Maintaining a safe and healthy indoor environment takes more than just air purifying and air conditioning. Although an air purifier can help combat indoor air pollutants and allergens, you need a whole-home humidifier to bring your indoor humidity to the desired levels.
The best whole house humidifier for hard water will not only help keep your home comfortable but also fight symptoms associated with dry indoor air, including dry eyes, sore throat, sinus problems, asthma, and other respiratory infections.
Different types of humidifiers are available on the market today. And it is a bit challenging to decide which humidifier to choose for your home. But, this whole house humidifier reviews should help you choose the best unit depending on your needs.
What’s a Whole House Humidifier?
A whole-house humidifier, as the name suggests, is a large humidifier capable of controlling humidity levels in an entire house as opposed to portable humidifiers, which are smaller and provide coverage for just one room. Whole-house humidifiers are large, bulky, and permanently installed.
In general, whole-house humidifiers are install-it-and-forget-it appliances. They’re integrated into the blower system of the central furnace and draw water directly from the home’s main supply.
How Does a Whole House Humidifier Work?
A whole-house humidifier is installed as part of the home heating system. Unlike portable humidifiers that plug into a wall outlet, the whole house humidifier is installed directly into the heating system’s ductwork.
As the heating system cycles and heats the home, moisture from the humidifier is also released into your rooms. The humidifier can be installed either on the supply or return end of the home heating system. It depends on preference and the type of humidifier you’re using. The whole house humidifier is also connected directly to the home’s water supply system.
Inside the humidifier, there is a humidifier pad and either a rotating drum or steaming system. When the humidifier is running, water is passed over the humidifier pad. The water can either be broken down into mist or collected by the rotating drum, depending on your model.
In most cases, a portion of the air entering or leaving the furnace is cycled back into the humidifier before joining again with the rest of the home’s airflow. While passing through the humidifier, the air absorbs moisture, which increases its humidity levels. As such, the air that eventually enters the home has a higher moisture level.
Are Whole House Humidifiers Worth the Investment?
Absolutely YES! The main job of any humidifier is to ensure a healthy, balanced level of humidity in the intended space, and whole-house humidifiers do this stupendously. These multiroom humidifiers not only add large volumes of moisture to the home, but they can also serve multiple rooms at a go.
Moreover, they’re extremely powerful and can run continuously for several hours. Even better, some large units can work nonstop for more than an entire day (24+ hours).
The following are other benefits of investing in whole-house humidifiers;
Low operating costs
One major downside of portable humidifiers is that they lack built-in hygrometers. As such, the units keep operating even after the desired indoor humidity level is reached, which often leads to wastage.
Whole house humidifiers are completely different; they feature in-built hygrometers with sensors to turn off the humidification process once the set humidity level is attained. The result is significant energy savings.
Furthermore, whole-house humidifiers, unlike portable units, don’t require distilled water. Instead, they used piped water from the home’s main supply thus reducing operating costs.
Since most portable humidifiers depend on water tanks, you’ll need to refill the humidifier them once every 24 hours if left to run continuously throughout the day and night.
Aside from refilling, portable humidifiers also require regular cleaning, with most models needing thorough cleaning at least twice a week. Changing the filters must also be changed regularly.
Whole-house humidifiers aren’t as maintenance intensive as their portable counterparts. In fact, whole-house humidifiers don’t require refilling and only need cleaning once a year.
Though useful in a range of applications, portable humidifiers rarely give off enough moisture to sufficiently serve large spaces. Unless you’re working in a tiny room, mobile units are best used as complementary (secondary) humidification sources.
Besides, most portable humidifiers work best in non-crowded areas. They work excellently in bedrooms occupied by one or two people, for example. But, as soon as you introduce more people to the room, comfort levels reduce.
That’s where whole-house humidifiers come in. Being more powerful, a whole-house humidifier can comfortably serve larger spaces with more occupants.
Unlike portable humidifiers that must be controlled independently, whole-house humidifiers can be connected to other HVAC systems for automated functioning.
Most people, for example, connect their units to the central heating system so that the moisture is distributed throughout the house via the same ductwork used to deliver heat to your rooms.
Even when connected to HVAC systems, though, the units can still have humidifier-only modes that deliver moisture when heating is off. Or you can consider smart humidifiers.
