humidifiers. These humidifiers offer the best features and are some of the best performers in the world of console humidifiers. Better still, they won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
- Honeywell Model HCM-6009 Cool Mist Console Humidifier
- Employs convenient dual-tank design
- Adjustable humidistat
- Multi-room use
- Runs for up to 24 hours
- 3-year limited warranty
- Finding replacement filters is a challenge
Kicking off with one of the best-performing console-style humidifiers, the model HCM-6009 unit from Honeywell is simply magnificent. This 3-gallon humidifier is easy to fill and comes with auto-shutoff for safe use. It can run for 24 hours on a full tank.
It’s an evaporative humidifier that uses a filter to remove unwanted particles and microorganisms from humidifier water and outbound moisture. One key advantage of evaporative humidifiers is there’s no risk of over-humidification because you can’t add more moisture to the air than it can hold.
The Model HCM-6009 features an adjustable humidistat for automatic performance and three-speed levels for ultimate indoor comfort. “Humidity Reached” and “Tank Empty” notifications help you stay on top of the humidification process. It has two water tanks that are easy to refill and is available in white or black colors.
- Honeywell Model HEV685W Top Fill Console Humidifier
- Antibacterial-treated filter
- Ergonomic, easy-carry design
- Auto shutoff for safe use
- Adjustable humidistat
- 3-year warranty
- The tanks feel a bit weak
- Finding replacement filters isn’t easy
Another Honeywell on the list, this too, is a 3-gallon model. It’s also very easy to refill thanks to the dual-tank technology (each tank is 1.5-gallon capacity) and large lids. It features a humidistat that can be paired with other climate control appliances to ensure ultimate indoor conditions.
As with other Honeywell humidifiers, it uses genuine Honeywell replacement wicking filters. The filters are treated with patented anti-microbial solutions that inhibit the growth and migration of mold, algae, and bacteria. It also comes with a Protec humidifier cleaning ball. The ergonomic design makes it easy to carry while the 3-speed settings give you ultimate control.
The unit can run 24 hours straight on the low setting and shuts off automatically when the tank runs empty. A refill light signal will alert you of low water. As a sign of the manufacturer’s confidence in the product, it’s backed by a 3-year warranty.
- AirCare MA0800 Digital Whole-House Console-Style Humidifier
- 8-gallon moisture output
- Adjustable auto humidistat
- Check-filter indicator
- Safety auto-shutoff
- 2-year warranty
- Requires frequent filter replacement
- Filters cost up to $16 each
The Model MA0800 from AirCare is classed as a medium-sized humidifier, ideal for medium-sized homes or just a few rooms. Ideally, you want to use it for spaces up to 1,700 square feet. It uses a unique wick design allowing it to pump out an incredible 8 gallons of moisture per day. For a 2.5-gallon humidifier, that’s amazing.
You get to choose from three fan speeds. The higher the setting, the higher the moisture output/hour. You’ll also quickly notice the digital control panel. Most settings are completed from the control panel. However, an adjustable humidistat built into the unit further makes your work easy by allowing for automated control.
The single-tank humidifier can run for up to 36 hours in low moisture mode and features an auto shut-off control for safety purposes.
- Holmes Cool Mist Console Humidifier Model HM3855L-UM
- Durable build
- Triple-layer filtration system
- Ideal for up to 2,000 square feet
- Adjustable digital humidistat
- Filter treated with baking soda
- No “low water” indicators
- No “tank empty” indicators
The Holmes HM3855L-UM is a unique humidifier. Unlike other console humidifiers, it’s designed for durability, thus features a tougher body. It’s also easier to move about thanks to easily accessible handles. A few people may, however, not like the black and jungle-green color combinations.
Aside from the design style, the HM3855L-UM is a 38-liter humidifier (good luck finding a larger-capacity option). This makes it ideal for larger spaces. Indeed, it can effectively serve a 2,000 square-foot home without straining. A built-in water filtration system removes impurities from the water. It’s a triple-filtration system that catches pretty much everything.
Other key features of the humidifier include an adjustable digital humidistat and a 24-hour run time per refill. The unit is backed by a 1-year warranty.
- Vornado Evap40 4-Gallon Evaporative Console Humidifier
- Large-capacity, 4-gallon tank
- Ideal for up to 1,000 square feet
- Easy to use control panel
- Built-in humidistat
- 5-year warranty
- Replacement wicks aren’t easy to find
- The wicks cost up to $15/each in some stores
If you’re a fan of dual-tank console humidifiers, here’s another model, this time from Vornado. It’s a 4-gallon unit that runs for 24 straight hours on a full tank. The result is fewer refills and minimal maintenance.
Simple controls make the unit even more attractive. The control panel allows you to select the desired fan speed. There are three choices in total – low, medium, and high speed. Alternatively, a built-in humidistat makes it possible to set the humidifier on auto-pilot, where it automatically adjusts indoor humidity in line with prevailing climatic conditions.
The unit features two wick filters for superior performance and is effective for up to 1,000 square feet. It’s backed by a 5-year limited manufacturer warranty.
- AirCare H12600, Copper Night Whole-House Console Humidifier
- Massive 20-liter tank
- Ideal for up to 3,700 square feet
- Modern-looking copper night finish
- Four fan speeds
- 1-year limited warranty
- Takes up a lot of space
- Tank positioning is a little tricky
Finally, the H12600 Copper Night humidifier from AirCare is the second-largest humidifier on this list. This massive unit has a tank capacity of 5.4 gallons, equivalent to just over 20 liters, and puts out 12 gallons of moisture per day. These qualities make it the ideal whole-home humidifier. Indeed, it’s effective for spaces up to 3,700 square feet. Keep in mind that the average home is around 2,000 square feet.
It uses a Bemis patented super wick, removable power packs for easy cleaning, and EZ-roll casters. It’s also easy to refill thanks to an included hose system. The power unit lifts off the unit for easy cleaning. The wick also comes out easily for replacement.
The control interface is hidden behind a panel on top of the unit, from where you can adjust the humidistat and choose the desired fan speed. It’s backed by a one-year warranty.
For shoppers in need of a more powerful humidifier capable of serving a more extensive area but in a situation where an HVAC/furnace humidifier is impractical, a console humidifier can be a wise alternative. These humidifiers can serve up to 6,000 square feet at an upfront cost of under $150. They are also reasonably easy to maintain and give you the central control you’d get from the furnace humidifier.
As long as you pick the right capacity unit with the necessary features, you’re guaranteed many years of exceptional whole-home humidification.