Types of Whole House Humidifiers
There are three main types of whole-house humidifiers to choose from;
- Flow-through (bypass)
Let’s delve a little deeper into each type;
A drum humidifier comprises a belt made from foam or fabric. The fabric takes up water and rotates in on a drum over a water reservoir. As the air coming from your HVAC system passes over the drum, it carries the evaporated moisture and delivers the heat/air plus moisture to the home via ducts.
- Drum humidifiers are the cheapest option available
- Easy to install. DIY is simple
- Need regular cleaning and maintenance to prevent mold growth
- The belt must be replaced periodically
Flow-though (Bypass) Humidifiers
Also known as bypass humidifiers, flow-through humidifiers are the most common type of whole-house humidifiers. No water reservoir is needed here. Instead, air passes through an aluminum biscuit placed in the humidifier.
Whenever humidification is needed, water flows through the biscuit and is evaporated into the air coming from the AC or furnace, and delivered to the house through ducts.
- No stagnant water, thus less risk of mold or bacteria
- Reduced cost of maintenance
- Periodic maintenance is needed to clean out dust and dirt
- Filter pads get clogged rather fast
Fan powered humidifiers are essentially bypass humidifiers with blower fans. Rather than depend exclusively on the blower system of the furnace, fan-powered models come with their own blower systems. The main purpose of the blower system is to increase the rate of evaporation.
- Greater evaporation, thus more moisture
- Requires less installation space
- More expensive owing to the blower system
Other Whole House Humidifier Types
Aside from drum, bypass, and fan-powered humidifiers, you’ll also come across sub-types such as steam humidifiers, evaporative, and ultrasonic humidifiers.
All you need to know is that steam humidifiers boil water into steam and blow the steam into your home. Evaporative humidifiers, meanwhile, pass water through an evaporative pad that breaks the water particles into tiny moisture particles.
Finally, ultrasonic humidifiers are often portable rather than whole-house. They rely on a vibrating transducer to break water into moisture particles.
How to Install a Whole House Humidifier
The installation process varies from one humidifier type to another. In most cases, you’ll find the installation instructions in the manufacturer’s manual. Many manufacturers are also open to providing an installation support, whether through live chat or a phone call.
Regardless, the basics remain the same. You’ll need about two hours to mark the template, cut holes, and complete the installation.
What you need;
- A cordless drill and bit
- Wire straps
- Adjustable wrench
- Aviation snips
- Wire nuts
- Sheet metal screws
- Felt tip marker
- Vent pipe
- The humidifier unit
The installation process;
Once you have the tools and materials listed above, it’s time to begin the installation. Remember to shut off the furnace before you start. Proceed as follows;
- Mark the hole: Using the manufacturer’s template and instructions, use the felt-tip marker to mark the hole for the humidifier. Drill a starter hole in the corner of the outline. Then, using aviation snips, cut out the hole. Also, drill screw holes and, using the sheet metal screws, attach the mounting plate.
- Mark the outline of the humidifier: Refer to the manufacturer’s guide for this step too. Mark the outline of the humidifier and cut out the hole.
- Install the unit: Mount the plate and attach the humidifier. Then, connect the humidistat to the furnace controls and install the step-down transformer (if needed). Shut off the power first.
- Connect the humidifier: You’ll need the right size wire nuts for this step. Using the nuts, connect the humidistat to the solenoid valve on your humidifier, and insert wire ends into the nuts. Then, tighten the nuts as appropriate.
- Connect the water line: Depending on your local codes, you might be allowed to tap water directly from the water lines. If that’s the case, install a saddle valve on the waterline and run it to the humidifier. Where saddle valves aren’t allowed, cut the waterline, and install a T-fitting.
- Install the bypass valve: This step is necessary only if your humidifier requires a bypass vent. Mark the hole, drill a starter hole, cut the vent hole, and install a round collar in the hole. Then, install elbows in both ends of the vent pipe and fasten the assembly to the humidifier air intake and the collar.
That’s it. Your whole-home humidifier is now ready for work! If you encounter any problems, contact the manufacturer’s support team.
How Much Does It Cost to Install a Whole-House Humidifier?
The cost of installing a whole-house humidifier depends on three main factors; the humidifier type, size of the humidifier in relation to the home, and whether you choose to DIY or hire an HVAC professional.
Humidifier type: With regards to type, bypass humidifiers are the easiest and, therefore, least costly to install. Steam humidifiers, meanwhile, are the most complex and simultaneously most expensive to install.
Size of the humidifier: The larger the humidifier, the more expensive it’s likely to be. When you factor in the impact on handling, these larger, heavier humidifiers can also be more expensive to install.
DIY or professional installation: Finally, DIY installation is cheaper because you eliminate labor charges. However, you’ll need to buy a few tools that an HVAC professional probably already has. Professionals tech to charge between $200 and $400 for labor.
How Long Does a Whole House Humidifier Last?
How long your whole house humidifier lasts will depend on two main factors; the expected life span and how well you maintain the unit. The best humidifiers have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. With proper maintenance, however, the unit can last up to 20+ years.
Where Should a Whole House Humidifier be Placed?
As already mentioned, most whole-house humidifiers are installed directly on the home’s heating system. It can be installed on the supply or return end of the air system, depending on the humidifier type.
For a few models that aren’t installed on the furnace, it’s recommended that you place the unit in an open area away from items that might block airflow. So, avoid corners and regions close to furniture and other solid items.
Instead, place the unit in a central location. It can be anchored in the hallway if the doors in your home tend to stay open most of the time. If you live in a modern open-concept home with no hall, place the humidifier in the room where it will benefit home occupants the most. Family rooms and living rooms are excellent options.
Whole House Humidifier Maintenance/Cleaning
Each humidifier type requires different maintenance practices. However, there are a few essential maintenance activities needed irrespective of the type of humidifier you’re using. These include;
- Clean the system’s pump and fan: Pour a cup of vinegar solution (half cup water and half a cup of white vinegar) into the fan system wipe the entire area, including the vents, gently using a soft piece of cloth.
- Clean the media panel: Power off the humidifier and remove the media panel. Then, use elbow grease to wipe out the grime, debris, mineral deposit, and sediment.
- Inspect the drain line: You want to make sure that the drain line is free from blockages, algae, and mineral deposits.
- Inspect the solenoid valve: Is the water flowing properly? Also, check for signs of wear and tear. If need be, replace the valve.
- Clean the orifice metering device: This metering device regulates the flow of water into the humidifier’s distribution tray. Make sure to rid it of any mineral deposits.
The above maintenance activities should be performed at least once every year, especially in the few weeks leading to the heating season.
The Best Whole House Humidifier Reviews 2021 (Updated List)
1. AIRCARE MA0800 Digital Whole-House Console-Style Evaporative Humidifier
AirCare is famous for making some of the world’s best humidifiers and what a job they did on the MA0800 mini console! One of the best options in the mid-price range, the MA0800 effortlessly keeps humidity levels between 30% and 50%, the best range to keep airborne allergens and viruses at bay.
Weighing about 8.5 pounds and measuring 12 x 18 x 16.5 inches (length x width x depth), AIRCARE MA0800 has the ability to humidify a space up to 2,600 square feet and goes up to 36 hours without running out of water. That is despite being the smallest model in its category, holding a mere 2.5 gallons of water at one time.
The MA0800 produces what AirCare calls invisible moisture that prevents the production of the whitish residue common in other humidifiers. It’s also worth noting that the digital model has an auto humidistat setting that keeps the air at a preset automatic level of humidity. Alternatively, you can set it at a specific level of your liking.
- Quiet nighttime mode
- Check filter and water refill indicators
- Automatic shut-off
- Compatible with bacteriostat
- Three fan speeds
- No maximum fill line/indicator
- The reservoir is not very clear
2. AIRCARE MA1201 Whole-House Console-Style Evaporative Humidifier
AirCare has proven its worth in the art of manufacturing pace-setting whole-house humidifiers. AirCare MA1201 humidifies 3600 square feet with the help of a high-density wick and a 3-speed powerful motor.
The unit also includes a refill indicator to help you monitor water levels to avoid possible low-water level-related tech complications that may arise.
The unit measures 14.5 x 21.5 x 20.5 inches with a net weight of 14 pounds. The weight is, without a doubt, concern and would make it difficult to move around during house-cleaning stints. However, the three wheels make it portable, besides giving it an intricate design.
The automatic shut off feature adds a nice touch to its function mode. It incorporates an accurate digital control on its fan to deliver the right amount of mist just the way you need it.
- Eliminates 43-83% of airborne viruses.
- Takes care of other electronic gadgets functionalities by lowering static electricity effects.
- Strong and durable design.
- Readily available spare parts.
- Portable despite the weight.
- Its wicks replacement needs take away the much sort after maintenance-free aspects.
- Has no color variety for interior decor intrigues that you may want to adopt with vigor.
3. AIRCARE EP9 800 Digital Whole-House Pedestal-Style Evaporative Humidifier
Significantly larger than the MA0800, the AirCare EP9 800 is another exceptional whole-house evaporative humidifier.
Designed in pedestal style to stand tall and straight, AIRCARE EP9 800 prevents things like dust from being released into your rooms and produces very little noise (at the lower speed settings). The unit comes on unobtrusive castor wheels for ease of maneuvering.
In terms of size, the EP9 800 is 27 inches high, weighs 27 pounds, and can efficiently distribute humidity throughout a 2,400 square meter space. For this reason, once you purchase the EP9 800, you don’t have to pair it with another humidifier. It has a 3.5-gallon water tank that’s enough to keep the unit running for over 60hours.
The only drawback to the EP9 800 is that the sensor that detects water so that the humidifier can turn the water into moisture sometimes fails. Instead, it may indicate that the water tank is empty even when it’s not.
- Comes in a beautiful espresso color
- Easy to maintain
- Can humidify up to 2,400 Sq. Ft.
- Works continually for 60 hours
- The water sensor has been reported to fail quite a bit
4. Aprilaire 700 Automatic Humidifier
This is a powerful whole-house humidifier that will protect you and your family from the effects of dry air. The Aprilaire 700 is a flow-through humidifier that operates with your current heating and cooling system and consistently maintains desired humidity levels in the home.
This appliance is created to be installed on the warm air supply plenum of your HVAC system, so don’t expect a unique design. Regardless, you should always take size seriously, and Model 700 weighs 9 pounds and measures 15.9 x 15.9 x 10.3 inches. It’s designed to cool 4,200 Sq. Ft., and evaporates at the rate of 0.75 gallons per hour.
Some maintenance is, however, necessary. The water panel, for example, must be changed at least once every two years. Periodic and preventive maintenance is also recommended to keep the unit in top shape.
Noise is another challenge. At the lowest settings, you’ll barely hear a sound from the unit. But, at the highest fan settings, the appliance can be rather noisy.
- Covers a large area
- Warm air evaporation
- Digital humidity controller
- Built-in drain to flush mineral buildup
- Must be installed by HVAC professional
- Filters must be replaced regularly
5. Emerson HSP2000 Whole House Steam Humidifier
Over the last few years, Ralph Waldo Emerson HSP2000 has been one of the bestselling whole-house humidifiers.
It features a mounting frame, safety for the blow, fan control, water filter, saddle valve, automatic humidistat, and fully automatic flushing timer. It detects the need for additional humidity the moment the device is turned on and kicks on right away if such a requirement is identified.
With regards to size, the HSP2000 measures 7.63 x 12.63 x 12.50 (including the flange) and has a capacity of 13 gallons. If you’re choosing a humidifier based solely on size, the HSP2000 wins hands down.
As for output, it comfortably humidifies a 3,000 square foot space. The HSP2000 incorporates a pure filter that is known for removing toxins like allergens and pollutants from the home’s air.
The only possible downside to this humidifier is that it’s a bit complex and must be installed by an HVAC professional.
- Overflow technology
- Automated settings
- Evaporates 13 gallons every 24 hours
- Top-notch design
- Has a flushing timer
- It’s steam-powered, guaranteeing better performance
- Noisy at higher fan settings
- Requires professional installation
6. AIRCARE 831000 Evaporative Humidifier
AirCare 831000 has been voted as one of the most silent whole-home humidifiers by multiple review websites in the last two years. It is an easy to refill unit that comes on castor wheels so you can effortlessly move it around.
What stands out about the 14-pound, 17.5 x 12.5 x 22.5-inch humidifier, however, is its working time. The 831000, which comes with a 6-gallon water tank, works continuously for 70 hours! Few humidifiers can get close to this. The automatic shutdown feature is something else worth mentioning.
While the operation of the humidifier is manual, the 831000 automatically shuts down when water in the tank is depleted. An adjustable humidistat allows users to set the desired level of humidity. Once set, the humidifier will automatically maintain that humidity level until the settings are changed.
The 831000 comfortably humidifies up to 2,700 square feet and comes with multiple humidity settings and fan-speed controls that put power in your hands. It is a bit costly though compared to products with similar features and abilities.
- Impressively quiet
- Easy to refill
- Works continuously for 70 hours
- Automatic shutdown
- A little pricey compared to its peers
7. Aprilaire 800 Whole House Steam Humidifier
If you are looking for a steam-operated whole house humidifier that generates a massive amount of moisture every 24 hours, then there is no better option than AprilAire 800. A bit pricey compared to other products on this list, the automatic humidifier is a ‘set and forget’ kind unless you decide to change the settings at some point. The system even tells you if the filter needs changing.
With regard to performance, the AprilAire 800 is designed to humidify up to 6,200 square feet. Given that the average house is 2,500 square feet, you may want to consider this humidifier only if you have a larger home. Thanks to the large water tank, the unit can run continuously for up to 168 hours – the longest on this list.
Noise is also not a problem with the AprilAire 800. Most users say they didn’t notice any noise except when the blower shuts down at night. The only challenge with this humidifier is the price. The Aprilaire 800 doesn’t come cheap.
- Covers 6,200 Sq. Ft.
- Has a massive 34.6-gallon tank
- Very quiet operation
- Easy to maintain
8. Vornado Evap40 4-Gallon Evaporative Humidifier
Flanked on each side by 2-gallon water tanks, the Vornado Evap40 is exceptionally large, weighs 9 pounds, and pretty noticeable wherever it’s placed. The appliance boasts state of the art design and if placed at the right location wouldn’t negatively affect interior aesthetics.
The Vornado Evap40 is capable of humidifying a 1,000 square foot area. It also comes with a built-in humidistat that automatically adjusts the humidity in the home based on the selected settings.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Evap40 is pretty easy to control. It comes with three settings – low, medium, and high. Most people use the high setting during the day and the low setting at night.
Since it’s an evaporative humidifier, though, you’re required to change the wick filter frequently. Some people have complained that the wick filter isn’t easy to find. The manufacturer doesn’t say how long it can run without refilling the tank.
- Provides even humidification
- The fan is quiet
- The 4-gallon capacity is not bad
- Easy to refill
- Automatic humidity control
- Glugging sound
- Large and bulky
- Challenging to move (no wheels)
9. Aprilaire 600 Whole House Furnace Humidifier
A bypass humidifier with an in-built bypass damper, the AprilAire 600 comes with both winter and summer settings which take the guesswork out of the humidity levels you need. The design also means that there are a few parts that need to be installed.
The unit also comes with an outdoor sensor that automatically adjusts the level of humidity while reducing condensation inside the ductwork, thus reducing chances of mold. Like other Aprilaire models, AM 600 can be installed on either the return or supply duct with equal effectiveness.
The AM 600 is large enough, weighing 9.8 pounds and measuring 16 x 11 x 16 inches, and can comfortably humidify a 4,000 square foot area. It produces 16.8 gallons of humidity every 24 hours and comes with seven-speed controls. Additional features include digital controls, a timer, and a humidistat.
It’s also worth noting that the AM 600 is low maintenance. The water panel only needs to be replaced once every 12 months while other parts, including the valve solenoid and water distribution tray, need replacing once every five years. Professional installation is, however, required.
- An advanced technology bypass damper
- Completely automatic
- Low maintenance
- Ultimate convenience
- Professional installation needed
- Poor water conservation
10. Aprilaire 500 Whole House Compact Furnace Humidifier
The Aprilaire Model 500 is an ideal whole house humidifier for small and medium-sized rooms. As a result of the consolidation of Models 500M and 500A, AM 500 is identical to the 500A except that it doesn’t include a second water panel or DVD video.
It is a flow-through model meaning that water flows through the water panel and out of a drain. It’s also a bypass humidifier meaning that it depends on your home’s heating system. The bypass damper is clearly labeled for summer and winter demands.
The AM 500 boasts an evaporation capacity of 0.5 gallons per hour, translating to 12 gallons per day, and can effectively humidify up to 3,000 square feet of space. It weighs about 7.5 pounds, which isn’t too heavy and comes with a 5-year warranty.
When buying a new AM 500, you’ll be prompted to include an Annual Maintenance Kit for the appliance. This maintenance kit contains parts you’ll need to maintain the unit each year and keep the humidifier running optimally year-round. All the installations and maintenance must, however, be performed by an HVAC professional.
- Bypass damper saves water and energy
- Automatic humidity control
- Connects directly to waterline
- Lower humidity output
- Smaller residential coverage
11. AIRCARE H12600 Digital Whole-House Console-Style Evaporative Humidifier
The AirCare H12600 is another whole house humidifier that you ought to consider. It’s available in a copper night finish that looks more contemporary and modern than other console-style humidifiers. The H12600 comes with a 2-year warranty from the manufacturer and rolling casters so you can move it around with ease.
The unit is a bit large though, weighing 20 pounds and measuring 13.8 x 21.8 x 23.5 inches. It’s designed to humidify homes of up to 3,700 square feet, with the tank holding 11.9 gallons per single filling. With this humidity, you should have enough mist in your rooms throughout the day.
Other features worth mentioning include a humidistat. It’s specifically designed by AirCare and forces the unit to come on and shut off automatically depending on the humidity levels inside your home.
The tank is easily removed for filling, and the alliance comes with four fan speeds to ensure maximum comfort and filter light to indicate when the filter needs replacing.
- Humidifies 3,700 Sq. Ft.
- Exclusive comfort sensor
- Two-year limited warranty
- Fully digital
- Beautiful design
- Large thus takes up a bit of space
12. AIRCARE 696 400HB Whole House Credenza Evaporative Humidifier
AIRCARE 696 400HB combines a fancy design with top-rate performance. It measures 15.5 x 28.2 x 23.8 inches and weighs 28 pounds. From these measurements, you can clearly tell that it is relatively portable.
However, you don’t have to move it from one room to the next because its 9-speed digital motor and filters’ capabilities humidify a space up to 3,600 square feet.
Besides its lucid evaporative functions, AIRCARE 696 400HB can run for 45 hours without needing a refill since it comes with a 5.6-gallon tank. This has been enhanced further by its daily mist output of 12-gallons – a quantity that’s adjustable using a hybrid panel with a blend of analog knobs and digital controls.
- Automatic air humidity level maintenance.
- Digitized water level LED indicator.
- Automatically shuts off when the desired humidity level is attained.
- High-grade power saving features.
- Light Oak color and cabinet-like design for a touch of vintage interior décor.
- Compact, durable, and easy to maintain owing to readily available spare parts.
- Doesn’t shut down when the water level runs low.
- Noisy when on high settings.
- Bulky and takes up space.
13. AIRCARE Trim Whole House Console Evaporative Humidifier
To get a picture of what AirCare H12 300HB looks like, think of a game console that measures 13.8 x 21.8 x 23.5 inches and weighs 20 pounds.
The humidifier has a capacity of 5.4 gallons with a daily maximum mist output of 11.9 gallons. This makes it the ideal humidifier for large rooms or apartments in hot areas as it humidifies 3,700 square feet with the help of its superior wicks.
AIRCARE Trim uses a hybrid control mechanism that incorporates analog knobs and a digital LCD display. That means it’s possible to take command of its humidistat features with the ability to place house humidity level anywhere between 25% and 65% depending on your preferences. The humidifier is available in an array of colors, including copper, oak burl, and oak light.
- Single water tank to avoid confusion during refill.
- Comes with a 1045 super wick replacement filter at a discounted price.
- Digital refill system.
- Humidifies expansive in-house spaces.
- Advanced hygrometer for accurate humidity measurement.
- Compact slick design, durable, safe and user-friendly.
- The manufacturer warns against adding scented agents and perfumes while on warm mist settings.
- Shuts down when the water level drops down to one liter.
So, as you can see, the best whole house humidifier for hard water can be a vital addition to your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning arsenal. Unlike portable humidifiers, they add moisture to every room in the home. They are also easier to maintain. The only downside is the high initial investment, which you’re guaranteed to recoup in cost savings within a few years.